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Monday, July 29, 2013

Statistical Review: Michigan #26

Who was the most efficient passer in the Big 10 in 2012? Devin Gardner, and it wasn't close. Gardner finished 2nd in schedule adjusted expected points added per pass (behind Nick Florence). He was 32 spots ahead of the next Big 10 quarterback (Curt Phillips). In fact, you have to go through 51 quarterbacks, almost the entire Big 12 and most of the SEC, before you find a Big 10 quarterback that was not a nasty little Mustelidae (i.e., weasel family, i.e., Wolverine/Badger).

Now for a tougher question: Who was the most efficient runner in the Big 10? Again, Devin Gardner. In fact, Gardner was the most efficient runner in the country. But how could that be? In 47 carries he averaged 2.12 yards and lost two fumbles? First, 11 of those carries were sacks. It makes no sense to count sacks as run plays, so I don't. The -87 yards and 2 lost fumbles from sacks are counted against his passing numbers. Second, in the remaining 36 carries, Gardner either scored a touchdown or got a first down on 19. That's more than half. Twelve of the first downs came on 3rd down. The other 2 were 4th down conversions. Five of his seven touchdowns were on 3rd or 4th down. A lot of people averaged more yards per carry than Gardner (at 5.2), but no one did more damage per carry.

Michigan's biggest weakness was the turnover. Few teams turned the ball over more frequently (18.1% of possessions). No team in college football was more likely to get picked off, and few quarterbacks threw it to the other team more often than Denard Robinson (5.39% of passes). Gardner was better, but still bad himself (3.97%).

Devin Gardner's rushing efficiency is more a statistical anomaly than predictive result, but his passing numbers were legitimate. He completed only 60% of his passes, but he averaged 16.3 yards when he did connect, and he was fourth nationally in explosive plays per pass. Without Robinson on the field, Gardner will need to connect more often, target the wrong jersey less often, and depend less on big plays.

The Michigan defense was good in the red zone, but they allowed too many completions. Completions turned into sustained drives and a high play per possession average, and they were 98th in turnovers per possession. Turnovers by the offense meant that the defense often started uncomfortably close to the end zone (68.1 yards, 95th nationally). Given their schedule, Michigan may only need to improve in the turnover margin to rack up a long list of wins.
The Statistical Review breaks down teams along a number of performance categories, everything from red zone scoring to field goal percentage, and compares that performance against the rest of the FBS. All 124 teams will be reviewed from 124 to 1 by the hybrid rankings. You can find short descriptions of the stats used in the table below.

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