October 12, 2012
Borton's Blog: Friday Fast Five
It's time for a pre-Homecoming Friday Fast Five, featuring a handful of Michigan football statistics that demand a closer look. A day removed from the halfway point of the regular season, they're starting to mean something.
1. Second-Half Defense - One of the hallmarks of Michigan's defensive effort last year involved getting better as the game went on, particularly following halftime adjustments. Last year, U-M opponents scored 125 first-half points, and 101 second-half points. The latter total included just 45 points in the third quarter (3.5 average), marking the lowest of any period in the game.
That trend continues. The Wolverines have allowed 74 first-half points and only 31 after intermission. Once again, their best quarter comes right after halftime adjustments, with opponents tallying 10 third-quarter points so far, an average of 2.0.
2. Third-Down Conversions - Michigan's overall scoring is down just slightly (33.3 points to 31.6, on average) from last year, but not because of an inability to move the chains. The Wolverines converted on third-down situations at a 47-percent clip last season, and presently sit at an even 50 percent.
That's good for third in the Big Ten, only a shade behind league-leader Purdue (51.3 percent, but only 1 of 11 against the Wolverines) and Northwestern (51.1 percent). Contrast that with the ability of Illinois (35.9 percent) to move the chains. The Illini are better only than the Paul Chryst-less Wisconsin Badgers, who are converting on a woeful 28.2 percent of third-down situations.
The Badgers are leading the Big Ten with 36 punts, while Illinois stands at 35, poised to take the lead in Ann Arbor. Michigan has punted a conference-low 15 times. Of course, that's not all good news. You're not punting when you're throwing it to the other team.
3. Kickoff Returns - Plenty of folks have been on the "He's going to break one" train regarding freshman return man Dennis Norfleet. He hasn't yet, but the rookie has certainly upgraded Michigan's production in that area.
The Wolverines stand 45th in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 22.95 yards per effort. Contrast that with last season, in which they brought kickoffs back an average of 18.43 yards, No. 117 in the country.
4. Pass Defense - On the surface, No. 7 in the nation in pass defense looks pretty good. The Wolverines are giving up only 155 yards a game on average through the air. So why are they no better than No. 91 nationally in pass efficiency defense (122.18)?
It's because of all the other factors considered in determining pass efficiency defense, such as the completion percentage for opponents, number of interceptions, interception percentage, opponents' yards per pass attempt, and opponents' touchdown passing percentage.
More pressure on the quarterback - something Brady Hoke has been adamant about - could move the Wolverines up considerably in efficiency.
5. Turnover Margin - Yes, it's ugly, at No. 94 in the nation (minus-.80). But consider this - most of the damage, and both of the losses, have been confined to two games. Michigan gave the football away a combined nine times against Alabama and Notre Dame, and got it back three times.
In the other three games, the Wolverines led the combined turnover battle, 5-3. It's no revelation, but a good reminder for a team that covets a Big Ten championship game berth: control the ball, control the game.
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