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Michigan State Spartans Football: Adventures in Scatterplots Previews B1G Football

Joe breaks out a Basketball trick to preview the upcoming football season

Leon Halip/Getty Images

I think that perhaps this summer has caused me to become haunted by KJ; my scatterplot output rate has never been higher. I realized that I had no good way to think about 2015 B1G football in two dimensions. So I decided to take a page from basketball. Unfortunately, I can't totally replicate the basketball chart because football has nothing analogous to win shares which might put all players on equal footing. This means I had to use returning starters, which is not a great metric but at least approximates what a team lost from last year. Without further adieu:

2014 F/+ Rating, 2015 Returning Starters, and Recruiting Class

East Division

The Big Two

Ohio State is a monster. They've got three terrifying quarterbacks, a national title, and the best recruiting class in the Big Ten. If they traveled to East Lansing this year instead of last year, I'd feel significantly better about MSU's chances to dethrone them in the B1G East. As it stands, this team might lengthen the gap. They also avoid both Nebraska and Wisconsin from the West, so it's just unlikely that they'll get tripped up elsewhere.

Michigan State is the only real threat to Ohio State unless something crazy happens in the potential B1G Championship Game. Landing only Nebraska out of the triumvirate of B1G West contenders is helpful; traveling to Lincoln is not. Last year, there were really only four difficult games on the schedule: at Oregon, vs. Nebraska, vs. Ohio State, and the Cotton Bowl. This season stacks up differently, with a second tier of games against Nebraska, Penn State, and Michigan looming larger than last season. Non-con games outside of Oregon will be trickier, too.

The Up-And-Comers

Michigan, even without HARBAUGH HARBAUGH HARBAUGH, was likely to improve in 2015 with 17 returning starters. A transition is still a transition, though, and Michigan needs to find a competent QB in a hurry.

Penn State seems like the more likely candidate for quick improvement, though. First, they've got their QB in Christian Hackenberg. Second, their defense was especially stingy last season. And third, they're bringing in a much better recruiting class. Traveling to Happy Valley in 2016 is unlikely to be fun, methinks.

The Dregs

Maryland was worse than their record last year, and high turnover Will Likely result in a tumble this year (pun count: 1).

Rutgers finds themselves missing Gary Nova. That is all you needs to know.

Indiana was the worst team in the B1G last year per F/+, and that's not incredibly surprising given how terrible their defense was always is.

West Division


Wisconsin keeps chugging along; traveling to both Lincoln and Minneapolis hurts but they don't draw MSU, OSU, PSU, or Michigan from the East. This probably means that Wisconsin will take a pounding from Alabama, and then sneak into Indianapolis again. New coach, same dance. I hate them.

Nebraska draws just MSU from the top tier of the East, and gets Wisconsin at home but travels to Minnesota. To me, this looks like another 9 win team; this would make me laugh considering that Nebraska really didn't have to fire Bo Pelini.

Minnesota finds itself in a pretty good position with coaching transitions at the other two B1G West contenders. Minnesota has to get the monkey that is Paul Bunyan's Axe off of their back at some point, right? Minnesota fans would Kill for a win in that game (pun count: 2).

Ships Passing in the Night

Iowa actually ranked fifth in the Big Ten last year in passing efficiency, which is amazing because I looked that stat up to try to use to make fun of them. Is it possible that Iowa is slowly discovering modern football?

Northwestern is doing the opposite and trending away from the spread. This feels counterintuitive.


Illinois made a bowl game last year. It's true, you can look it up! They will probably improve, and still miss a bowl game because they won't find inexplicable wins against teams like Minnesota and Penn State next year.

Purdue might improve some as well, but non-con tilts against Marshall and Virginia Tech might keep them bowl-ineligible.

What do you think? Am I way off on anything?