Hoegher's 2012 Previews: Michigan Wolverines

The nice thing about working from home is that I can wake up at 10:30a, roll out of bed and walk over to the kitchen table that functions as my office, and go to work wearing nothing but an old pair of gym shorts (if that). It also allows me to say "fvck that" and write these previews instead. (in all honesty, I'm waiting for MATLAB to install on my work computer right now, so I have time to kill)

I've stated that I think Michigan is over-rated coming into this next season, I thought they played well in 2011 but it was more of an aberration than Maize and Blue fans want to admit, and I think they're due for a regression. I'm going to do my best to explain why I think that, though I suspect it'll boil down to a simple thought:


Let's All Point and Laugh at RichRod (Michigan Performance 2005-2011)

Figure 1: Michigan Yearly FBS Rank (2005-2011)

Figure 2: Michigan Yearly Adj Off, Def Rank (2005-2011)

Figure 3: Michigan Yearly Win % and Luck (2005-2011)

Man, 2008 really was awful wasn't it? I still can't believe Wisconsin lost to Michigan then, I'm just glad I didn't have to watch it (I think I was at a cross-country meet). Of particular high comedy is the free-fall the defense entered into after a very nice 2006 season, culminating in that glorious 2010 campaign that saw RichRod ousted.

If I may take a controversial stance - I think y'all were a little hard on Rich Rodriguez. Sure the defense stank and showed no signs of getting better, but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that was the fault of that walking pile of ineptitude in Greg Robinson. (GERG I think is the local flavor of moniker). But the offense was quite nice after some growing pains in 2008 and Brady Hoke wouldn't have had nearly the same amount of success last season without the groundwork Rich Rodriguez laid for him. It would have been nice to see what could've been without the tamperings of Greg Robinson, but alas.

This also shows why I'm hesitant to believe in Michigan. Jumps like you see in 2010-2011 on defense just don't happen. Even the 2010 defense - awful by any standard - was led in by years of decline. The spectacle of the 2010 offense was precipitated by years of steady improvement. But a complete reversal of fortune? From a shitty defense to BCS bowl-winning great? That's just not done. Not with essentially the same players, not with just one coaching change. Michigan: I'm skeptical.

HOKE-MANIA (Michigan 2011 Season)

Won Sugar Bowl vs Virginia Tech (23-20)

But then I see stuff like this, and it mystifies me. 10th in offense, 12th in defense points to a team that was very good on both sides of the ball. Screw the past, this is what Michigan did, accept it. And I want to, I really do. I touched on this in my Ohio State preview, that it's more fun when Michigan and Ohio State are good, because it makes the schadenfreude that much sweeter when they lose.

Still...I see an offense ranked 10th, but I also see a QB with a 55% completion percentage that took all the wrong lessons from Rex Grossman (15 interceptions).

I see a decent run game led by Denard Robinson (5.32 YPC) and Fitzgerald Toussaint (5.57 YPC), but a passing game that relied heavily on a now departed receiver in Junior Hemingway (699 yds in 2011).

I see a team that won 11 games and crushed Nebraska, but I also see a team that only beat Notre Dame because of craziness at the end (The only part of that game I saw was the last two minutes. I'm satisfied) and looked like poo in beating an undeserving BCS opponent in Virginia Tech (a team I had ranked 24th in 2011).

I see a defense ranked 10th, but I see a defense that gave its best performances against the Murderer's Row of Western Michigan (10 pts given up), Eastern Michigan (3 pts), San Diego State (7 pts), and Minnesota (0 pts), that gave up 34 pts to Ohio State (SHUT UP, I REMEMBER WISCONSIN DID THAT AS WELL), and didn't perform nearly as well at the end of the season as it did in the beginning.

So... yeah. Now, good teams are supposed to blow out their bad opponents, Michigan's defense was good even with a grain of salt taken for the first five weeks, Notre Dame and Ohio State were better than their records indicated, and mostly: SCOREBOARD.

But yelling "scoreboard" over and over may feel great, but it's not a lasting strategy unless you've got a shady deal with the scoreboard operator. I'll give credit to Michigan for a very nice 2011 season, and I'll them the numerical credit where my Excel sheets are. But I just can't shake the feeling that Michigan got a lot of balls bouncing their way in 2011 and something has to even out soon.

So... We're Back, Right? (Michigan 2012 Preview and Projections)

Avg Opp Rank: 48.0 (Avg Non-Con: 51.0, Avg Conf: 46.5)

Final Record: 11-1 (8-0), Avg MOV: 11.4 pts, Bowl Prediction: Fiesta Bowl

Well, for one it's nice to see the defensive rating take a hit (2010 wasn't that long ago, y'all), though the offense should be good again, as per usual in recent history.

On that note, Michigan loses Junior Hemingway, as mentioned above, but this is Denard Robinson: he doesn't need a target to throw to, because he's probably going to miss it anyway. [LINKY] Just tuck it and run, sir. Losing David Molk will hurt, obviously, and I confess that I'm not doing that much research to find out who the next center is going to be. Ask your Wolverine friends. I'm sure Michigan will find a way to keep going. Fitzgerald Toussaint (5.57 YPC) and Vincent Smith (5.96 YPC) are the top returning backs, and both seem like they could be very fine runners this fall. Jeremy Gallon (453 yds) and Roy Roundtree (355 yds) will have to pick up the slack left by Hemingway. Hopefully they can jump high.

