We have of course been talking about the state of the football program lately. Some posters are apparently disappointed at the different tracks that OSU and Michigan have taken since 2011, when Michigan went 11-2 and OSU faltered at 6-7. Some also seem frustrated because of their shared perception that Urban Meyer has out-coached Brady Hoke since they took over their respective programs. The extent of this frustration has surprised me, though it occurred to me that I may be more familiar with OSU’s program than the average Michigan fan. I decided to take a look at where the programs stood when the two coaches took over, and what I came up with is below.
First, let’s take a look at the recent records of the two programs prior to Hoke’s and Meyer’s arrivals. We’ll specifically start with 2007 for Coach Hoke, the first year that a redshirt senior in Hoke’s first year of coaching would have been on campus. Well take 2008 for Meyer, because he took over one year after Hoke.
The 2007 Wolverines went 9-4, beat Notre Dame and MSU, lost to Ohio State, beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl, and may have played an FCS team of some sort. It’s tough to say on that last point. What isn’t tough to say is that this was the best year that any of the players inherited by Coach Hoke would enjoy prior to his arrival.
The 2008-2010 Wolverines went 3-9, 5-7, and 7-6 while never beating MSU or OSU. They did manage to beat Notre Dame two times. They made it to one bowl – my memory is hazy, but I believe Mississippi State won by a point or two, possibly on a controversial call by a ref.
Coach Hoke accordingly inherited a group of players who had been members of a team that had enjoyed consistent success against Notre Dame and no other rival. They were 1-3 against MSU at best, and none of them had ever defeated OSU. Worse – at least according to the internet (again, I don’t recall) – they had has many losses to FCS teams as they did bowl victories.
The 2008 Buckeyes went 10-3, beat Michigan, won the Big Ten, and lost in the Fiesta Bowl to Texas. The 2009 Buckeyes improved to 11-2, beat Michigan, won the Big Ten, and beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The 2010 Buckeyes improved yet again to 12-1, beat Michigan, won the Big Ten, and won the Sugar Bowl. The 2011 Buckeyes, in the chaos surrounding the loss of Jim Tressel, fell (as noted) to 6-7, lost to Michigan for the first time since 2003, failed to win at least a share of the Big Ten title for the first time since 2004, and lost the Gator Bowl.
EDIT: The (Tattoo) Needle and the Damage Done (a further thought on the 2011 OSU squad):
I couldn't resist that title. Someone probably used it back in 2011, but anyway...As I discuss more below, the most signifigant damage from the OSU tattoo scandal was always likely likely to be most profoundly felt in 2011. OSU lost its best coach since Woody Hayes, its offensive coordinator, and its quarterback coach - Tressel was all three. (Compare the putrid design of OSU's 2011 offense under formerly-nominal OC Jim Bollman to the offenses when Tressel was present.) OSU also lost 60% of its yards from scrimmage in Pryor, whom the Buckeyes had not expected to replace that year, meaning they only had Joe Bauserman and true freshman Braxton Miller to take over. Finally, OSU lost its leading rusher in Boom Herron and its leading receiver in Devier Posey - the team improved noticeably when Herron returned in the sixth game and again when Posey returned in the eleventh.
The above were all problems that OSU was - in my view - always highly likely to rebound from. OSU didn't have time to replace Tressel using a full hiring search in 2011 (he resigned in May - not coach-hiring season) leaving them with the untested Luke Fickel. They did have time for a full coaching search in 2012. Further, talented and now-experienced players recruited by Tressel - Miller, Carlos Hyde, Devin Smith, etc. - were positioned to replace Pryor, Herron, and Posey by 2012. Accordingly, any good coach would have righted the ship relative to the Buckeye's 2011 season.
An opinion: I believe that programs have cultures, and I believe that those cultures promote winning and losing to varying degrees. Most may find that obvious, but a few might disagree. I further believe that the above shows it to be very likely that OSU had a very strong, winning culture by the time Urban Meyer arrived in Columbus. Only his first and second year players had ever not defeated Michigan, won the Big Ten, and won a BCS game. The rest of his players were used to being at the top of the college football world.
