Thursday, September 17, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Michigan | by Pat

It Came From the Game Notes

• Notre Dame has now lost 16 games in school history in either overtime or the final 12 seconds of regulation. The Irish own an impressive 6-2-1 record the week following those last second defeats (Notre Dame did not play the following week in seven of those games). However, the Irish have dropped their last two such games. Notre Dame lost to Boston College last season the week following its four overtime defeat to Pittsburgh and lost to Air Force the week after the three overtime defeat to Navy in 2007.

• Notre Dame racked up 27 first downs and 490 yards against Michigan, the most ever by an Irish squad in the all-time series with the Wolverines.

• No Notre Dame quarterback has ever reached 5,000 career passing yards faster than junior Jimmy Clausen. Clausen accomplished the feat in 25 games, besting Brady Quinn who arrived at 5,000 yards in his 27th game.

• With 11 career touchdown receptions, Michael Floyd is already 11th on ND's all-time touchdown receptions list, one behind Bobby Brown and Tim Brown.

Battle for First Down

The numbers on first down were not quite as bad as I would have guessed. Overall, ND held Michigan to 2 or fewer yards on 1st down 50% of the time, winning 9 of the 18 1st down UM rushing attempts. However, there was clear regression as the game went on. Against the first 9 1st down rushing attempts, ND won 7 of the 9, which sounds extremely impressive against a spread option team. On the flip side, against the last 9 1st down rushing attempts, ND only won 2 of the 9. Did something change schematically? Did Michigan's success through the air cause ND to be a bit more conservative? Did the young and inexperienced ND front seven just wear down?

Against the pass, ND held Michigan to 2 or fewer yards 46% of the time, winning 6 of the 13 attempts. Doing the same kind of split as with the runs, ND won 2 of the first 6 yet won 4 of the last 7 plus one draw (a play that goes for 3 yards is a draw). It may be easy to try and reach a conclusion on that indeed ND did worse against the run later in the game because they focused on slowing down the pass, but be careful not to fall into the correlation/causation trap.


The drive chart has been updated with ND and Michigan being largely tied for offensive drive efficiency. ND gained 51.8% of available yards against the UM defense while UM gained 50.8% of available yards against the ND defense. Note that the UM drives do not include the kickoff return for a touchdown, so that return isn't skewing any of the numbers. Note that UM still started at an average of the 32 yard line, which is a better average starting spot than any opponent last year save Southern Cal. ND's average starting spot, effectively the 30 yard line, was better than any game last year save Washington, Navy, and Hawaii.

Since there still isn't a lot of data to compare with this stat, it's probably still best to wait a bit until more numbers come in and provide some more context.

Gimme M.O.E.

It looked like ND's M.O.E. for the Michigan game was going to be through the roof with all the penalties, but the lack of sacks and interceptions kept the number somewhat low. At 13% however, ND did trip over the 12% mendoza line, something it only did 3 times last season (Stanford, BC, USC). The killer was the 6 offensive penalties, although the 3 dropped passes, one by Kamara and two by Tate did not help either.

On defense, kudos to Michigan for playing a largely mistake free football game. Their 8% M.O.E. is the second best score an offense put up against ND since the start of the 2008 season (MSU had 6% last September).

Here is the overall spreadsheet. I added another sheet that shows the M.O.E. scores over the entire Weis era, highlighting those games where ND went 12% or over. Losses are in italics, so it's easy to see that under Charlie Weis, ND is 19-4 when the M.O.E is under 12% and 11-18 when the M.O.E. is 12% or higher.

Season Long Running Stats

It's too early in the year to get too worried or excited about the season averages, but it's still interesting to note that every single offensive category is improved from last year while, despite the shutout in Week One, nearly all of the defensive categories are down from last year. Will the numbers change drastically as ND finally faces a tougher defense and a more traditional offense?

Here is the spreadsheet
. What catches your eye?