When 38-7 is better than 31-13

OSU FootballThe folks over at the M-Zone have posted an interesting article on the inherent faults in using score to determine rankings.

They argue that, to a superficial poll voter, UM’s 17-10 victory over Penn St. “looks” worse than OSU’s 28-6 victory over the same team, even though UM played a more thorough game against the Lions than OSU did. I believe they have a valid point on the rankings issue.

However, comparing OSU to UM by their performances against Penn St. is comparing apples to oranges. The OSU/PSU matchup occurred during a mini monsoon. Over half an inch of rain fell during the game, mixed with 24 mph winds. Not exactly conducive to OSU’s spread offense! Something else to consider is that UM didn’t play against Morelli for a full game. Who knows what might have transpired if Morelli had been behind center, during PSU’s fourth-quarter rally?

Instead, an “apples to apples” comparison of OSU/UM should use the Spartans as the common opponent. Both teams have a long history of tough, close games against MSU. The weather was a non-factor for both games. And, both games occurred in back-to-back weeks for Sparty. The only major difference was that UM had the game at home, while OSU travelled to East Lansing. Other than that, it’s a pretty fair comparison.

So, with that in mind, here are some relevant stats:

Offenses vs. MSU defense

OSU’s offense rolled up 421 yards, UM got 351. Also, the Buckeyes got their standard four offensive touchdowns. Carr’s offense was credited with four TDs, but for the purposes of comparing OSU and UM, we can all agree that UM only managed three “real” TDs (no, it’s not a touchdown when you catch the ball and half your body lands out of bounds). OSU rushed for 182 yards, UM for 211. Smith passed for 234 yards at 68.2%; Henne, 140 yards at 64.7%.
— Advantage: OSU —

Defenses vs. MSU offense

Both allowed ~60 yards rushing (UM 60, OSU 63), but UM’s pass defense was exploited for over 250 yards. As a result, UM allowed a total of 312 yards, while OSU allowed 198. The Bucks forced eight punts; the Wolverines forced four.
— Advantage: OSU —

Special teams vs MSU

Both teams went 1 for 1 on FGs, but TGII returned another punt for an OSU TD.
— Advantage: OSU —

In summary, OSU played a much more impressive game against the Spartans than Michigan did. UM was impressive against MSU, but it wasn’t the utter domination that the Bucks employed the following week. Also, it’s worth repeating again that UM had the Spartans at home, a luxury that OSU did not have.

It’s also worth noting that Michigan’s earlier game against the Gophers also revealed some weaknesses in the UM defense and game plan. Big Blue gave up more rushing yards against the Gophers than all of their previous opponents combined, and Payne had a big day against the UM secondary. Most importantly, though, was Carr’s refusal to put Minnesota away, which allowed Minnesota to rally late in the game. (Yet another team that UM has allowed to rally in the fourth quarter!)

IMHO, UM is one of the three most consistent teams in the country, along with OSU and Texas. UM has shown itself to be beatable, though. The rushing defense is among the best, but hasn’t yet played against a team that moves the pocket, has a mobile QB, or has a speedy “scatback” type of tailback. Also, the secondary is giving up way too many yards (they’re 74th in pass defense).

To prove my point, consider the following question: Would fans of Big Blue feel confident heading into a fourth quarter tied with an Iowa or Ohio State? As an OSU fan, I know I would. What happens when Michigan plays a team that has success against Hart? (Yes, it will happen sometime.) Would fans feel confident putting the game into Henne’s hands? The 50% CPR performance he put up against PSU is not enough to cut it against a good defense, and definitely not good enough to challenge whatever team makes it to Glendale.

Lloyd Carr, Ron English, and Mike DeBord prepare the game plan for Ohio State.

Clearly, some of the coaching issues that were present last year are still there. Right now, UM’s talent is winning games, not the coaching. Consistency from the defensive front four and from Hart is what’s currently keeping the UM season alive, but Carr and his assistants are making the same mistakes all over again. If I was a UM fan, I’d worry about what will happen when the team encounters a defense that can corral Hart, or that has no problem moving the pocket for the entire game.

