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Inside the Numbers: Michigan's Third-Quarter Troubles

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Dating back to last season, Michigan has been one of the worst teams in the nation coming out of the locker room at halftime, which is another poor reflection on Brady Hoke and his coaching staff. What do I mean? I reveal the answer in this week's edition of "Inside the Numbers."

Alex Goodlett

There are various methods one can use to evaluate the true coaching ability of a head football coach and his staff. Sure, wins and losses will always be looked at first, but there are other ways to reveal certain traits of a particular head coach. For example, if a coach and his staff routinely transform two- and three-star recruits into All-Conference and All-American players, that coach and his staff have a penchant for discovering unheralded players and tapping into their full potential. Just look at what Mark Dantonio is accomplishing in East Lansing despite having not landed a single recruiting class ranked in the top 20 at 247 Sports during his tenure.

Another approach one can use to measure a coach's ability to, well, coach -- and the approach on which I want to focus in this column -- is determining how well that coach makes halftime adjustments. There are many coaches that can cobble together well-developed scouting reports and schemes to capitalize on the opponent's weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the week leading up to Saturday. But often these game plans do not pan out as intended, and it falls on the coaches to huddle together during the intermission and adjust to what they saw in the first half. This is why how a team performs in the third quarter can indicate how well a coach can diagnose correctly what went wrong early and then fix those problems quickly on the fly and in the heat of the moment.

So how well have Brady Hoke and his staff fared in this department recently?

Michigan's Third-Quarter Point Differential vs. Power 5 Schools (Last 8 Games)
Date Michigan U-M 3Q Points Opponent Opp. 3Q Points
Nov. 16, 2013 Michigan 0 Northwestern 3
Nov. 23, 2013 Michigan 0 Iowa 7
Nov. 30, 2013 Michigan 0 Ohio State 14
Dec. 28, 2013 Michigan 0 Kansas State 0
Sept. 6, 2014 Michigan 0 Notre Dame 7
Sept. 20, 2014 Michigan 0 Utah 7
Sept. 27, 2014 Michigan 0 Minnesota 17
Oct. 4, 2014 Michigan 0 Rutgers 0
Total Michigan 0 Opponent 55


I will write it out in case you are unsure if your eyes are lying to you: Hoke's Wolverines have not managed to score a single point in the last eight third quarters they have played against Power 5 schools, while allowing 55 points in the same span. Oof.

I decided to look at Michigan's point differential in the first, second, and fourth quarters of these same eight contests against Power 5 schools to see whether the Wolverines have been experiencing similar struggles in the other three frames, too.

Michigan's Quarter-by-Quarter Point Differential vs. Power 5 Schools (Last 8 Games)
Team 1Q 2Q 3Q 4Q/OT Total
Michigan 33 52 0 66 151
Opponent 54 64 55 56 229
Margin -21 -12 -55 +10 -78

In a single word: no.

Michigan generally has allowed its recent Power 5 opponents to run into the locker room at halftime with a small lead, but the deficits are not of the sort that cannot be overcome. Usually, these still have been very competitive contests heading into the break. However, once the third quarter begins, the Wolverines tend to dig themselves a giant hole, allowing the opponent to either maintain its lead and kill clock or pull away and remove any shred of doubt which team will be the victor before the fourth quarter even begins.

This is yet another indictment of Hoke's inability to be a competent head coach at this level of college football. For the past year, week in and week out, Hoke has been completely manhandled by opposing head coaches that have a similar caliber of talent to Michigan. These coaches are heading into halftime and making the necessary adjustments to properly counter the Wolverines' first-half strategy, while Hoke does who knows what in the locker room. Even coaches with teams that have far inferior talent can make certain changes at halftime that result in at least one third-quarter point in eight games against Power 5 schools. Yet, at Michigan, Hoke cannot.

This is where you joke about Hoke not wearing a headset or clapping on the sideline.