to play football, not to play trumpet
Earlier this year I read a bunch of tea leaves, and suggested that we could explain our fortunes using George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire novels as metaphor. I planned to do a post-mortem, but got lazy/depressed by our bowl game performance and then Seth beat me to it. So this post isn't really about the past so much as what our SHINY NEW OC promises for our future (preview: zone blocking). But first, the perfunctory conclusion:
Our season is either A Dance with Dragons, if you prefer the preseason scheme--a meandering and listless journey through something and then something else, which has its moments but ultimately leaves you frustrated at the huge investment of time in an mediocre book that failed to live up to your expectations. Or, if you prefer the version written in the throes of alcohol-fueled post-Sparty misery, The Hedge Knight, described at the time as "a third-rate garbage time-waster," whatever that means.
Like many of you, I have mixed feelings about Al Borges’ tenure in Ann Arbor. When he came on board in 2011, he was basically tasked with not cratering Rich Rodriguez’ offense while introducing some West Coast/pro-style concepts into the mix (man blocking, pulling, route progressions, etc.). And I think he did an admirable job—not only holding serve in most respects, but also getting better production out of the running back position than we’d had in 2010. While overall performance declined in 2012, that can be attributed to three factors: a much more difficult schedule, which had us play the eventual AP #s 1, 2, 3 and 4; the graduation of David Molk; and Denard’s injury against Nebraska. The only thing I can really blame Al for would be the decision to go with Russell Bellomy rather than Devin Gardner as Denard’s backup—despite Gardner’s clear talent advantage and Denard’s propensity for coming out of games injured. Well, that and the INT problem, which actually began in 2011.
2013, though, was a different story. There are two basic theories of why our offense declined so precipitously: a) we didn’t scheme as much as throw a bunch of plays together; and b) we couldn’t execute plays that would have worked if we’d had different (i.e. more experienced) personnel. Both are true, and interrelated. While we certainly didn’t have experience in key areas, and especially the interior OL, we also insisted on running plays inexperienced offensive lines are unlikely to execute well. Compounding matters, there was no cohesiveness and not enough repetition to the things we ran, which meant guys on the OL weren’t put in position to improve over the course of the year. The result: TFLs, sacks, interceptions and lots of unmanageable 3rd downs.
In 2014, we looked to have the same problems in different places. While the whole interior OL was set to return (and likely to improve), we were also going to lose our two tackles to the NFL, as well as our most reliable receiver/Gardner’s safety blanket. Thus if we were to try to run a lot of different plays predicated on complex blocking schemes, as Borges clearly favored, we were going to run into similar problems to the ones that bedeviled us in 2013.
While I’ve always been convinced (and remain so) that Borges probably would have been successful by 2015 (when all his favored pieces would have beeen in place and we would have also been gifted with a favorable schedule), the fact is that our 2013 performance was so underwhelming that the fan base lost its patience. Were we to have another suboptimal year in 2014 (which our schedule and said roster changes suggest as a distinct possibility), it would have been likely to create problems for recruiting and probably put Hoke himself on the hot seat. So something had to change, and Al was the guy in the most precarious position.
Was it fair? Yes and no. We also played poorly on defense at times. The K State game in particular appeared to validate concerns about the awfulness of our “bend but don’t break” strategy this year. I mean, shout at Al Borges all you want, but it’s not his fault we gave up too many points to Akron, UCONN, Penn State, Indiana and Ohio. Without much pass rush from the DL, a mediocre secondary and a couple LBs who were just terrible in pass coverage, “the right to rush four” more often translated as “the right to sit back and wait for the other team to successfully execute yet another slow-developing crossing pattern.” This was not the defense we fielded in 2011 or 2012.
But on the other hand, the defense was young and didn’t feature 3 guys about to end up in the NFL, while Mattison is still the guy who turned our historically bad 2010 defense into the elite defense we fielded in 2011. And we looked poised to take a big leap forward on the defensive side in 2014, whereas we did not on offense.
