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Michigan football's perfect start was based on solid stats

Michigan football's perfect start was based on solid stats

The Michigan football team has six victories and zero losses, according to the only stats that matter.

Of course, theres a lot that goes into Michigan s perfect start. At the start of the season, some patterns have emerged.

The Wolverines, who defeated Nebraska 32-29 on Saturday, are off this week and will play against Northwestern on Oct. 23.

Heres a look at what Michigan has accomplished so far in six games.

Protecting the ball from a tampon is essential.

Michigans offense may not always be explosive, but itll be ruthlessly effective. Michigan maximizes opportunities, in part, because of this. The Wolverines have only committed two turnovers, which is tied with Oregon for the nation's lowest (and the Ducks have just played five games).

Both turnovers were due to interceptions: one by Alan Bowman, Michigans fourth quarterback that day, against Wisconsin on Oct. 2, and the other on Saturday, Cade McNamara 184th career passing attempt.

McNamara stated earlier this season that his decision-making is something he takes great pride in. I think that my taking care of the ball is my contribution to the team, in terms of us playing complementary football. We have a strong defense like this, but I dont give the offense much momentum. Thats my contribution.

Michigan has not lost a fumble this season. According to TeamRankings.com, the Wolverines have punted the ball on the ground five times, but that rate still ranks in the top third of the country.

Avoiding other negative plays by avoiding other plays that are perceived as negative.

Michigans offense rarely goes backwards, despite the lack of turnovers. Michigan has allowed just 13 tackles for loss (the most in the nation), totaling 60 negative yards (second fewest of any team with at least six games).

There are a lot of variables at play here. Michigan runs the ball frequently, and its two primary backs, Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, are powerful rushers who typically fall forward when tackled. They are anchored by an effective, veteran offensive line. A senior, two fifth-year players, and a sixth- year player make up the six linemen with the most experience.

That unit, with McNamaras pocket awareness and overall football IQ, has allowed just two sacks this season. Only Army, which rarely throws the ball, and SMU have allowed less.

Solid defense. Solid defensive layer.

Michigans offense has been excellent, but not spectacular, similar to the offense. Michigan has forced seven turnovers, and half of the Big Ten has required more. The Wolverines are in the middle of the pack in sacks and tackles for loss.

Instead, they utilize a smart, sound method of defense that ranks 14th in the country according to the FEI ratings on FootballOutsiders.com. The FEI eliminates garbage-time possessions, defined by the ratings as kneel downs at the end of halves and certain drives atthe end if games are very tight.

Michigan ranks in the top 10 for the total net points scored per opponent's offensive drive -- possibly the most important measure of a defense. Michigan is also in the top ten for the busted drive rate, which is the percentage of opponent drives that gain zero or negative yards.

Junior Colson, a defensive linebacker, said he and his defensive teammates list goals on e-mail before each game. Sometimes they're just stats about a team, such as forcing fewer turnovers. Individual goals vary, but Colson wrote before Nebraska that he wanted to be more physically active and play more downhill.

Special special teams are made up of individuals who are exceptional.

It is not difficult to watch Michigan's games and look at the box scores to see that Michigans kicker Jake Moody and punter Brad Robbins, have been outstanding. Moody has made all 25 extra-point attempts and is now 12-for-13 on field goals. He returned 31 and 39 yards in the final three minutes to tie the game and win it against Nebraska. Robbins has shown good distance and direction on his punts.

Michigan has excelled in regards to the hidden yardage" that head coach Jim Harbaugh frequently mentions. FEI analyzes field goals, punts, kickoffs, and the return units to provide a complete picture of special teams. Michigan is ranked sixth in the nation overall, and sixth on net field position.

We understand what doesnt appear on the stat sheet, wide receiver Mike Sainristil said. When youre talking about film, none of that goes unnoticed, he adds.

Staying healthy is key to staying fit.

Its not a specific statistic, but Michigan has remained relatively healthy throughout the season. In the first game, top receiver Ronnie Bell suffered a season-ending injury, which was traumatic indeed. Zak Zinter, the defensive lineman, has been in and out of the lineup. Josh Ross missed the second half against Rutgers on Sep. 25 due to a hamstring problem. Roman Wilson, receiver for Nebraska, missed the game. Thats it, a short list compared to the majority of other teams injury history this year.

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