Three Years at Michigan: Harbaugh’s Tenure

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Three Years at Michigan: Harbaugh’s Tenure

I grew up watching college football and always remembered that iconic maize and blue. Now as an adult, Michigan football is somewhat of a family tradition. I watch their games every Saturday during the year with my friends and family, occasionally making the trip up to Ann Arbor to watch them play in one of the most recognizable stadiums in all of sport: Michigan Stadium.

Naturally, as an Analytics Consultant, I thought of how I could tell a story about Michigan football with Tableau. Using Wikipedia as my data source, I was able to put together some data points to tell this story. Check out the full Tableau viz below:

The Story: Harbaugh’s Tenure This Far

I took a look at the past three seasons. These years have been tumultuous, to say the least. The transition from Brady Hoke to Jim Harbaugh was looked at by all at Michigan as the savior of the program. A lot of alumni have said a Michigan man was needed to turn the program around.

In his first season, he exceeded expectations, winning 10 games including a bowl game blowout of Florida. Everything was looking up with the second season being more of the same, but the big miss for his tenure has been against the two biggest rivals in the Big Ten: Michigan State and Ohio State. This past year was a test, with th most losses in a season for Harbaugh and more frustration with his lack of success against those rivals and a lackluster season record.

Three years is generally the amount of time that most new coaches are evaluated.

Quantifying Success

In evaluating Harbaugh’s performance, I looked into different factors such as his record in rivalry games by the opponent (i.e., Minnesota, Michigan State, Ohio State), ranks for major statistically categories (yards, points, etc.) amongst the NCAA, and performance in different temperature ranges.

Rivalry games are generally used to measure a coach’s performance. Especially in the cases of Michigan State and Ohio State, there are conference and playoff implications. Winning these games is extremely important in order to keep your job. Harbaugh has not done well in these games in his first three years.

Performance on the offensive and defensive side of the ball are extremely important. Points per game and yards per game are important to how many wins that a team might have. Comparing offensive production and defensive strength to the other teams in college football shows how well a team is performing overall. Tracking this progress over the years can show how where a coach has strengths and where changes are necessary.

One unique take on this three-year span I gathered was how the team performed in different temperature ranges. In the Big Ten, conference teams have the unique opportunity to play in a variety of temperature ranges, which is not the case in all conferences. In part of the dashboard, I tracked performance in different temperature ranges to see if game temperature played a part in how Michigan performed.

Putting all of these factors together, we can measure how Jim Harbaugh has done in his first three years. Personally, I’m hoping to see this team improve, and these factors are where we need to see improvement.

Go Blue!

More About the Author

Ravi Nemani

Analytics Consultant
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