The news that we’d canned Borges elicited a mix of relief and concern—that we’d endure another “Process,” that we’d eventually settle a GERG to follow Borges-Schafer, that we’d potentially lose out on prized recruits and, most troublingly of all, that we might embark on yet another chaos-inducing strategic/philosophic transformation. Never in a million years did I believe Saban's weird thing for Lane Kiffin would push his extremely competent OC into our arms (and not, say, into a head coaching position at a major school).
Make no mistake: Nussmeier is the best pro-style OC not currently a head coach somewhere, and is about as close to a sure thing as you get in this business. In his last two stints, he’s overseen a successful reclamation project at Washington and provided a significant performance boost to an already efficient Alabama offense. He’s known as an elite QB mentor, while Alabama’s performance from the OL and RB positions speak for themselves. Plus he represents a good fit for our personnel and the kind of kids we’re recruiting, so we won’t have to endure yet another multiyear vision quest to get to the proverbial promised land of elite offensive performance.
The Zone! The Zone! The Zone!
Keeping that in mind, Nussmeier does promise some significant changes to how we approach offensive football, particularly in how we block and run—the two biggest deficiencies of our 2013 offense.
Nussmeier’s system is built the simplest, most efficient base run play: Inside Zone. Why is this such a big deal? Consider what happened when Denard graduated. In 2010 our base run play was a QB Iso, which follows zone blocking. In 2011 and 2012 it was the Inverted Veer (to QB), which follows “Power O” blocking—a system that has elements in common with zone blocking, but which prefers the guard to pull and block a guy who's either covered by the blocker in his zone or optioned off. This worked in large part because we had Denard running behind a fairly experienced OL. Exit Denard and 3 starting OL and in 2013 we decided to go with a collection of plays usually associated with zone blocking and single-back formations, but featuring pulling guards and Power O blocking, fullbacks and general confusion. “Zone” Stretch Left and the various doomed attempts to power up the middle actually started pretty well, but cratered against Akron and got worse as the year went on.*
Here’s why Inside Zone is the solution to most, if not all, of our run blocking problems: because it’s the simplest play to block for, because you can run it from under center, shotgun or pistol, because you can run it with one or two backs and—crucially—wherever your team fits on this increasingly complicated Venn diagram, the blocking scheme does not need to change dramatically. The OL just blocks the guy in front of him, and if there’s no guy in front of him, he goes and blocks the next guy in his zone. It’s a relatively simple read that is basically designed to mitigate things like inexperience and being too small/weak, while still providing rewards for experience, size, speed and strength.
As a consequence, Inside Zone works equally well for both the little speedy Oregons and the big, muscular Wisconsins and Alabamas. Inside Zone has, furthermore, been the dominant base run play in the NFL since Mike Shannahan started using it with Denver in the late 1990s. Of more direct concern for us is how well it’s worked for Alabama, as this primer explains in detail.
Inside Zone has another advantage--flexibility:
The majority of the time in a zone blocking scheme the tailback will follow the design of the play, but occasionally the tailback will perform a cutback and change direction during the run. A cutback is when the tailback changes direction and runs away from where the linebackers are flowing (the tailback can only do this once and must not hesitate). This cutback made by the tailback is what makes zone blocking so dangerous because of how easily a cutback can lead to a big play. The cutback exaggerates the advantages of the zone-blocking scheme.
Watch this video highlighting Texas’ use of Inside Zone to see this point illustrated nicely, not only for cutbacks, but for alternate read options.
