“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
Necessity (ananke) always determines the fate of man.
In the early days, necessity was determined by nature, which is to say “chance,” or “fortune.” We cannot control nature; nature controls us. For the most part. Sir Francis Bacon famously theorized that the purpose of modern science (and for that matter, human enterprise) is to relieve the estate of man.
Well, history teaches us that the human enterprise creates prosperity. Prosperity creates softness. Softness creates first world problems.
We have a first world problem.
Can it be understood by 2500 year old philosophy? Can the power of “nature” and the necessity it derives be fostered and imposed by human beings? Can we substitute ourselves for the random chaos of natural occurrences?
Can we impose ourselves on nature? Can we impose ourselves on ourselves?
If we can, it can only be by numerosity.
People in numbers may impose the forces of necessity that determine beliefs and change the course of human events/history.
According to Thucydides, necessity inverts values. The salutary becomes vice, and its contrary is also true, in the face of necessity. Folksiness and "aw shucks" are the Michigan way when the Sugar Bowl is conquered. They are vice when incompetence results not only in losses but in physical danger to players.
Thucydides also teaches us that necessity determines the content of our poems, our beliefs, our superstitions. The word “dearth” (originally in a poem about famine) is changed to “death” during the plague in Athens at the height of the Peloponnesian War.
“Hoke Springs Eternal” during the sugar bowl season. What change do we make to the “Hoke” mantra during the Hoke era at its nadir?
It depends on the M community and its leaders. What level of ananke can you create in these critical days?
Who amongst you have the daring to guide the forces of nature, create necessity, and become heroes?
Solve this problem Michigan. The B1G, including my school, needs you.
Necessity, as proposed above, must force Dave Brandon and company out, and create a new future.
Big Ten Coaches
Prominent National CFB Coaches
Potential Coaching Options
Les Miles (LSU): 61
Art Briles (Baylor): 59
Gary Patterson (TCU): 55
Ray Horton (Browns DC): 55
Cam Cameron (LSU OC): 54
John Harbaugh (Ravens): 53
Mike Stoops (Oklahoma DC): 53
Todd Bowles (Cardinals DC): 51
Jim Harbaugh (49ers): 51
Todd Graham (Arizona State): 50
Pat Shurmur (Eagles OC): 50
Greg Schiano (Unemployed): 49
Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State): 48
Butch Jones (Tennessee): 47
Chad Morris (Clemson OC): 46
Dan Quinn (Seahawks DC): 45
Bret Bielema (Arkansas): 45
Doug Nussmeier (Michigan OC): 44
Kirby Smart (Alabama DC): 39
Unfortunately Michigan still has seven more games to play this season, including one tonight at Rutgers. For some reason I am previewing this one (probably because I wrote half of this before the Minnesota game, back when I considered it realistic that M might turn the ship around, and don’t want that work to go to waste). Out of a coping mechanism I’m only going to DVR the game, and will spend the afternoon picking Asian pears in the Cascade foothills; then I’ll decide whether to actually watch the thing when I get home. Anyway, I am going to have to cut this intro short on account of a screaming child and the fact that I’m not sure anyone really cares this week anyway.
Well, Go Blue.
When Michigan has the ball…
Run and hide and close your eyes.
1. Inside Zone
With Magnuson injured, Michigan moved Graham Glasgow to LG last week and inserted Kalis. Nobody really noticed because the problems on the field seemed to be the least of M’s problems. Anyway, usually when a team is constantly getting its ass kicked, it’s best to stick to basics (c.f. Al Borges; sigh).
Rutgers runs a 4-3 Under front and usually gets decent penetration with their undersized guys.
LT Mason Cole: Covered; block DE David MIlewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Covered; block DT Darius Hamilton
C Jack Miller: Uncovered; chip DT Hamilton or NT Kenneth Kirksey, block WLB Steve Longa
RG Kyle Kalis: Covered; block NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Uncovered; chip DE Djwany Mera, block MLB L.J. LIston
TE Jake Butt: Covered; block DE Djwany Mera
RB – Derrick Green: Receive handoff and head for B-gap outside LG; make one cut and turn N/S
Probably gonna be ugly.
Though Michigan isn’t likely to enjoy much success on the ground against Rutgers, it could be a different story through the air if Devin Funchess is healthy enough to play. Rutgers likes to run Cover 2, which is designed to ensure that corners get help over the top on deep routes. But plays like the Post-Wheel can beat Cover 2 by pairing an inside-breaking route (to occupy the safety) with a deep sideline route (which the corner or other man defender must play one-on-one).
