Minnesota Football: Models and Bottles! - Michigan

Leon Halip

Faint cheers for a mini Hate Week? Mild applause instead? Murmurs of slight contempt?

Sanctimony simply does not generate the same intensity as hate, unfortunately. Neither does losing to a team 38 times out of 41 since your last Big Ten championship. Sigh.


Yeah, bad things have happened to the simulated outlook over the last two weeks...

Gopher FBS Win Simulations (1,000,000 trials)
Mean FBS Wins Remaining 0.87
Frequency of 2+ FBS Wins Remaining 19.6%
Freq. of 3+ FBS Wins Remaining 2.7%
Freq. of 1 or fewer FBS Wins Remaining 80.4%


Two things have radically changed the trajectory of the season based upon a fully weighted model. First, giving up a thousand yards per pass to David Fales dramatically has screwed up a number of defensive statistics used in the model input, namely yards per play and yards per pass allowed. Second, the total statistical domination Iowa threw down last Saturday further beat down other key inputs on the aggregate (explanation of stuff in an appendix comment).

Needless to say, the remaining outlook for the season doesn't look so hot at the moment.

Gopher Win Probability* 2.6%
Predicted Points Scored** 20.9
Predicted Points Allowed** 24.1
Predicted Margin of Victory** -3.2
Current Vegas Spread Gophers +19.5
Current Vegas Over/Under 50.0

Um yeah, clarification here. The win probability model and points for/points allowed projections are actually three different models, each with different predictor variables. The points for/allowed models are very similar in that they share most of the same predictors, give or take a few that are statistically significant in one vs. the other. Margin of victory and opponent's margin of victory are critical components of both models. The win probability does not factor in previous margin of victory. Hence, the discrepancy.

As I've said before in my days of experimental sports modelin', the logit (win) model is much more robust than predicting points for and allowed. I'm spitballing some ideas of how to improve score prediction accuracy in the offseason, which sucks because I just rebuilt this particular model (I had a planned redundancy here to make it more reflective of in-season data versus projections -- damn it).

So, takeaways? If we go by Michigan's margin of victory and opponent's margin of victory (with recursion), the Wolverines are not quite as strong as their other statistical measures of strength would suggest. The converse is true of Minnesota as well. Meatchicken plays up or down to their level of competition, while the Gophers have performed about where one would expect them to given their opponents. Which factor plays out more on Saturday - playing opponents dangerously close for comfort versus pure statistical superiority - is anyone's guess.


    For my money, the Little Brown Jug has the best history of any college football rivalry trophy. The best part of the tradition behind the LBJ is that it actually served a purpose in a really, really important game between Minnesota and Michigan. A refresher:

    As [Fielding] Yost and the team came into Minneapolis [in 1901], student manager Thomas B. Roberts was told to purchase something to carry water. Yost was somewhat concerned that Gopher fans might contaminate his water supply. Roberts purchased a five-gallon jug for 30¢ from a local variety store.

    Twenty thousand fans watched the matchup between the two teams in an overflowing Northrop Field. Minnesota held the fabled "point-a-minute" squad to just one touchdown, but hadn't yet managed to score a touchdown of their own. Finally, late in the second half, the Gophers reached the endzone to tie the game at 6. As clouds from an impending storm hung overhead, pandemonium struck when Minnesota fans stormed the field in celebration. Eventually the game had to be called with two minutes remaining. The Wolverines walked off the field, leaving the jug behind in the locker room of the University of Minnesota Armory.

    That's right, the Wolverines and Gophers play for a century old clay pot. We invented the game used memorabilia business, but did it cooler than something Darren Rovell would probably gleefully 'report' on.

    Now, legend has it that our equipment manager Oscar Munson was the dude who found the jug after the game, though varying reports about just how he found it add to the tapestry. Oscar presented it to Minnesota's AD, and voila! a trophy game is born.

    Oscar would be turning in his grave if he knew what a lopsided series Minnesota vs. Michigan has become over the latter part of the 20th and early 21st centuries. In honor of Munson, I salute this game with Oskar Blues Ten Fidy. A rich and flavorful imperial stout, Ten FIDY is one of my buddy Zeke's favorite brews -- and also hard to find in Minnesota. Zeke was kind enough to share one of his sacred stouts with me once, and I've been searching for Ten Fidy ever since. I might need the full 10.5% ABV that gives the beer its namesake to forget what happened the last go-round in Ann Arbor.

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