More importantly, for those of us scarred by the semirandom-collection-of-formations-and-plays approach pioneered in 2013, there’s also these tidbits from an ex-player on Saban's thinking on Inside Zone, which Nussmeier brings to Ann Arbor from Tuscaloosa:
Q. Is the inside zone a play, or a series of plays?
A. It’s a scheme. It’s a concept. You can have play-action off the inside zone. You can line up in the same exact formation and run the outside zone. The difference between inside zone and outside zone is just your aiming point and footwork. You’re still trying to accomplish the same thing. The backs end up going a little wider. As an offensive lineman, you’re aiming for the defender a little wider for leverage. What you’re trying to accomplish is the same thing. We run the zone out of several formations, but you can’t always tell if it’s inside zone or outside zone. You’ve got to read linemen and read running backs. It’s definitely not a play. There are many variations, formations. There’s a lot of stuff you can do out of it.
Q. How do you explain Alabama running this scheme so well?
A. On the first day of spring practice, the first day of training camp, the first play we install is the inside zone play. That’s kind of what everything else in the playbook evolves from. They get a lot of reps every single day. When it comes to those crucial moments when it’s something to lean on, those guys are very well prepared to execute it, no matter how good the front seven is or how big the nose guard is. They repeat it and take a lot of pride in it. There’s certainly an asterisk on it in Tuscaloosa.
Do those sound like philosophical concepts we missed in 2013, and to an extent throughout the Hoke/Borges era? They do to me.
For the schematically minded, here are some diagrams of Alabama's Inside Zone against a base 3-4 and base 4-3 (unfortunately a pdf, so not embedded). Here are more diagrams:
Passing behind Zone Blocking
The main disadvantage, of course, is the inferiority of zone blocking as a conduit to playaction, as this article from Smart Football describes. And Borges did dial up some wicket playaction in 2013. But I often found myself wondering: without a credible run game, wouldn’t simple designed pass plays without the fake work just as well, if not better?
Traditional thinking about zone blocking is that you prefer smaller, speedier guys for your run game whose performance doesn’t quite translate to pass protection, so you need fast developing pass plays that mitigate this disadvantage. Hitches, screens, slants, naked bootlegs and an expanded role for pass-catching RBs/TEs mark zone blocking schemes from early-2000s USC to, well, most of the others.
But Nussmeier’s system at Alabama wasn’t quite like that. His OL were, as a rule, massive and more capable of sustaining their blocks than is often the case in offenses that utilize zone blocking. Part of this is due to the insane multiyear recruiting bonanza Alabama has enjoyed under Saban (and which is undoubtedly buttressed by that whole oversigning thing). But Nussmeier has done an excellent job developing young and talented OL—exactly what we need someone to do. Yet like Borges, he isn’t so much about dink-and-dunk as setting up the opportunity to go vertical. This is, then, a playaction-friendly version of the zone blocking scheme.
In sum, we look like we’ve landed the one guy who appears like both an extension of the upsides to the Borges era and a well-timed departure from its failings. I’ll miss Al as a personality and thank him for all the great games he called over the past few years (Notre Dame 2013, Nebraska 2011, etc.)—and certainly wish him and his family the best in all future endeavors. Like Rich Rod, there were better things on the horizon, but that horizon was still too far off, and there was too much uncertainty and disillusionment involved to continue down that path. As such, this hire really looks like move in the right direction.
*Note: we did run some Inside Zone this year--just not consistently or as a base run play except in a couple games towards the end.
Michigan has just released their official press release. Nussmeier will be the OC and QB Coach.
"Doug is a highly respected offensive coordinator and has earned a reputation as being a great mentor to quarterbacks, specifically, where he's coached Pro Bowlers, top NFL draft choices and Heisman Trophy finalists," said Hoke. "Doug has been successful at every coaching stop with his balanced and explosive offenses, and he brings national championship experience. He is an excellent addition to our coaching staff and football program, and we are excited to have Doug, Christi and their children join the Michigan family."
"I am extremely excited to join the University of Michigan and work with Brady Hoke, the staff and players," said Nussmeier. "I'm proud of what we accomplished in two seasons at Alabama, and I owe a great deal to Coach Saban for that opportunity. Michigan is a program I've always had deep respect for, and I'm looking forward to getting started in Ann Arbor and being a part of the great tradition there."
