ESPN FPI: Michigan football game-by-game predictions after Week 4

·4 min read

Michigan football took down a previously undefeated Rutgers in Week 4 to improve to 4-0, but it wasn’t exactly pretty on Saturday.

The Wolverines jumped out to a 20-3 lead, but had to hold on to win 20-13 after the offense became inept in the second half and the defense bent, but ultimately didn’t break.

The advanced analytics still like the maize and blue, and they actually picked up some percentage points in some upcoming games. ESPN FPI is an outlook-based analytics model, meaning it’s more predictive in nature compared to something like PFF, which strictly grades teams on the past. Last week, FPI noted that Michigan is a likely 9-3 team but is likely to win every game with the exception of Penn State, which was a 50/50 toss-up. Even after the Rutgers game, the Wolverines are sitting at a similar projected won-loss of 9.7-2.6, which is 10th nationally. They are ranked No. 7, have a 3.0% chance of winning out and and 20.9% chance to win the conference.

Here is how FPI predicts each game moving forward.

List

Big Ten power rankings after Week 4: More movement after lackluster performances across the board

Week 5: at Wisconsin Badgers

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Previously: 61.5% Michigan win
Now: 69.0% Michigan win

Context

What appeared to be Michigan’s toughest game in the preseason is now one of the Wolverines’ most likely victories. Wisconsin’s run defense is still fierce — it allowed just 2 yards to Notre Dame — but Graham Mertz and the offense are still a mess. Still, Michigan will need to do more to beat the Badgers than it did to win against Rutgers on Saturday.

Week 6: at Nebraska

Photo: Lansing State Journal

Previously: 71.2% Michigan win
Now: 67.9% Michigan win

Context

Nebraska is 2-3, but has shown life every week. The Huskers haven’t lost by more than a score all season long, and are quite close to having a 5-0 record. It’s odd to see that Michigan has a better chance of winning in Madison than Lincoln, but given how tough of an out Nebraska is, perhaps it makes sense.”

Week 8: Northwestern

Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: 93.6% Michigan win
Now: 92.9% Michigan win

Context

This one went down and it makes little-to-no sense. Northwestern won on Saturday against a lesser opponent, but it didn’t exactly look great doing it. Anyway, this is the easiest game left on the schedule.

Week 9: at Michigan State

Photo: Lansing State Journal

Previously: 55.1% Michigan win
Now: 54.6% Michigan win

Context

The Wolverines and Spartans continue to mirror each other and Saturday was no exception. FPI was already giving Nebraska more credit than Rutgers, so by contrast, MSU’s very similar ‘hold on for dear life’ win vs. the Huskers was more impressive in the eyes of the analytics. Still, Michigan is favored, but it very well could be a battle between two 7-0 teams if both handle business from now until then.

Week 10: Indiana Hoosiers

Sep 11, 2021; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers players stop for a picture after defeating the Idaho Vandals at Memorial Stadium. Indiana won 56-14. Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: 88.9% Michigan win
Now: 88.0% Michigan win

Context

Indiana nearly lost to Western Kentucky. It’s safe to say that the Hoosiers are not who we thought they were. Still, they almost always play Michigan tough, but this is now the second-most winnable game left on the schedule.

Week 11: at Penn State Nittany Lions

Photo: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: 50% Michigan win
Now: 53.3% Michigan win

Context

So this is the weird thing: while most of Michigan’s chances moved down this week, the Wolverines’ chances went up from a 50/50 split in what has long been FPI’s most difficult matchup left. Perhaps it has more to do with Penn State than Michigan, but odd, nonetheless. The Nittany Lions were just OK this week in beating an FCS team in Villanova.

Week 12: at Maryland

Photo: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Previously: 80.3% Michigan win
Now: 74.4% Michigan win

Context

Maryland’s offense is still very good and it proved it against Kent State. However, the defense is still not great. I still think this is a big trap game for Michigan, and while the numbers moved in Maryland’s direction, this still appears to be a likely win for the Wolverines.

Week 13: Ohio State Buckeyes

Photo: The Columbus Dispatch

Previously: 53.7% Michigan win
Now: 53.1% Michigan win

Context

Certainly, Ohio State looked like a complete team for the first time all season long. However, it did so against Akron. So ESPN FPI awarded the Buckeyes close to no points here. OSU hasn’t looked good against a team with even the slightest pulse this year, so we’ll know more next week. But for now, this game moves back into the category of the most difficult challenge on the schedule, but by just the slightest of margins.

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