XWR Devin Funchess: Run post route vs. BCB Nadir Barnwell, FS Andre Hunt
RB Derrick Green: Run wheel route against SLB Quentin Gause
LT Mason Cole: Pass protect vs. SDE David Milewski
LG Graham Glasgow: Pass protect vs. DT Kenneth Kirksey
C Jack Miller: Pass protect vs. NT Darius Hamilton
RG Kyle Kalis: Pass Protect vs. NT Kenneth Kirksey
RT Ben Braden: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera
UTE Jake Butt: Pass protect vs. WDE Djwany Mera, then release to flat
YWR Dennis Norfleet: Run wheel route vs. NCB Anthony Cioffi
ZWR Jehu Chesson: Run post route vs. FCB Gareef Glashen
QB Devin Gardner: 3-step drop from SG; read is on free safety; the post should hold him to the middle of the field—if so, then look for YWR to come open on wheel; if FS widens to pick up wheel route, then XWR should come open on post. If covered, check down to TE in flat.
Funchess & Co. have to like their chances against a Rutgers secondary that’s been banged-up and may have a freshman backup playing FS, but Rutgers has a strong pass rush and has to be equally excited to face the rickety Michigan offensive line. As always, the X-factor is Devin Gardner: if he’s on, M could put up 300+ yards on this D and win going away, if he’s off, well, you’ve seen what happens when he’s off.
When Rutgers has the ball…
3. Outside Zone
Smart Football broke down Kyle Flood’s Outside Zone play in detail before the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl, in which a 6-6 Virginia Tech team squeezed out a 13-10 victory over 9-2 Rutgers.
Yes, Rutgers really does leave the backside DE unblocked on its Outside Zone play. I don’t know how common this is, but here’s an example of Rutgers running it against Arkansas from a few years back. Guess who makes the tackle? That Arkansas DE looked a lot bigger and slower than Frank Clark; I wouldn’t be surprised if they do things a little differently against M.
WDE Frank Clark: backside pursuit of RB Desmon Peoples
NT Ryan Glasgow: defend backside A-gap
3T Willie Henry: defend playside B-gap
SDE Brennan Beyer: defend playside C-gap
WLB Joe Bolden: defend backside B-gap
MLB Jake Ryan: defend playside A-gap
SLB James Ross: defend playside D-gap (outside TE); set edge (2 yards wide, 2 yards deep) to force run back in, or spill to sideline
I’d probably call this even (or, after last week, maybe even advantage Rutgers) if Paul James was still at RB, but unfortunately he tore his ACL a couple weeks ago and won’t be available. Kyle Flood is a respected OL coach and I expect his guys to play with good technique, but M has a pretty serious edge in raw talent.
4. Smash Corner Flat
The smash-corner concept is ordinarily thought of as a way to hi-low a cornerback against a Cover 2 scheme: the corner route will put a receiver under the safety help, so the CB must decide whether to “sink” and take away the corner route (leaving a receiver open in the flat) or play tight on the flat receiver (opening up space for the QB to hit the corner route). But as Jimbo Fisher explained in a tidy little article , the smash-corner becomes an effective concept against practically any coverage scheme if the slot receiver is able to adjust his route based on how the defense is playing him.
In their last game (against Tulane), Rutgers ran a smash-corner concept off play-action; they caught Tulane in a blitz, and Nova hit the back in the flat for a big gainer. The diagram above shows the same play, as defended by Michigan in its "Quarter-Quarter-Half" scheme (Cover 4 to the field side, Cover 2 to boundary).
BCB Jabrill Peppers: Man coverage vs. WR Janarion Grant
WDE Frank Clark: Pass rush vs. LT Keith Lumpkin
3T Willie Henry: Pass rush vs. RG Chris Muller
NT Ryan Glasgow: Pass rush vs. C Betim Bujari
SDE Brennan Beyer: Pass rush vs. RT Taj Alexander
WLB Joe Bolden: Defend curl/flat zone on weak side
MLB Jake Ryan: Defend underneath middle zone
SLB James Ross: Defend curl/flat zone on strong side vs. RB Desmon Peoples
FS Jerrod Wilson: Cover deep ½ zone vs. WR Janarion Grant
SS Jeremy Clark: Man coverage vs. TE Tyler Kroft
FCB Jourdan Lewis: Man coverage vs. WR Leonte Carroo
Say what you want about Michigan’s defense not quite living up to expectations, but from what I’ve seen the corners are the real deal. A better QB than Nova (such as Mitch Leidner, groan) might be able to pick on Michigan’s LBs and safeties, but with Nova I expect a few balls to wind up being caught by guys in yellow pants.
