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State Street Stats: Wisconsin vs. Michigan preview

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Michigan’s defensive weaknesses match up with Wisconsin’s offensive shortcomings

Wisconsin v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

All data in this article was supplied by Sports Source Analytics. Credit and gratitude to Zane Murfitt of CougCenter for creating the template for these interactive graphics through Tableau. Readers on a mobile device, Google AMP or Apple News may have difficulties reading the embedded interactive graphics.

Heading into the Wisconsin Badgers’ huge game with the Michigan Wolverines, let’s take a look at the key statistics to help make sense of what is about to go down Saturday morning.

247 Sports Recruit Ranking Differential

For each position, Michigan’s players were rated higher by recruiting agencies before they began their collegiate career. This is not breaking news by any measure.

If the table does not load properly, click here to view. Mobile viewers should view horizontally for the best experience.

Honestly, the visual representation of the data is a bit shocking. If you switch to “player view,” you will see the representation of each player on the different teams. This representation of the recruiting differential is, perhaps, a bit more meaningful.

The big take-away is that the Badgers’ recruits are more tightly bound around the mean, while Michigan’s handful of star recruits positively skews the average. In contrast, Wisconsin has a handful of two-star recruits which negatively skews the average for the Badgers.

Some of these two-star recruits have made nice contributions this season like WR Jack Dunn and DL Matt Henningsen.

Now that we know Michigan has a moderate edge in recruiting, how have the teams made do with their players through two games this season?

Michigan vs. Wisconsin offensive comparison

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I don’t know if the havoc rate and stuff rate stats are common knowledge, so let’s define them here. According to Football Study Hall, havoc is “[the] percentage of plays in which a defense either recorded a tackle for loss, forced a fumble, or defensed a pass (intercepted or broken up).”

Also, according to Football Study Hall, stuff rate is “This is the percentage of runs where the runner is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage.” For both havoc rate and stuff rate, offenses want to minimize them. Conversely, defenses want a higher rate.

Wisconsin ranks better than Michigan in every offensive category except for stuff rate and havoc rate. In fact, for theses six categories, Wisconsin is on the other side of the bell curve from Michigan’s offense.

The Badgers are strongly above average on offense, and Michigan is strongly below average.

The only offensive category that Wisconsin has struggled in is stuff rate, and the Badgers are No. 81 in the country in this stat. Fortunately for Paul Chryst and company, Wisconsin has a better-than-average explosive plays rate. This has made up for the surprisingly high stuff rate.

Michigan vs. Wisconsin defensive comparison

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Do not expect many explosive plays in this game. Wisconsin and Michigan are No. 1 and No. 2 in the country respectively in explosive play defense.

Listen, Wisconsin has given up zero points, so its analytics should be good. However, Michigan’s defensive stats show some weakness.

Obviously, Wisconsin has the best red-zone defense in the country. Michigan, in spite of having an excellent defense, has struggled to stop opponents in the red-zone, giving up a touchdown in 83.3% of enemy trips to the red-zone.

Further, Michigan is significantly below-average defensively on stuff rate and havoc rate, while the Badgers are above average. The low stuff rate leads Michigan to more frequently face third and short on defense, which, in turn, makes it harder to wreak havoc.

Making sense of the data

The data suggests Wisconsin has a clear advantage when Michigan has the ball. The game will be decided when the Badger offense is on the field.

Wisconsin’s offense has shown some weaknesses to this point, particularly by being stuffed at a higher-than-average rate. Fortunately, Michigan’s defensive strength is not stuff rating. This is an excellent opportunity for the Badgers to be a little more consistent on offense. The consistency is critical to the Badgers success, as Michigan does not allow big plays.

If the Badgers can consistently find success on first and second down, that will be a critical step in holding off the underdogs.