Monday, October 18, 2010

Come Out From The Bomb Shelter Chicken Little

So after Saturday's loss to Iowa it seems that most of yesterday and today in Michigan blogdom has been about keeping everyone calm.

Brian at MGoBlog rightly reminds everyone that our defense is young and our secondary is what it is. And In Rod We Trust tells us the we need to let 2010 play itself out and that the odds are very small for a repeat of 2009.

I agree with both. I think they have provided a logical argument for why we are where we are. If you've watched Michigan nothing that has happened should be a surprise. The thing that I found most surprising was that State actually handled us a lot better than Iowa. I also believe that State is the better team and, gasp, might be the best team in the Big 10. But it's too early and I'm waaaay too sober to have that conversation.

So why is it safe to come out of the bomb shelter? Well a look into the numbers and the upcoming schedule helps. But first I need you to concede a couple points to me.

First, our defense is what it is. It's not shutting people down but what it is doing is holding people to their average season output. Teams are scoring the most points against us, but right at their average. In both our losses thus far Michigan State scored 4 points above their season average and Iowa was right at theirs. To me the defense in those games did exactly what we should ask and expect them to do. Don't get blown out.

Second, our offense is good. We all know that we are ranked third in total offense in the country. Denard is pure Dilithium. The offense can still produce when Tate comes in. It rocks. Against State the offense put up the second most rushing yards, second total yards and gain the most yards per play that State has given up all year. Verse Iowa they more than double any rushing output by any previous Iowa opponent, gained the most passing yards, scored the second most points and gain the most yards per play. State's D is giving up 325 yds/game and 16.6 points and Iowa is giving up 288.8 yds and 12.9 points. The point is the offense performed.

Third, since the defense is what it is and the offense clearly can dominate, if we lose the turn over battle we will lose every time.

Fair? Ok good. Now the good news.

Michigan State and Iowa are #9 and #5 in the country in turn over margin. They are #3 and #18 in INTs. And they are #17 and #6 in scoring defense. Needless to say they are the 2 of the 3 best defenses we are going to face this year (with OSU being the third).

The remaining opponents in terms of turn overs look like this

PSU 71 52 114
ILL 108 100 65
Purdue 62 89 2
Wisc 49 71 102
OSU 4 3 23

So the turn over battle over the next four games shouldn't be anything close to what we've just been through the last two games. Now don't get me wrong the defenses of the next five are good. But we've already proven against two of the top Big Ten defenses that the offense can still dominate.

Now let's look at scoring. With State averaging 34.4 and scoring 38 on us and Iowa averaging 34.4 and scoring 34, the defense is holding teams to their average output as we discussed above. So let's look at our remaining games

PSU 18.2
ILL 21.3
Purdue 22.5
Wisc 36.3
OSU 39.6

So of those five only OSU is a better scoring D than State and isn't better than Iowa. So our chances of scoring at least 17 over the next four games is pretty good. And the likelihood that we score more in the 28 range is better. That gives us at least three wins if the defense does it's thing and the offense its, without the turn overs.

Now if we were even or positive in the turn over department of the last two games do we win? I don't know, but it's possible. What I do know is that until we get to OSU we won't see a defense of the caliber of the last two we just faced. And the next three games we face teams that are even or negative in the TOM column. That is good news for us.

Maybe, just maybe, the 2009 sky isn't hurling towards us after all.

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