Scattered showers and mid 60s to start our Saturday. Lots of clouds and fog, but they do start to break up and we see more breaks in the clouds after lunch. Between the showers and the sun, it's a great day for a tailgating hat :) Through the morning winds will be out of the southerly direction around 5mph (just enough to feel it on your skin), but shift midday to come out of the west behind a cold front - picking up to about 10mph (leaves blow about). Piscataway could pick up a 1/4" of rainfall this morning, so take care if you walk on the grass in the afternoon-might be a little soggy! High temperatures in the afternoon will make it up to 70 before dropping back into the 60s.
61 degrees for kickoff! Some clouds have hung on, but they'll continue to diminish further as the 1st half goes on. That will help the temps drop, so keep that in mind as you decide what layers of clothing to carry through the gates. Winds are out of the west at 13mph (enough to see some small branches sway, keep leaves in motion).
Dropping into the upper 50s by the halfway mark, with just a couple of clouds here and there. Winds will remain out of the west at 11mph - just enough to add an extra bit of chill to the evening. Might be a good time to grab a hot chocolate!
A quiet end weather-wise to the game, hopefully not cheering-wise for the Wolverines! High Point Solutions Stadium... that's got to be a good name for a place we can come in and get things back on track right? 52 degrees walking out, with a west wind staying up at 10mph. It will remain at 10mph into the late night, before briefly dropping a tad Sunday morning. Skies stay starry, and temps stay chilly - we'll hit 47 if you'll be out late celebrating, so you'll definitely want the long sleeves then! Sunday will be sunny with highs in the low 60s if you'll be traveling.
If you're staying home... Saturday will start off with some sunshine, but the backside of the low pressure system will bring us more clouds and scattered showers through the afternoon. We'll also be breezier - southwest winds around 20mph (small trees sway) with gusts in the mid 30s (empty garbage cans tip over, you can hear the wind whistle). Chilly! We'll struggle to hit 50, and most in SE MI won't. And the winds will have it feeling closer to 40, then the 30s during game time - brrr! We do get rid of the wind gusts tonight, but keep lots of clouds and also the chance for rain. We do see a little more sun for Sunday, so the temps will reach the low 50s, but scattered rain is still in the forecast - as is wind. Southwest winds will be gusty throughout the day, so keep that in mind if you're driving back. Go Blue and have safe travels, or have fun watching here at home!
Christina Burkhart is a meteorologist for ABC in Flint, MI. She grew up in Ann Arbor and associates Saturdays with Michigan football. Go Blue!!
Get well soon, Shane [AP]
1. The Four Factors
|Expected Pts||Conversion Rate||Bonus Yards||Red Zone|
Surprisingly, this game was close to a draw once you account for field position (the return TD inflates the expected points number). We have another game to add to the defense is good but not great line and another heaping helping of this is a dysfunctional offense.
Michigan’s conversion rate of 50% is woeful. For the season, only SMU, North Texas and Eastern are below 50%. Michigan had no business being at that rate against Minnesota. The 1.06 bonus yards would also be 4th worst in the nation, for a season. But hey, the red zone streak continues. You can’t stop Michigan once they get to the red zone, but you definitely can before they get there.
For the Season [Value (National Rank/B1G Rank)]
|Expected Pts||Conversion Rate||Bonus Yards||Red Zone|
|Offense||24.3 (94/12)||66.3% (90/9)||2.51 (50/8)||6.0 (20/2)|
|Defense||28.1 (81/13)||59.8% (16/4)||1.75 (23/4)||5.5 (87/10)|
The Appalachian State game continues to prop up the season numbers. Michigan’s bonus yards per play drops nearly a full point with week one excluded and their ranking drops into the triple digits. Speaking of triple digits, That’s where Michigan’s field position gap is currently ranked. –3.8 points per game just based on where each drive starts ranks Michigan at 108 out 127 schools in the FBS. State of Michigan schools are first (MSU, +11.2 ppg) and last (EMU, –13.8 ppg) nationally. On defense, Michigan is in the top 25 for both conversion rate and bonus yards per play allowed, but quite a ways away from the national leaders.