Now that football season is over and Mary Sue Coleman is in her last semester at the helm at Michigan I thought I'd pull together the latest installment of this Diary. Here are links to Part 1 http://mgoblog.com/diaries/race-replace-mary-sue-coleman-–-odds-university-michigan’s-next-president
and Part 2 http://mgoblog.com/diaries/race-replace-mary-sue-coleman-–-odds-university-michigan’s-next-president-part-ii
We all have seen, and a Detroit Free Press noted in a basically factless article later this week, the information on the search is pretty quiet. That in itself and the fact that the student body is completely blocked out of the search committee and the faculty is damn nearly equally left out actually speaks volumes. The University is clearly looking at other sitting Presidents and the need to keep confidential their interest has required a very tight circle of those involved in the search. Further, as the office opens up in only seven more months, it may be that we are looking at an interim president if word doesn't come down relatively soon. President Coleman was publicly named in late May and took office in August of 2002 moving directly over from her position at the helm of the University of Iowa. Though no names have emerged publicly there are some interesting theories, a major wild card and a very strange rumor about a fly in the ointment.
Again, no names are really emerging from any credible sources (and by credible I mean one of the twenty or so people who actually know what's going on). There has been widespread speculation that, much as Mary Sue was, a sitting Big Ten President might be in the crosshairs. This makes sense considering that, our fellow B1G Universities share several commonalities beside geography. Aside from most being considered Top 50 to 60 academic Universities according to US News and World Report, all also have big time athletics that any President of this University would need to have an active role in. So take a look at the sitting Big Ten leaders from least likely to most likely:
1) Ohio and the Wisconsin system are looking for their own Presidents
2) Penn State, Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue, the University of Illinois system and Minnesota just replaced their Presidents in the last two years so they are all seemingly out.
3) indiana's President Michael McRobbie has been at the helm for six years but their academic reputation isn't what Michigan's is and nor is their football program. His entire professional career has been at IU. Seems unlikely to leave.
4) Nebraska's academic reputation just isn't strong enough to seriously consider their President who has been in place nearly ten years but is a Nebraska grad.
5) Iowa's president Sally Mason has been in place six years and was Provost (#2 in charge) at Purdue for another six.
6) Morton Schapiro at Northwestern would be phenomenal. He's been in place for four years and served nine years as President of Williams College and has a tremendous academic reputation. That said, NU is a pretty good gig. I hate to say this but this would be a lateral if not backwards move.
7) Illinois-Champaign's Chancellor is Phyllis Wise. She's been in place since 2011, was the interim President at the University of Washington for two years prior and Provost of the same for five years prior to that. Wise has ties to Michigan as her Ph.D. is from Michigan's zoology department.
Which leads us to....
8) Lou Anna Simon, the President of Michigan State and a Sparty alum (received her Ph.D.) Laugh all you want, but...
a) Simon has been at the helm for ten years (longest of all Big Ten Presidents) and was provost at State before that. She knows the players and politicians of this state which is crucial as all Michigan Universities fight for the scraps the State legislature throws to them.
b) Simon is currently the chairwoman of the executive committee of the NCAA. How would that be for instant pop in the college athletics scene.
c) I don't know if you noticed but Simon was given an honorary degree in Ann Arbor this past graduation cycle. Is that the Regents warming us up to the idea?
Anyway, there are a couple of interesting candidates here. Will the Regents pull their candidate from this pool?
I also want to address a name I heard recently but think its more of an "I wish" kind of thing from some of the administrators who said it. The name is Martha Minow, the Dean of Harvard Law School and name on the short list for the next available Supreme Court position. Come On! I mean, she would be a dream candidate in terms of reputation in the academic world. The reason her name likely comes up, aside from her academic reputation, is because she has Midwestern roots and a Michigan bachelor's degree before going on to get a Masters and J.D. From Harvard and Yale. I mean, again, IF she was actually interested, she'd be an academic powerhouse but its a HUGE jump from running a law school to a large University and she obviously has no experience dealing within major college sports. I just don't see it happening.