Coach Hoke, on the other hand, inherited a program that had – for whatever reasons (I’m not wading into the RR debate) – been losing regularly in big (and not so big) games. It accordingly seems safe to say that there was not a strong culture of winning at Michigan when Coach Hoke arrived in Ann Arbor. It’s worth repeating that no one on the 2011 roster had ever enjoyed a better season than 2007, when the 2011 players who were on that team watched from the sidelines as Michigan lost in disastrous fashion twice to start out and finally rebounded to beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl (since renamed as the Bank of Capital One FedEx Visa Goldman Sachs Bowl).
I looked at the 2011 Michigan and 2012 OSU rosters by noting the rosters’ cumulative experience and recruiting rankings (stars). I used Scout for the recruiting rankings. They tend to have rank Midwestern players higher than to other services, but that should not favor OSU or Michigan, because both tend to recruit Midwestern and non-Midwestern players in about equal fashion.
I credited player experience as follows: A redshirt freshman was given credit for 0.5 years of experience, because he was on campus but didn’t play. A true sophomore was given credit for one year of experience, because he had played for one year. A redshirt sophomore was given credit for 1.5 years, etc.
The players I counted: I wanted to capture the teams as Coach Hoke and Coach Meyer inherited them. I did this by only giving the teams credit for the years of experience and recruiting stars of players who joined the programs prior to the arrival of the given coach. Accordingly, though both Michigan and OSU had verbal commitments from recruits prior to the arrival of the two coaches, I did not count those players. Hoke and Meyer at least had to close the deal on those recruitments – meaning that they were not completely inherited – and I frankly didn’t have a good way of distinguishing between whom it was that was in the bag for the relevant coach and who wasn’t.
A quick note: Any player who started out as a walk-on is not counted as a scholarship player below. Jordan Kovas is therefore counted as a walk-on even though he earned a scholarship after arriving in AA. I simply didn’t have a good way of tracking down all of the players who followed the Kovacs route for both teams.
What I found is this:
OSU – Urban Meyer inherited a team with 55 scholarship players, and their average Scout ranking was 3.69 stars. Those 55 players had an average of 1.91 years of experience (again, note that I only gave credit for 0.5 years for a redshirt season). Meyer also inherited 43 walk-ons, and they had an average of .8 years of experience. The experience of the scholarship and walk-on players combined was an average of 1.42 years.
Michigan – Coach Hoke inherited a team with 56 scholarship players, and their average Scout ranking was 3.38 stars. Those 56 players had an average of 1.96 years of experience. He inherited 46 walk-ons who had an average of 1.26 years of experience. The experience of the scholarship and walk-on players combined was an average of 1.65 years.
What we can take from this: Coach Hoke inherited a slightly more experienced roster (at least when we only compare the scholarship players), but Urban Meyer inherited a solidly more talented one. Another way of looking at the above numbers is this: roughly one out of every four of Meyer's players had one more star than did their Michigan counterpart (Meyer's 55 players had 14 more total stars than Hoke's 56, and 14/55 is .254). In addition to what’s above, it’s worth remembering that not all four stars are alike, and I frequently noticed while compiling the rankings that OSU was much more likely to have high-four star guys (as an example – the same seemed true for 3 star guys) than was Michigan.
It’s also worth noting – and I suppose you’ll just have to trust me on this – that the players Meyer inherited fit his schemes much better than did the players whom Coach Hoke inherited. We can argue all day about how flexible a coach should be, but I don’t think there’s any question that it is at least easier to work with players who fit your preferred scheme. Examples: We all love Denard (Scout's 16th-ranked cornerback in 2009) and Drew Dileo, but they do not fit what Coach Hoke wants to do in the way Braxton Miller and Jordan Hall fit what Meyer wants to do.
Edit: The Needle and the Damage Done II (further thoughts on OSU's 2011 turmoil):
Meyer deserves credit for the recruiting and coaching that he did in the shadow of NCAA sanctions. However, it is of course true that not all NCAA trouble is created the same. First, as poster Dr. Steve reminds us below, Meyer was allowed by the NCAA to recruit fafter being hired in November of 2011 despite the fact that OSU still had a full staff coaching the team. Meyer had no responsibilities but to recruit. Further, OSU knew within roughly three weeks of Meyer's hire that they would only be hit with a one-year postseason ban and a three-year cap of 82 total scholarships. This was not an ideal situation, but it was hardly the harsh blow to the OSU program that some had predicted. As I said above, the more severe penalty was the damage done to OSU's 2011 season, when they hoped to win an NCAA championship. Take this for what it's worth, but OSU fans regret the loss of that season far more than they do last season's postseason ban or the loss of the scholarships.
