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Michigan, You’re On... STATWATCH PLAID

I make an argument against running the ball this week.

Michigan v Wisconsin Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Michigan’s currently on a 1-2 skid. After thumping the Gophers in the Big 10’s primetime return, they lost to Michigan State narrowly and Indiana solidly. Last time the Wolverines started 1-2 was in both 2007 and 2008 - both memorable for fans of teams that aren’t Michigan.

I’m going to talk about their pass defense this week, I just wanted to bring up non-conference games Michigan played in 2007.

So, passing! What was once considered a “trick play” to most Wisconsin fans, the forward pass has come in style thanks to Graham Mertz’s performance some fivetyseventeen weeks ago. While who the hell knows what will happen due to the time off, Wisconsin can still game plan around victimizing Michigan’s pass defense for a slew of reasons.

Michigan Gives Up Long Completions

The one somewhat competent thing Michigan does do against passes is force incompletions. Their 57.52% opposing completion percentage would be top 30 in 2019. The issue is that when you start putting yardage with those completed passes, Michigan starts looking bad quickly. Their 7.6 YPA would be a pedestrian No. 71 last year, and a 13.3 YPC is close to No. 110. What that means is there are big gains to be had out there.

Michigan Can’t Pass Rush

Last year, Michigan got 2.77 sacks a game (No. 21 nationally), or 8.73% of opponent dropbacks (No. 15). This year, that number has fallen to five sacks in their first three games against pass-first offenses, cutting the sack percentage in half to 4.24%. That means longer-developing passing concepts can develop.

Put those facts together, and Michigan’s been giving up 12.67 first downs a game by the pass, which would have been fifth worst in the country last year. But even if it’s an incomplete pass, the Wolverines still help out their opponents on a regular basis.

Michigan Can’t Hand Me No Lies Or Keep Their Hands To Themselves

It’s a traditional announcer cliche - you can’t extend an opposing drive by giving up a penalty in a crucial situation. But Michigan can’t hear the announcers, so they’re giving up 3.3 first downs by penalty a game. What did those penalties look like?

The Penalty Results In A First Down

Opp Down Dist Penalty
Opp Down Dist Penalty
Minn 2 5 Pass Int
Minn 1 10 Facemask
MSU 2 8 Pass Int
MSU 1 10 Holding
MSU 3 10 Pass Int
MSU 2 5 Personal Foul
MSU 2 5 Holding
IU 3 12 Holding
IU 1 10 Pass Int
IU 3 9 Pass Int

Five pass interferences and three holding, all on passing plays. I said Dom Brown shouldn’t get fired yet, but he clearly needs to fix his secondary in a week. Not this week though, next week.