This is pretty cool (Big Box):
[As always, the data is sack-adjusted. For some background on these metrics you should check out the JSU game post or Bill Connelly's explanation of the Five Factors - JT]
What's strange is that this is one of the worst offensive performances of the year. I'm still not used to the offense being this good, so scoring 28 offensive points while averaging 6.6 yards per play feels impressive. It was certainly enough to get the job done.
Credit Michigan for making life a little difficult for Connor Cook in the passing game; I can't recall many times this season where he was less comfortable in the pocket. And he finished with 9.5 yards per attempt anyways. The 70-yard touchdown to Tony Lippett skews this some, but it is still unreal.
Losing both fumbles was unlucky but not disastrous, unless you are greedy and wanted to keep the (lack of) touchdown streak going for Michigan. The turnover battle probably should've been won by two by MSU. I'm one of the aforementioned greedy people.
Early on, when Michael Geiger missed the field goal and the offense turned it over on downs, there were major issues with scoring once in Michigan territory. But that issue worked itself out later in the game.
The #BreakButDontBend hashtag, invented by our own SpartanDan, is a way to describe the tendency of this year's MSU defense to give up a handful of very long plays while being particularly efficient for the vast majority of the game. This week, it probably should be #DontBreakOrBend because the defense put it all together in terms of limiting explosive plays while still playing very efficiently. This was the second best performance this season in terms of yards per play and yards per drive. The percentage of available yards gained was not quite as good due to....
Field Position / Special Teams Issues
The two lost fumbles set Michigan up for both of their scoring drives, but in general Michigan enjoyed better field position all day. This is not new, either; MSU has had an average field position deficit in every game in Big Ten play.
The blame can get spread around for this, but I'm mostly worried about Mike Sadler. Sadler is now tenth in the Big Ten in average yards per punt at 40.3, down from 42.5 last year. It's hard to say just how much of this is driven by game environments, but his 37.5 average in this game needs to improve. Playing Michigan is a much different proposition than playing Ohio State and MSU likely can't afford a similar deficit in two weeks.
Michael Geiger's lack of reliability this year is also shaping the way in which MSU evaluates whether or not to attempt 4th down conversions. Going for it on 4th and 7 in the first quarter is a risky play, but I liked it because of Geiger's struggles. I'm just glad the coaching staff is able to adjust for conditions like this in-game. In other places, Geiger might have been trotted out for the attempt.
The Stake Thing
This all has the feel of an elementary school romance. Michigan is the kid with the crush that pretends that they don't, until the internalized emotion spills out. Michigan says this game is like any other game, and then plants a stake in Spartan Stadium. It's a little pathetic.
Here's the thing, Michigan: we see you writing our name in green ink on your
diary schedule. We know you care about us. Can't we just be adults about it?