2. Individual Performances
Shane Morris, 23 plays: –12.9 pts, –27%
Devin Gardner, 10 plays: +5.8, +1%
Derrick Green, 6 plays: –1.5, –3%
Deveon Smith, 9 plays: +3.1, +8%
Devin Funchess, 12 plays: –1.7, –3%
D. Cobb, 35 plays: +4.4, +3%
M. Leidner, 25 plays: +11.6, +22%
M. Williams, 5 plays: +5.5, +4%
3. Game Chart
The six biggest plays that swung the game
6. –5.6% Cobb runs for 34 yards (early 1st qtr)
5. +6.0% Deveon Smith scores from 10 yards out (early 2nd qtr)
4. –6.5% Leidner scores from 10 yards out on 3rd and 1 for Minnesota’s first score (mid 2nd qtr)
3. +12.4% Ojemuida sacks Leidner to force long FG (mid 3rd qtr)
2. –12.6% Minnesota hits 48 yard field to go up 13 (mid 3d qtr)
1. –16.0% Shane Morris is intercepted and returned for a TD (mid 3rd qtr)
A new piece I’ve put together special for this fun season is the Blame Game. Adding up the win percentage changes by play type to see which types of plays impacted the game the most.
1. –26% Pass offense
2. -15% Opponent kicking
3. –7% Rush offense
All other groups +/- 2%
1 & 3 aren’t much of a surprise. Minnesota’s conversion of a long field goal while the game was still within a possession drove #2.
For the season, rush defense has been the biggest positive (+11%) while the pass offense and the punt team have been major hits.
4. Dumb Punt of the Week
Memphis, Michigan, New Mexico, Texas Tech, Miami (NTM) and Washington all punted in the final five minutes of a game they were trailing by at least 7 points. All faced 10+ yards to convert, but at some point you have to try, right? Trying for all five of these teams meant punting it away, and all five lost on the field, but couldn’t quite pull out the DPotW.
In a completely separate instance from the one noted above, the fighting Bob Davie’s at New Mexico trailed by 11 in the final 10 minutes, faced 4th and 2 at their own 43 versus Fresno State. Fresno State is not good this year, but apparently Davie didn’t want to go for the 2 yards, opting instead to punt the ball away. New Mexico did not win.
5. Outrage quantified
I know we’re contractually obligated to lead with Shane Morris/Dave Brandon but I’m a gunslinger who only plays by his own rules. Above is a chart I put together on a whim based on a tweet from @cdbarker. An attempt to quantify the two parts that Brian later clarified in today’s post. There is an outrage piece that is mostly independent of Michigan’s current record. Then there is a cumulative punishment expectation where this is a piece of the larger picture.
Five games in the numbers have finally turned on Michigan, well after everyone else has. Rutgers hasn’t been that good, but they have definitely been better than Michigan.
Rutgers 20 Michigan 14
Let me put this comment right at the top of the piece since some readers misunderstood my analysis of Charlie Strong. I am NOT writing this piece under the view UM can, will, or should hire James Franklin from PSU.
As the boards have been going through a list of potential candidates, there is a lot of angst over who was missed in the past so I thought I'd do a review of the 2 big hires last year - Charlie Strong & James Franklin to see how they'd compare to current candidates. In that spirit I will review them as if we had an opening after the 2013 season and do a similar format as other coaching candidate reviews. The other big hire of 2013 was Steve Sarkisian but he was sort of a USC or bust candidate and his Pac 12 record is not much different than say what a Dan Mullen is performing.
Here is my piece on Charlie Strong - who again I am NOT implyig UM can or will hire from Texas.
We also took a look back to Sumlin (in relation to Todd Graham) in this piece if interested. Sumlin and Strong actually have some parallels in that both only had 4 years of HC experience before a big name came calling and before their HC experience they were at a major university for a good amount of time. Sumlin was at A&M in 01-02, and then Oklahoma from 03-07. Strong was at Florida from 02-09.
