By: Anthony Jones
As a result of a lot of questions from coaches around college “Rivalry Week” games, this week we’ll highlight the Michigan vs Ohio State game.
Michigan vs Ohio State
One of the first things that jumps out about this game is redzone efficiency. Not counting drives at the end of the half and game, Michigan had 9 drives and Ohio State had 10 drives. Six of the Michigan drives reached the redzone and all of those ultimately resulted in touchdowns – including all four of their drives in the 2nd half. Four of the Ohio State drives reached the redzone and only two of those resulted in touchdowns – the other two redzone drives resulted in successful FG attempts.
However, these redzone numbers only tell part of the story (i.e., “what happened”). For a more complete picture (i.e., “how it happened”), let’s take a a closer look at play execution by downs and 4th down coaching decisions.
Below is a snapshot of play execution by each team, by down.
On 1st downs, the Michigan offense vs Ohio State defense match up resulted in a +29% win probability gain for Michigan. For comparison, the Ohio State offense vs Michigan defense match up resulted in a +13% win probability gain for Ohio State. The 1st down net result being a +16% advantage in favor of Michigan, calculated at 29% – 13%. The net result on 2nd downs was a +22% advantage in favor of Michigan. On 3rd downs the net result was a +6% advantage in favor of Michigan. In other words, in terms of play execution this game was won on 1st and 2nd downs where Michigan had a combined net advantage of +38% in win probability.
If we look at coaching decisions during the first three quarters of play (i.e., before Ohio State was in must-GO territory on all 4th downs), we see that Michigan also had a slight advantage.
Coach Harbaugh faced three 4th down decisions and got them all correct (deciding on two punts and one GO). The biggest of these decisions increased his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +5%. With 5:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter and his team trailing by 3 points, Michigan faced a 4th and 1 at the OSU 43. The GO decision came with an expectation to go on to win the game 48% of the time and a punt came with an expectation to win the game 43% of the time.
Coach Day faced six 4th down decisions and got five of them correct (two FG attempts and 4 punts). His only error was fairly small and cost his team -1% in (pre-snap) win probability. Early in the 3rd quarter and trailing by 1 point, Ohio State faced a 4th and 4 from the OSU 31-yard line. The punt came with an expectation to go on to win the game 58% of the time and a GO came with an expectation to win the game 59% of the time.
Congrats to Michigan on the victory and a game well-played and coached!
NFL BEST Decision – GB vs LAR
There’s a decision in the Packers vs Rams game worth highlighting because it illustrates a common (and flawed) decision-making process. With 8:41 remaining in the 4th quarter and a 3 point lead the Packers faced a 4th and 2 from the LA 21-yard line.
Fox announcer Troy Aikman said “I like points…I like the field goal…” Not only does Aikman fail to acknowledge that attempting a FG does not guarantee a successful conversion and points, but he also doesn’t consider the decision in the context of what gives the Packers the best chance to go on to win the game – even if the Packers had attempted and converted a FG attempt, the Rams would have been down 6 and a TD away from taking the lead.
Coach LaFleur, on the other hand, made the correct decision to go for it and increased his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +2%. Every percent matters, especially in close games. Based on our Edj Power Indexes (EPIs) and the game state, a GO came with the expectation to go on to win the game 75% of the time and a FG attempt came with the expectation to win 73% of the time.
Great decision by Coach LaFleur and win by the Packers!
NFL WORST Decisions – LV vs DAL
With 1:57 remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied the Raiders faced a 4th and 3 from the DAL 38-yard line. Coach Bisaccia’s decision to attempt a 56-yard FG cost the Raiders -13% in (pre-snap) win probability. Based on our EPIs and game state, the decision to attempt a FG came with an expectation to go on to win the game 36% of the time and a GO decision came with an expectation to win 49% of the time.
Notable High School Games of the Week
Calhoun Yellow Jackets (GA) vs Ware County Gators (GA)
With 2:59 remaining in the 4th quarter and the game tied at 42, the Yellow Jackets faced a 4th and 1 from the Ware County 9-yard line. Coach Stephenson’s correct decision to go for it increased his team’s (pre-snap) win probability by +9%.
Based on how these team’s matched up and the game state, in this situation a GO comes with an expectation for the Yellow Jackets to go on to win the game 62% of the time and a FG-attempt comes with an expectation for them to win the game 53% of the time. They successfully converted this 4th down GO attempt and scored the go-ahead TD on this drive. The Yellow Jackets went on to win and advance in this GHSA 5A playoff match up.
Great call by Coach Clay Stephenson and execution by the players! And best of luck as they prepare for a rematch against Blessed Trinity (GA) in the 2021 GHSA 5A Semi-Finals.
Submit your play of the week here.
Every play matters. In addition to X’s and O’s, football is a game of coaching decisions and player execution and it’s important to understand both in the context of their impacts on win probability.
For more information about how coaches in the NFL, NCAA and High School levels are using our analytics to coach with confidence, visit www.edjvarsity.com.