Last night Team 132 finished one of the more memorable, rewarding, and unexpected seasons in recent memory. Brian and much of the blogsphere have valiantly focused on what this team accomplished, what they overcame, and how well they have represented the university not just this season, but through their entire careers. But there has been consistent talk among some fans and media types about how "Michigan is back".
With the help of my brother I set out to understand if this 11-2 season with a BCS bowl victory matched some vague definition of Michigan past and thus validates the claim of the program being back. I looked at all seasons in the "Bo era" of UM football to see when the team finished the season with a good record and BCS bowl appearance.
But in order to do that, we need a chart.
Chart you say?
Wait - there is an alter ego in this post too?
Yes - So let's see the chart then!
**UPDATE** In the comments user "Vasav" made a suggestion that we could create a metric that took into account beating OSU, winning the conference, and final ranking to get a "score" for that season. I updated the table below with that metric, though I changed his values somewhat.
- Versus MSU: Win = 0.5, Tie = 0.2, Loss = 0.0
- Versus OSU: Win = 1.0, Tie = 0.5, Loss = 0.0
- Big Ten Finish: 1st = 1.0, Tied for 1st = 0.5, Other = 0.0
- Bowl Outcome: Win = 1.0, Loss = 0.0
- Final AP Rank: 1-5 = 1.0, 6-10 = 0.5, Other = 0.0
There are obvious flaws in this such as the difference between being ranked 5 and 6 costing a significant amount toward the final score or the fact that you can't have "ties" for the conference title like you used to before this season. But it is a starting point and helps sort these seasons, so the table has been updated. (Read below for other updates.)
What did we learn from that?
Well, you can find just about anything on the Bentley LIbrary site.
Besides the shameless plug, what else did we learn?
There are several things that were interesting in this research. Here are a few.
- Carr (2-3) and Bo (3-10) did a lot to promote the belief that the Big Ten can't win big games.
- But they also got to these big games at a very high rate with Carr going to 5 BCS games in 13 years and Bo going to 13 in 21 years. This may be where the "Michigan is back" meme comes from since the five year drought we just lived through had only happened one other time in the past 40 years.
Carr, Mo, and Bo all had several historically great seasons with Carr's 1997, Bo's 1985, and Bo's 1988 standing out perhaps as the best.
- **UPDATE** When applying the "Vasav score" you see these seasons change slightly. Obviously 1997 and 1988 still stack up, but 1985 is lower on the list than 1980 and 1992.
- Damn.....Bo was a great coach. Over time I had sort of felt like his memory was greater than his actual resume, but you can't help being amazed at his tenure. The Rose Bowls, top ten rankings, and conference titles are more than impressive.
- What was it like to be a die-hard fan from 1970 to 1974? In five seasons Bo went 50-4-1, won or tied for the conference title 4 times, finished in the top ten each season and only went to ONE bowl game. Imagine the server damage that would have been done if MGoBlog existed then.
- **UPDATE** Look at how 2006 scores out despite being perhaps Carr's second best team. I think this is a good test of the Vasav score because that great season left such a bitter taste in our mouths for having lost to OSU and then USC when we were perhaps so close to a championship.
Well, those are some nice bullets, but does that mean the people saying "Michigan's Back!" are right?
Can't we just focus on this great season and the heart shown by the members of the team who have put everything they had into this program despite the chaos over the past several years?
No - I need an answer. Is Michigan back? Does this season stack up against the rest?
The answer is "not quite". Finishing with an 11-2 record and BCS win (regardless of how ugly) is amazing and stacks up with some of the best seasons ever. Considering the past 4 years that is a great accomplishment and shows that the program is on the right track and about as "back" as could be dreamed of before this season started.
But there are a couple of things that put it a notch below most of the seasons on the list. First is the fact that Michigan finished as the third best team in the conference behind MSU and Wisconsin, despite the deserved BCS appearance. Classic Michigan teams expected to win the conference and did more often than not. That's the goal and motivation for next year. Another difference is that Michigan will likely finish ranked outside the top ten this year while all but two of the teams on the list finished with a better final ranking.
Hoke has exceeded expectations and has Michigan poised to compete for BCS bowls going forward, even if this season is a slight notch below the great ones of the past 40 years. Bring on Alabama and 2012! Go Blue!
**UPDATE** Response to comments
It is always dangerous to respond to comments, so I'll keep this brief. Obviously I, and most readers of this site, agree with Brady Hoke when he says that Michigan isn't "back" because it never went anywhere. No matter what the record on the field, the men wearing the winged helmets have represented the university with integrity and worked their tails off both on and off the field. The "Michigan is back" meme is used in this post as a backdrop to putting the 2011 season in historical context. Anyone reading this blog has lived and died emotionally with this team no matter their record or coach and can attest to Michigan not needing to be "back."