The schedule is by no means easy, but of the three toughest game (Alabama, Notre Dame, and Michigan State), two of those are out of conference, so who gives a crap. You're not winning the national title next year, Michigan fans, accept it now so it hurts less on September 1st. And Michigan State plays in Ann Arbor, so hopefully Michigan fans will be able to cheer a win after that game this year. They seem to like long losing streaks to their rivals, though, so who knows.

Nebraska and Ohio State could offer troubles, of course, and both are on the road. I've got doubts about both of those teams though, so as of now they stay on the fringes of interest. Every other game is a game that Michigan should win if 2011 isn't the mirage I think it is. But that's why they play the games.

For what it's worth, the Fiesta Bowl prediction above comes from a predicted Wisconsin win in the conference championship game. I'm not sure if I agree with that or not, though I would certainly welcome it.

Best case for Michigan: Scroll up. That's it. 11-1 (8-0). Again, you're not beating Alabama next year. Accept it now so it hurts less on September 1st. I guess I should expand on this though. Assuming that Michigan goes 11-1, then beats WISCONSIN WOO GO BADGERS the Big Ten East representative in the conference championship, that leaves them going to the Rose Bowl. I suppose that 12-1 Big Ten Champions would be looked at favorably for a title shot, but I'm already begrudgingly giving them12-1 when I personally feel they will be worse. I'm not giving them a BCS Championship berth. You'll take your Rose Bowl and you'll like it.

Worst case for Michigan: Okay, here is where I get to flex my personal hate. As I've said before, no decent college football team has any business losing to a military academy, especially at home. Michigan should beat Air Force, Massachusetts can be feisty as 2010 Michigan found, but still a win. Notre Dame though? They were cursed by turnovers luck in 2011, and really should have beat Michigan in that wonderfully schizophrenic game. In South Bend next year, I can totally see them beating Michigan. That's a 2-2 non-conference mark, and blissful quiet coming from Ann Arbor after an off-season of bleating. I still see them beating Purdue, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Iowa, especially since the most feisty of those teams (Iowa and Northwestern) come at home. Michigan State, Nebraska, and Ohio State though? All easily possible losses. I'll pull my Michigan disdain a little bit and say they only lose two out of those three (Michigan State is in Ann Arbor, after all). That's an 8-4 (6-2) mark and no BCS bowls for you. God, I hope this happens.

Final words: Ann Arbor is a whore and FVCK MICHIGAN.

Glossary and Explanation of Terms!

For a more in-depth explanation of everything see my primer here. I've also included a direct link to my 2011 Rankings [LINKY] for those that really want to see the nitty gritty details. Otherwise, the below should serve as a quick reference.

For the purposes of this section, I will refer to Average State University (ASU). ASU scores 25 pts/game on offense, gives up 25 pts/game on defense, and has an Adj Off, Def of 1.00 and 1.00, respectively.

Adj Off - a measure of a team's scoring offense, adjusted for schedule. A team with an Adj Off of 2.00 would be expected to score 50 pts on ASU. A team with an Adj Off of 0.50 would be expected to score 12-13 pts on ASU.

Adj Def - a measure of a team's scoring defense, adjusted for schedule. A team with an Adj Def of 2.00 would be expected to give up 50 pts to ASU. A team with and Adj Def of 0.50 would be expected to hold ASU to 12-13 pts.

Adj Eff - a measure of a team's overall strength, AdjEff = AdjOff/(AdjOff + AdjDef). A perfect rating would be 1.00, a perfectly bad rating would be 0.00, a perfectly average rating would be 0.50. This rating tends to reward teams with good defenses more than good offenses.

Adj Marg - a measure of a team's overall strength, AdjMarg = AdjOff - AdjDef. A good rating would be > 0.00, a bad rating would be < 0.00, a perfectly average rating would be 0.00. This rating tends to reward teams with good offenses more than good defenses.

(NOTE: While I list both Adj Eff and Adj Marg as measures of overall team strength, the "official" rankings are Adj Marg, as I find it tends (usually) to be a slightly better predictor of game results than Adj Eff.)

Opp Rat - the average rating of a team's opponents, as determined by Adj Marg. A relatively difficult schedule will have OppRat > 0.00, a relatively easy schedule will have OppRat < 0.00, a perfectly average schedule will have OppRat = 0.00.

Luck - the difference between a team's expected winning percentage (based on schedule and expected scores) and their actual winning percentage. Luck > 0.00 indicates that a team won more games than they were expected, Luck < 0.00 means that a team won less games than ther were expected.

Projected Scores - these are based on a team's Adj Off, Def and their opponent's Adj Off, Def. I won't bore you with the math or reasoning, but suffice to say that expected scores align uniformly with the Adj Marg rankings. The expected score differential is proportional to the Adj Marg differential.

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