Meyer may well have out-schemed and/or out-recruited Coach Hoke at times since the two took over at OSU and Michigan. I am not arguing one way or the other as to who is the best coach. However, we must when comparing the two realize that they did not take over equivalent programs (as much as this might pain us). Coach Hoke took over a less talented team and a team that was not accustomed anything close to the success Meyer’s players had enjoyed. Further, Meyer admittedly had to overcome what turned out to be notable but not-severe NCAA trouble, but this trouble was minor compared to what OSU suffered prior to his arrival, and that trouble (the loss of Tressel et al.) was always most likely to affect the 2011 more than any other. In my opinion, this created the perception that Meyer rescued OSU from a far worse situation than he did. Meyer had to recruit and coach against a one-year bowl ban, while Hoke had to recruit and coach against four years of failure. I would take the former any day.
THE KNOWLEDGE has not appeared on these very pages since the psu game
the reason is rather obvious to the followers of THE KNOWLEDGE. the highly irregular spatio-temporal disruption that happened in the 4th quarter of the game has only now been resolved
THE KNOWLEDGE shall explain more about this and the future in this post
as anyone who saw the psu game would have figured out, the events that transpired from near the end of regulation time were unnatural. this was because of an unfortunate and highly irregular anamoly in the space-time continuum
originally, Michigan was slated to win the game 37-27 with a field goal on the final possession. however, the future was distorted and we ended up with the unforeseeable result
when such an anamoly occurs, what happens is that the universe is thrown into chaos with the future not settled for several days. thus, not even THE KNOWLEDGE can review the future under such circumstances (even the universe doesn't know anything)
as of today, those chaos have ended and the new future is set
thus, THE KNOWLEDGE is back
now the original future where THE KNOWLEDGE revealed that Michigan will finish 13-1 doesn't exist, THE KNOWLEDGE can now freely discuss the situation without any repercussions
in the original future, the only game Michigan was slated to lose was tomorrow's game against msu
Michigan was to defeat OSU twice and win the Rose Bowl against Stanford for good measure
now, THE KNOWLEDGE shall only reveal the regular season record of the current future
Michigan will finish 10-2
the winners POTW.1 and POTW.2 will be acknowledged in a post next week with the POTW.2 handled under special rules (as will be described in that post)
now, THE CHALLENGE 2013.3 is open
predict the score of the msu game to become the Protege of the Week
THE KNOWLEDGE shall not provide any pointers to the game in order to prevent any attempt by certain elements in Spartan Stadium that are known to play with time in the gross sense (clock manipulation etc)
and that is one of the reasons for the Greatness of THE KNOWLEDGE (GoTK)
Rivalry week is extra uncomfortable for me. As a lifelong Michigan fan and a Michigan State graduate, sometimes I feel like I don't belong on either side of the rivalry.
When I decided to attend Michigan State, remaining a Michigan fan was a no-brainer. The first football games I remember were Michigan contests. The Rose Bowls in the early 90s, the home games against Minnesota and Purdue that my family sat through no matter the score or weather. And of course, the Virginia game - hence the username.
Being a fan of your school's biggest rival has major challenges that most sports fans never consider and that's why I'm writing this diary.
In undergrad, I was open about my fanhood. There were other Michigan fans on campus, in my dorm and on the floor, but I was the only one who would go tailgate with my friends during rivalry week in a Charles Woodson jersey. Only a few people tried to fight me each game day.
It's not like being at Michigan was any better. In college, the first thing anyone asked is what your major was. When I said "journalism" everyone knew I wasn't a Michigan student. The next question of course was, "why aren't you a Michigan student?" The conversation always turned into some diatribe about how much better U-M was than MSU, as if I didn't know the University of Michigan pedigree. These academic conversations bothered me immensely because I didnt have the grades to go to U-M. As a huge Michigan supporter, this was crushing. But what can I say, I didn't have the foresight as a 13-year-old to understand how important my algebra and global studies courses were.
As I began to make something of myself, the conversations stopped bothering me. I'm proud of what I have accomplished and my MSU degree. I love the campus and my friends and family - just not the sports.