Finally, to that rumor....it's no mystery that David Brandon has many detractors around the University community. Nearly every Dean wants his head for drastically increasing the size and scope of the Athletics fundraising efforts and raiding many donors that were previously making academic gifts and slashing access to athletic campus. Further, his policies towards many of the Regional Alumni clubs have won him few friends (just ask the Detroit Club about Brandon's mandate they pay several thousand to rent space for their annual kickoff event where space was previously given free and the subsequent move of the event off campus). His popularity is rumored to be not so high among some of his former colleagues on the Board of Regents. It wouldn't surprise me to find out that a Regent or two is the source of the many rumors heard in certain circles that there are candidates for the President job that are declining because they fear/don't want to have to work with Brandon. Again, it could just be a malicious rumor being circulated by any one of many detractors of Brandon's but the smoke on this one is growing and I've heard it from four different and completely unrelated administrators at the University and a fifth person with ties to a Regent. It would truly be a shame if that is in fact damaging the possibility of getting the University a top candidate. Further, it will be very interesting to see how a new President without the same ties and familiarity to Brandon that Mary Sue has deals with him in light of much of the clear animosity directed towards him. Would Brandon walk away without the same kind of cover? Who knows? One thing that certainly would hit home here at MGoBlog would be how all of this would affect any kind of coaching change if necessary after next fall (and let me be clear that I personally hope we never have to answer this question). If Hoke were to be replaced, how comfortable would people be with the person who chose him in the first place making the decision on the new hire? Would a newly seated President have enough clout to influence the decision? Would that same President be pressured to then oust Brandon for his failure to bring in a winner. Would letting go of Brandon increase the perception of instability for a new hire and potentially screw up a hiring timetable while the AD gets hired before the coach search could happen? As I said, the Presidential search may have more to do with athletic campus than one might ordinarily expect.
So now we all sit back and wait. If there is going to be a a permanent President named to start by the fall, we should hear the name in the next few months. If I hear any names start to surface, I'll certainly tap out the fourth installment of the Diary.
Here's the link for this week's Freep article: http://www.freep.com/article/20140105/NEWS05/301050063/university-of-mic...
All information can be found at USCHO.com
|2||St. Cloud State||( 8)||11- 2-3||922||3|
|3||Ferris State||15- 3-3||876||2|
|5||Boston College||13- 4-2||804||6|
|15||Notre Dame||10- 8-1||300||14|
|19||Lake Superior||11- 8-1||103||18|
Michigan falls one spot from 7 to 8 after not playing last weekend. Quinnipiac beat a Maine team just on the outside of the Top-20, so they flip spots from 8 to 7.
Minnesota tied Colgate Frday night but Ferris State lost to Colgate Saturday night, so the Gophers stay at #1.
Our next opponent Wisconsin fall one spot after sleepwalking through their series against Alaska-Anchorage, getting a late goal to avoid a home sweep.
Past opponent Nebraska-Omaha was dropped from the poll after a sweep from New Hampshire, who rejoins the poll at #20. Boston College moves into the Top-5 after the Frozen Fenway win against Notre Dame.
|#||Team||RPI||Record||Win%||Win% Rank||SOS||SOS Rank|
|2||St. Cloud State||.5966*||11-2-3||.7812||3||.5269||7|
No much change here but Michigan moves up a few percentage points from last week.
Boston University is sliding, and it doesn't look like they will be a quality win on our tournament resume.
The RPI rankings are starting to take shape. Minnesota is the only team above .6000, and eventually there won't be any. About half of D-1 hockey remains above above .5000.
In the state of Michigan four teams rank above .5000. Ferris State (.5851), Michigan (.5599), Lake Superior State (.5200) and Western Michigan (.5031). Three teams are below; Northern Michigan (.4880), Michigan Tech (.4863) and Michigan State (.4772)
Big Ten Standings
No change. Big Ten play will start again this weekend with three series.