Likewise, there is no arguing that 2011 was a spectacular season by any measure or metric. The fact that we are even comparing it to the other 24 on this list states that. But this post was a way to both celebrate the past, celebrate 2011, and look forward to areas where we can still improve.
Finally, I intentionally avoided any discussion of late-era Carr or Rodriguez because that isn't relevant. Whatever ill-will or praise you have for either coach does not factor into the on-field significance of their past seasons so I hope we can avoid turning another series of comments into an argument about either coach.
Though Crete (IL) Monee receiver Laquon Treadwell maintains he has no favorites, Michigan has been a constant presence in his recruitment and they are, at the very least, among his leaders. Treadwell picked up offers from Nebraska and Indiana in December to go along with early offers from Michigan and Notre Dame, and the four-star receiver recently was named to the MaxPreps 2011 Junior All-American first team after a stellar junior season. I caught up with Laquon this afternoon, and he talked about the status of his recruitment, including an early top five:
ACE: First of all, I know you added a couple offers in December. Which teams are having the most contact with you right now?
LAQUON: The teams with the most contact would have to be Ohio State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Michigan.
ACE: Three of those teams have come through with offers—Nebraska, Michigan, and Notre Dame—and you've also got one from Indiana, correct?
ACE: Would you say you've got any favorites right now?
LAQUON: I don't have any favorites, but I do have a top five that I like.
ACE: And what's the top five?
LAQUON: Michigan, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and then Tennessee—oh yeah, I've been hearing from Tennessee, too.
ACE: Did you get a chance to watch the Sugar Bowl last night?
LAQUON: No, I didn't. I was actually watching the [Semper Fidelis] high school All-American game, and then I didn't get a chance to watch.
ACE: How is everything going for you with your basketball season?
LAQUON: It's going good. We're 12-3 right now, just lost in the championship game of a Christmas tournament, but it's going pretty good.
ACE: Are you planning on making it to any junior days or camps during the offseason?
LAQUON: I haven't made any plans about any visits because a lot of coaches have been pretty busy lately and I haven't heard from them, so I haven't had the chance to make any visits happen. I plan on over the offseason trying to do Core 6 [a training facility for high school athletes in Illinois]—they have a showcase thing with Fox [news coverage] and all that.
ACE: We just came out of a dead period for recruiting, but have Michigan's coaches been in contact with you at all recently, or has it been quiet on that front?
LAQUON: It's been quiet, for all the coaches actually. I haven't heard from a coach in about a week, a week or two.
Torrent: 2012 Sugar Bowl 720p MP4 (6.18GB)
Quick and dirty highlights:
MGoBlue's usual lo-fi offering:
Holly Rowe stiffarms the competition:
Trophy presentation and Hemingway interview:
Hoke, Denard, Hemingway, Van Bergen, Gibbons:
Special teams guru Frank Beamer:
NOLA kids are fast learners:
Back at the real job today after a great two weeks of football, ready to start cheering for the team I love, not just the one I
have money on like the uniforms better.
Virginia Tech Preview
PAN, National Rank (leader)
Michigan: +5, 4th (Oregon)
vs VT: +1, 40th
Michigan: +3, 29th (Baylor)
vs VT: +3, 22nd
Michigan: +1, 46th (Alabama)
vs VT: +2, 28th
Michigan: +1, 39th (Texas)
vs. VT: +2, 31st
Michigan: +0, 60th
vs VT: –0, 73rd
A pretty close match-up in all areas except when Michigan is rushing the ball. That’s likely the best avenue for Michigan to leverage. With arrests, suspensions and a late season Michigan surge, special teams could be an opening as well. This should be a close one but this game is Michigan’s to lose, 31-28 Michigan.
Ron Zook Memorial Dumb Punt of the Bowl Season
Haven’t had a chance to review all of the bowl games, but Wisconsin’s first quarter punt has to be the top contender. Two potent offenses, touchdowns on the first three possessions and the Badgers face 4th and 3 at the Oregon 38. Despite the best scrambling QB in college football and an offense geared to pound the ball on the ground against a defense that hadn’t stopped them in their first two drives, Wisconsin played field position. Against Oregon. Two plays later the Black Mamba is flashing chrome 91 yards for a TD in a 7 point Ducks win. Wisconsin is 22/30 on 3rd and 2-4 yards on the season in competitive situations.
Richt/Shaw/NFL Coaching Conservatory
This was just brutal watching teams play for field goals. It’s not a great strategy in the NFL where nearly all the kickers are money inside of 40 and pretty good from 40-55. College kickers, even the good ones, not so much. Here is the table I use to estimate kicker success. From the 25 even a top-notch college kicker is going to miss 20%, an average one is going to miss nearly half the time. Getting a single first down moves the odds significantly.