(again this is written as if he has just completed his last year at Vanderbilt, and we have an opening)
"2014" candidate.... James Franklin, age: 41
James Franklin has raised some eyebrows by helping lead a quite horrible Vanderbilt football program up from the dredges of the SEC (East - the easier division) to a very respectable status. Vanderbilt is a highly respected academic institution as well, which would help in his case for the open UM job. Before becoming a head coach he was an offensive coordinator at Kansas State and Maryland; and before that he was a WR coach at multiple spots.
Unlike the other hot candidate this year - Charlie Strong - Franklin does not have a background at strong football schools as he rose up the ranks. I will also show below his stint as a coordinator is nowhere near as impressive as Strong's, even adjusting for the schools he coached at. However, he is fiery, outgoing, a type A, with a big personality that has a lot of intangibles that you look for in a head coach. He is also known as a very strong recruiter at Vanderbilt. He does bring some baggage points with his public views on how he judges assistant coaches and similar type items.
Recent (10 years) coaching background
- 2005: WR at GB Packers (this is his only NFL stint)
- 2006-2007: OC/QB at Kansas State - in his mid 30s
- 2008-2010: OC at Maryland - in his late 30s
- 2011-2013: HC at Vanderbilt
Analysis: James Franklin moves around a lot; in a span from 2005 to 2011 he had 4 jobs. Many UM fans seem to penalize young up and coming coaches for being aggressive and changing jobs to move up the ladder quickly ("job hoppers") but I don't. Franklin also got his first coordinator job very young, similar to Dave Doeren.
Obviously Franklin came up on the offensive side of the ball - which is ironic, because his strength at Vanderbilt was defense not offense. Which makes me wonder if his defensive coordinator at Vandy (Bob Shoop) is the key man in Vandy's operation.
In terms of Big 10 footprint, Franklin is not super strong - unless you count Maryland as part of the Big 10 footprint. Franklin does have a lot of experience on the eastern seaboard which I do believe (between NJ and Virginia) is going to be a massively important area for a Big 10 coach over the next decades as the Midwest population shrinks. Vanderbilt is in Tennessee so perhaps you can make a stretch and say he has some exposure to at least Ohio. Like Dan Mullen, he was born in PA so he gets "Midwest cred" for that I suppose.
Caveat for results ----> (a) nothing exists in a vacuum (b) as a coordinator you can benefit or be penalized if your HC is good or bad or average (c) injuries or graduation can change your results dramatically in any 1 year. This is the type of stuff you'd research as an AD staff on every potential candidate.
I will break down his results at 3 time frames - OC at Kansas State, OC at Maryland, HC at Vanderbilt
(1) OC at Kansas State
Upon first glance at his coaching progression I was VERY happy to see Franklin had experience at Kansas State, thinking he was touched by one of the best coaches in the NCAA the past 2 decades - Bill Synder. He who not once but twice created an excellent program at KSU - a wasteland of football. But alas, upon closer inspection Franklin was at KSU in that period of time between the two Snyder eras - under Ron Prince. Downer. That said any guy getting a OC job at a Big 5 conference job at this young age is a positive. Below is the chart of Franklin's results in his 2 years at KSU along with the year before he arrived (2005).
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
There is nothing special or unspecial about Franklin's short stint. 2005 was Snyder's last year in reign 1 at KSU and had a 45 total offense ranking. 2006 was a big drop with Franklin but allowing for first year adjustments it is difficult to penalize someone too much. And by his 2nd he had KSU right back to where it was ranked under Snyder. So we'll give this an average at the 40,000 foot point of view.
Now what Franklin can call as his claim to fame is the early development of future NFL QB Josh Freeman. Freeman came to KSU in 2006 and took over the job with 8 games to go. In 2007 Freeman threw for over 3000 yards as a sophomore which is quite impressive. So Franklin had that in his back pocket.
(2) OC at Maryland
In 2008, Franklin returned to Maryland where he had been a WR coach in 2000-2004. This was a reuniting of Franklin with Ralph Friedgen who started his career early at Maryland with a boom (10-2, 11-3, 10-2 his first 3 years) before settling into a pattern of mostly average seasons the rest of his time there. By the time Franklin returned to Maryland the program has become entirely middle of the road in the ACC. Let's see how he did with the offense in his 3 years versus the prior year (2007).
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
All in all - uninspiring. In Franklin's first year he did provide some decent improvement, taking the 2007 tire fire offense and making it average. But then the 2009 offense fell right back into a tire fire. (Maryland was 2-10 that year) 2010 was not much better. There is nothing here to excite. What's strange is Maryland as a whole was not bad in 2008 and 2010; they were 8-5 and 9-4 those 2 years, but it must have been more due to defense.