Michigan at Wisconsin
Michigan State at Ohio State
Minnesota at Penn State
Big Ten Freshman Scoring
|Nick Schilkey||Ohio State||16||6||5||11||0.38||0.31||0.69|
The BCS is dead, as Brian detailed in his most recent post, but here are some things you may not know, or may have forgotten about the playoff
- The six bowls participating in the rotating semifinal and final were not randomly chosen. They are all historic bowl sites in warm weather cities with no state getting more than one game, excluding hte final. (sorry Citrus Bowl).
The six bowls are in Los Angeles, Tempe, Dallas/Arlington, New Orleans, Atlanta and Miami.
2014 New Year's Day Bowl lineup will be drastically changed. It is shaping up to have the Cotton Bowl as the 1 p.m. game followed by the Rose Bowl semifinal in the late afternoon/evening and the Sugar Bowl as the primetime game.
The Rose Bowl always hosts the evening game on New Year's Day and that doesn't appear to change unless NYD falls on a Sunday as it does in 2017. In that case, the Rose Bowl will move to Monday, Jan. 2.
New Year's Eve always has the Peach Bowl at night and that doesn't appear to be changing. Even when it hosts the National Semifinal, the Peach Bowl will be held on Dec. 31 and not Jan. 1. Also, it is the only game in the College Football Playoff that is referred to by it's corporately-sponsored name.
Because of the intracacies of keeping the Rose Bowl in it's Jan. 1 slot and the Peach Bowl in it's NYE slot, there are some scheduling quirks. For example, in 2015, the College Football Playoff semifinal games are on Jan. 1 and will be the last games played before the title game. However, in 2016, the semifinals are held on NYE, followed by the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day. A little weird but not as much as having the games scattered about.
Semifinal contests on NYE means we could in the future have a Michigan game on NYE. That would be one heck of a party. I assume this would also mean Al Borges is coaching at Louisville or the Upstairs Hollywood Beauty College.
The College Football Playoff Championship game will rotate between host cities much like the Super Bowl and Final Four. Texas gets the 2015 game, Arizona will host in 2016 and Tampa Bay in 2017.
While the warm-weather locations are not a great set up for the B1G, it helps remove the New Year's Daybowl logjam out of Florida. (Outback, Citrus, Gator, Orange). I believe they also had Champ's Sports at one time too. Where the F did the Champ's Sports Bowl spawn from?
The layoff between the semifinal and final games will be determined by what day New Year's Day falls on and which game is hosting the semifinal For example, the 2015 semifinals are on New Year's Day, but the championship is 11 days later. In 2016, there is a 10-day layover. In 2017, there is an 8-day layover. Of course, in some years the semifinal is on NYD, such as the case in 2015. But in 2016, the semifinals are hosted on Dec. 31.
ESPN has a 12-year contract to televise and distribute the playoff games and had a previous contract to televise and distribute the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl games through 2026. They also currently air the Chik-Fil-A Bowl. (I would be surprised if things didn't move to an 8-team playoff before 2026).
The Cotton Bowl contract was held by Fox, but expired this year. I cannot find information on what network has the rights to this game if the game is not part of the official playoff. It may not be ESPN. If the Cotton Bowl is part of the playoff, the game will be on the ESPN family of networks. Live from hospice in 2025 is Brent Musburger.
There was also discussion of a "Champions Bowl" to feature top teams from the SEC/Big12, but I don't know if the College Playoff has changed that and cannot find information on that bowl game. It very well could include top teams from the SEC/Big12 that are left out of the top games. Hypothetically, this could be teams that are around 10-16th in the nation, giving us an 8th, top flight post-season game that won't involve crap-ass teams like Hawaii.
The hypothetical playoff teams will play as many as 15 games, one less than an NFL schedule. (So much for arguments about kids missing class).