Some MSU fans can understand but some can't. Irrational fans, arguers, drunks and people who went to LCC love to lecture me on how I should be a Spartan fan. Meanwhile, my fiance's family - a long line of Spartan fans and athlete's don't mean to mind one bit. I even dated a girl in college whose grandpa coached football for MSU and her family was more understanding about the unique situation than 99 percent of the fans I knew.
Still there are situations where it is certainly not safe to admit to being a Michigan fan. My industry is dominated by Spartan graduates and I don't want to damage any relationships by pissing off the wrong crazy Spartan fan. Similarly, I wonder what other die-hard Michigan fans really think when I tell them I am a Wolverines fan. Do they even believe me?
As a former sports journalist, my work gave me a unique perspective on rivalries and sports in general. I covered MSU athletics without any bias, roomed with Spartan athletes and even had John L. Smith hit me with a rolled up newspaper in a joking fashion. He was truly one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure interviewing.
Lloyd Carr on the other hand, not so much. I met him while job shadowing a U-M beat writer during OSU week. She told him I was a season ticket holder but an MSU student. He refused to shake my hand. I took this as the most direspectful thing anyone has done. He was kind of joking about the entire incident, but not entirely. He never shook my hand, which is like, 'what the hell dude, I buy tickets and support your team'! Seriously, I drove from East Lansing with another MSU student and U-M fan for every home game for the two years that I had access to a car.
Nine months later I sat in the stands during the Horror. I got so many text messages after the blocked field goal that my Blackberry crashed. I don't know if that is an indication of how poor the Blackberry devices were or how bad it is when all of your friends are Spartans.
Now that I'm older, the trash talk has slowed a bit. People are more mature, but there are still things that frustrate me. The Wal-Mart Wolverine cracks from the MSU fans and the MSU academia jokes from the Wolverines fans make me want to punch Taco Pants in the neck.
And we haven't even talked about the games yet. I can't tailgate at U-M because no one in my social circle does so. I can't tailgate at MSU because I will miss the U-M games. Sometimes schedule quirks allow for both, but generally I miss out. And since my fiance is an MSU fans, it usually turns into some awkward game day happenings. A few years ago I was forced to watch the U-M/UMass game a the East Lansing Bdubs. There are worse things that can happen in life, but most involve lizards eating your legs.
Even simple things like social media aren't fun when you root for your school's rival. Win or lose on gameday, my feeds will be filled with images of Mork Dantonio and whatever QB is playing this week. It is maddening. But I guess I signed up for this when I decided to remain a Wolverine.
Were there times when I considered changing my allegiance? Not really. The closest I came was after the Rodriguez debacle. I was team RichRod, and after his firing briefly considered making life easier and giving up football or casually cheering for MSU with my family and firends. Emphasis on briefly. I put up with the Horror, the basketball sanctions, Brian Ellerbee and Mike DeBord. That and the mere thought of giving up Michigan for MSU turned my stomach.
So here's to Michigan hopefully making my Saturday/Weekend/Week/Month better by getting a win on Saturday. If not I'm going to hear about from every direction.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to return to ignoring my Facebook feed which is full of YouTube videos about how I'm not allowed to root for Michigan and that I'm a Wal-Mart Wolverine. Fuck that. Go Blue.
TRICK OR TREMENDOUS
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Hey, Happy Halloween everybody!! Have fun out there, and BEAT SPARTY!!
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every week here at MGoBlog and on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out the Friday Fun, my weekly single panel comic based on trending Michigan events, available on Twitter and the home page every Friday.
Mike Murphy, Michigan's first head coach
Got word from The Bentley Library today that they'll be offering extended hours on November 8 (Friday before the Nebraska game), staying open from 5pm to 8 pm. Greg Kinney and Brian Williams will be giving a presentation on some of Michigan's football firsts showing some of the unique photos and documents available at the Bentley.
They'll also offer extending viewing hours for the "Harmon of Michigan" exhibit and at least one showing of the 1965 TV program "One Saturday Afternoon" celebrating the 25th anniversary of Harmon's extraordinary 1940 season featuring game footage and interviews with Harmon, Crisler and Forest Evashevski. They'll also show Yost's 1st contract, the original team #1 photo and other gems to highlight some unique aspects of Michigan's football history.