One other update to the Game Theory Manifesto that I tweeted about during the MSU/Georgia trying not to lose-fest, if you are in the lead and the other team has time-outs left, don’t run up the middle on third down unless you think that’s your best shot to get the first down. The clock is going to stop after your play no matter what. One extra timeout in your opponent’s pocket has very little chance of deciding the game. A first down in most cases will end or nearly end the game. Don’t be careless but if you have a dependable QB like Aaron Murray, throw the ball and give yourself a chance to end the game.
As we near Signing Day 2012, the top players in the class of 2014 are beginning to pop up on the radar, and one of the most sought-after sophomore quarterbacks is Orlando (FL) Bishop Moore's Anthony Siciliano. The 5'11", 173-pound QB just attended the Under Armour All-America Combine, and he's also shown off his skills at the Orlando Elite 11 Regional camp and the Scout.com MVP camp. Siciliano sat out the 2011 season after transferring high schools, but he played on his school's JV squad as a freshman and you can see those highlights above. I got the chance to chat with Anthony today, and here's the full transcript of the interview:
ACE: How do you feel you performed at the Under Armour combine? How does it help with your development to be a sophomore playing with and against so many elite junior athletes from around the country?
ANTHONY: First off I want to thank Under Armour!! It was such an honor to be selected to this combine and attend it with the best players. I felt like I performed pretty good as a sophomore, I was able too see where I match [up] with some of the best juniors in the nation. Did pretty well in my testing and did really good in the position drills, 1-on-1s and 7-on-7. Going as a sophomore helps me because I can see what I have to work on coming back to this event next year and preparing for other events in the near future.
ACE: What schools have been in contact with you, and do you have any favorites so far?
ANTHONY: Mississippi State, Clemson, South Carolina, UNC, UCLA, FSU, Purdue, Texas Tech, Boston College, Georgia, Washington, Baylor, Oregon, Texas, Oregon State, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, LSU, Arizona State, Stanford, NC State, Missouri, Michigan State and Michigan (Questionnaires, Emails, and Camp Invites from the schools listed and most of the schools have looked at me through my NCSA Recruiting Site too).
ACE: What level of contact have you had from Michigan specifically? Are they able to contact you directly yet, or has it been all letters/questionnaires so far?
ANTHONY: I have had no contact from Michigan. I'm pretty interested in them and what the school offers.
ACE: For people who haven't seen you play, how would you describe your game? What would say are your strengths, and what are you working on to improve?
ANTHONY: I can make strong accurate plays in and out of the pocket throwing wise. And I can also use my legs if things break down. What I'm trying to work on is my overall speed and quickness. I need to get faster [because] it will help me not only outside of the pocket but in the pocket as well.
ACE: I know you transferred schools, but how did the last year go for you on the football field? What are your goals for your junior year?
ANTHONY: Unfortunately I had to sit out this year because of the FHSAA rules due to my transfer to a new school you can't play in the middle of the season. But I was still in football mode [and] did everything with the varsity football team, [I] just couldn't play in the games. But I will be back 110 percent come spring!
ACE: I know it's early to talk recruitment, but with so much attention from big-name schools, I imagine you're starting to think about where you'd want to go. What traits are you looking for in a potential college program that would make you want to go there?
ANTHONY: The atmosphere is what it's all about. The people around you, what's within the campus and around the campus. There's a lot of things you have to consider when picking a school. I just want to feel comfortable and safe for the next 4 to 5 years.
THERE IS A FLAG ON THE PLAY
May not be reproduced without permission.
I'm very excited to unveil the first edition of THE BLOCKHAMS™, my new ongoing online comic strip featuring the illustrated exploits of a maize and blue family. As I've previously mentioned, THE BLOCKHAMS™ will run every Tuesday here on MGoBlog and every Thursday at its official home page at www.theblockhams.com
If you like what you see, be sure to visit the site to learn more about the cast and the premise of the strip itself, and bookmark it before you leave. As always, be sure to check out the site's awesome sponsors as well. And The Blockhams are also on Twitter at @theblockhams so be sure to follow to receive updates whenever a new strip publishes.
Finally, after some deliberation before Christmas I've chose to 'out' myself here on the blog, simply because this is my creation and I'm too proud of it to hide behind a user name and risk someone else claiming ownership. This strip will run for the foreseeable future and I wanted to do it right. So there it is, here I am, please respect the decision, etc.
Finally, as a gift on the official launch date of the series, I've decided to run a second strip that will publish later this afternoon on THE BLOCKHAMS™ home page. If you like what you've seen, be sure to check back later today at http://www.theblockhams.com for a look at what Christmas was like in the Blockhams home this year.
Thanks everyone and GO BLUE TONIGHT!!!