The 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.