Plus, keep in mind that Carr hasn’t had any of his regular-as-clockwork “big chokes” yet… which should make any UM fan nervous enough. The longer they take to happen, the more likely they’ll happen against the good teams UM will face at the end of the season.


  1. I just love how those guys at MZone go off about how UM’s win over OSU was more convincing, then hide behind the premise that it was to exemplify a point about polling in the comments section. There are any number of ways available to them to show oddities in the polling process without wrapping the Bucks up in their argument. Yet they insist upon using a paper mache example of our mutual victories over PSU in a realm where rock solid evidence of bias and flagrant sycophantism exist.

    It seems they and the other UM blogs are trying awfully hard to rationalize their hope and make it seem logical. And maybe to some warped minds it is. I have not bought it, and it would be better for UM fans not to buy it either for the dreams that these guys are building up for them will be crushe in due time.

    It is good that you guys took up their challenge of comparing mutual whipping boys, with a more prescient example nonetheless. I also like that you don’t hide behind a flimsy premise like “challenging the poll system”; I think that they made their intentions clear in body of their post, and used the first few lines to shield themselves from the Buckeye Justice that ensued in the comments.

  2. Another reason using score for rankings doesn’t work:

    According to 2005 results:
    Mount Union beat
    Augustana IL who beat
    Catholic who beat
    La Salle who beat
    St Francis PA who beat
    Central Conn St who beat
    Colgate who beat
    Massachusetts who beat
    Richmond who beat
    William & Mary who beat
    New Hampshire who beat
    UC-Davis who beat
    Stanford who beat
    Arizona St who beat
    Northwestern who beat
    Wisconsin who beat

    So … Mount Union > Michigan?

  3. Michigan fans would then rebuttal with how the Spartans didnt have ringer and trannon when they played us…its useless, come november 18…the stake will be driven deeper into Carr’s coffin…thorough comparison though

  4. ohio state defense is weak and OVERRATED!!!
    and remember we didn’t have o play against morelli because we KNOCKED HIM OUT.

  5. John, OSU’s defense has only given up 63 points this season. That’s 9 points a game. They held Texas to 7 points. Texas averages 42.7 points a game. Texas is ranked in the top 5.

    Michigan has given up 95 points. That’s 13.6 points a game. The let Central Michigan score 17 points against them.

    Who’s overrated again?

  6. You forgot to mention half those yards a MSU’s TD were all garbage. tOSU’s first team D stuffed MSU all day despite losing the field position battle from the third play of the game on. It’s crazy that scUM fans seem to think our D is overrated and soft. Our D-line is argueably the best in the country. If you don’t believe that go talk to UT’s O-lineman. I still think its like comparing apples to oranges in a way. Truth of the whole matter is that neither team really had trouble with dispatching PSU or MSU. At halftime of the PSU game I wasn’t scared because I knew as soon as we scored the game was over. PSU didn’t move the ball on either team and MSU got destroyed by the Bucks.

  7. John,

    I’m curious as to why UM is getting the attention for knocking Morelli out, yet OSU knocked Stanton out of the game, too… and nobody’s talking about that.

    In fact, I watched the UM/PSU game, and Morelli’s knockout was helmet-to-helmet. Even a I-AA team can knock any QB out when they go helmet-to-helmet… it has nothing to do with a “great” defensive play.

    Drew Stanton, though, was hit by OSU’s Freeman, where he was tossed horizontally off the field and into the gatorade table. THAT’s a “great” defensive play.

    Advantage: OSU

  8. Glory Hogs says

    We don’t glorify Helmet to Helmet hits on Qbs at OSU……..I wonder if the refs working the Texas game would gave Branch the flaggo for that hit….

  9. not that it matters at all, but stanton was already injured coming into the game and morelli was not. but the point is to win, not who can look more impressive in knocking out the other team’s QB. and no, it wasn’t a helmet to helmet hit, which even morelli admitted himself. let’s not get stupid.

    both teams are good, and both teams will settle the issue for all of us on nov. 18. it will truly be the game of the century (at least so far)…


  1. […] There’s still a month left until Michigan-Ohio State, but bloggers are already breaking down the common opponents. (Men of the Scarlet and Gray) […]

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