The committee to select playoff teams have a strong Big Ten presence including Tom Osborne of Nebraska, Barry Alvarez of Wisconsin and Tyrone Willingham from MSU (before ND).
All other conferences are represented but not necessarily as well as the B1G or the Pac-10 (Condoleeza Rice, Pat Haden, etc.)
- Lastly and most importantly, the College Football Playoff logo looks like a vagina.
SAYING GOODBYE TO 2013
The news regarding Mitch McGary’s upcoming back surgery and the rather unfortunate result of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl have, at least in my mind, put a sad cap on what has been a mostly frustrating 2013. I thought that I might burn one further diary as an opportunity to say “goodbye” to this year and some of its memories, but also to say that I am hopeful that 2014 will bring some pleasant surprises to Michigan.
First, allow me to focus on the positive, for it wasn’t all gloom. Some examples:
We were more or less inches from being the NCAA Champions in hoops. That was a phenomenal run down the stretch, and at least to me, Trey’s Trey – as I like to call it (inspired by a fellow MGoBlogger) – lives on as one of the best Michigan basketball moments in a long time. If you’re like me and remember the Fab Five but were college-aged during the dawn of the Ellerbe years in basketball around here, you might have also been looking for something special to happen and that season and all of its ups and downs certainly qualifies.
We have over two dozen varsity sports, and several of them were also doing quite well in 2013. For example, Michigan softball captured its sixth consecutive (I think this is right) conference championship and made an appearance in the WCWS. In men’s gymnastics, we won the NCAA championship and also accomplished this great feat in men’s swimming as well, if I am not mistaken. This is not a comprehensive list, and I realize a fair number of people here probably don’t follow much beyond football, basketball and hockey, but I point these out to illustrate the good that was going on here in Ann Arbor.
Even within the context of the football season, it was not entirely awful. Granted, the peak of the season’s hype was probably UTL II and that was the second game of the season, but we were pretty much in control for the entire game and it was overall an excellent experience. It was perhaps what we wished the entire season could have been on some levels, but it produced positive memories for me in any case. Even in each individual game, typically we could find some individual plays or moments that made us feel a little better about things even if the holistic view of the season gave us some fits.
Now, all that being said, 2013 obviously had some downer moments. A couple of the major ones:
Michigan hockey found itself watching the NCAA tournament on television, not from an arena, and it was the first time a little over two decades, I believe. It was a disappointing finish to what had been a very un-Michigan season compared to what we had become used to with Berenson at the helm. These things happen, but that doesn’t make it easy to watch necessarily. Fortunately, we’re off to a much better start in the new season to date.
Finishing a rather frustrating 7-5 season with a bowl loss didn’t make us feel any better about the year on the whole either. We watched a team that simply seemed out of alignment, if you will, and couldn’t run on all cylinders consistently. We watched football that was – at times – technically unsound, if you will, and we were quite rightly unhappy about it. We could talk about a lot of specific issues, but that’s what the board is for and I am sure that we’ve analyzed them past death. At the end of the day, we’re Wolverines through and through, but it wasn’t an easy season on the board, to be sure.
Most recently, we found out that we could very well lose Mitch McGary for the season because of the surgery he will have soon (at the time of this writing, it is soon anyway). I know this weighs heavily on our estimates of performance for conference play in basketball, which now starts in mere days. It definitely was not welcome news, and it even prompted one MGoBlogger to suggest that we cover a fictional basketball season. Strangely, I found myself entertaining the idea, as I had grown that tired of the year by that point.
There is more, of course, but you get the idea, I think.
If there is a conclusion here, hopefully it is that shit happens, and it is frustrating when it seems like it is only piling up around us. My sincere hope is that we can go into 2014 with some optimism and that it is, in fact, a better year for the sports that are currently having some struggles. In the end, I know we wish all of our teams nothing but the best.
Go Blue, friends, and here is to a new start in 2014.