I am not a Maryland football fan so I dont know the entire back story but after 2010, Friedgen was fired after a 9-4 season and a #24 AP ranking. Randy Edsall was hired away from UConn... instead of James Franklin. Which makes sense as Franklin did not have much of a track record to stand on.
(3) HC at Vanderbilt
Per Wikipedia, Al Golden and Larry Coker were leading candidates for the open Vanderbilt job. Guz Malzahn was offered the job and turned it down. So Franklin was sort of the 4th choice. People who support Dan Mullen say Miss State is a nearly impossible job to do well at. Well Vanderbilt must be like Miss State... except with academic standards. A very difficult place to build a winner.
Let's see how James Franklin did at his time at Vandy and how he stacked up versus the prior year (2010) with Robbie Caldwell; currently the OL coach at Clemson.
|W/L||Tot Off||Tot Def|
We can see at the top level immediate improvement at Vandy in W/L in 2011 and then an astounding 9 wins in 2012 and 2013. The offense was a tire fire when Franklin showed up and remained so during his 3 years. I mean 90ish is horrid. Where the bread was buttered was defense - fantastic statistics especially in the SEC conference where teams are subjected to an array of talented skill players on offense. I consider a "20" ranking in the SEC to be "8-10" in the Big 10 when adjusting for the slog that is Big 10/MAC offenses which is what most Big 10 defenses face for 10 of their 12 games.
Now this does bring up a question to me - Franklin was an average to mediocre OC for the prior 5 years. His offense continued to suck his 3 years at Vandy. That is 8 years of offense between "suck" and "average". Did he suddenly turn into a defensive guru in 3 years? Or was his DC the man behind the machine? I have no idea. I did do some quick research on his DC who is named Bob Shoop - and is a very bright man who graduated from Yale. Before latching on with Vandy, Shoop was DC at William & Mary. He also had a very bad stint as a HC with Columbia in 2003-2005. Without being inside the walls of Vandy football one never knows in this situation who is the key to one side of the ball being so good... but it is an interesting question. However, if Franklin were to be hired at UM, one would want Shoop to come along. Because whatever they did together, it is working. And leave the OC at Vandy!
The overall record obviously improved so let's look at some key results in Franklin's 3 years:
Analysis of wins and losses
The 2011 Commodores were 6-7, and 2-6 in the SEC East. Considering how bad the team had been the prior year that's a very good improvement. Wins that year were against: Elon, UConn, (2-10) Ole Miss, Army, (5-7) Kentucky, and (6-7) Wake Forest. So no world beaters there but again - this is Vandy coming off a 2-10 year. Losses were to 5 eventual ranked teams (Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, Cincinnati) - all expected. Florida was only 7-6 that year but still was an expected loss when you consider the difference in athletes. The only "bad loss" was to a 5-7 (1-7 SEC) Dooley led Tennessee; but that game in OT. All in all, Vandy found a way to beat bad and mediocre teams and aside from Tennessee they lost to teams they should have. The Georgia, Florida (a down Florida), Cincinnati and Arkansas losses were also within 1 TD so that is a bonus - that's the benefit of good defense.
2012 Vanderbilt finished 9-4 (5-3) and ranked in the top 25 - the first time they had done that since 1948! This was their first winning record since 1982. So this is Gary Barnett at Northwestern type of achievements. All 4 losses came in the first 6 games so Vandy finished off 2012 with great momentum. Losses were to 3 eventual top 10 teams (South Carolina, Florida, Georgia) and Northwestern who finished top 20 (10-3). So in terms of quality of losses you won't find a better 4 losses for any team in the country. And the South Carolina game was only 4 pts while the other games were not quite as close. Now on the flip side the SEC East was not great that year - the 3 top teams were all teams Vandy lost to. The other 3 - Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky were all bad outfits. This was Missouri's first year in the SEC, between them they went 3-21 in he SEC. Vandy also had crossovers with 3-9 Auburn, and 7-6 Ole Miss so it was a very favorable schedule as far as SEC schedules goes. But again this is Vandy fergodsakes. NC State was beaten in a bowl.
2013 was very similar to 2012 with a 9-4 (4-4) record. Two losses were to eventual top 10 teams (Missouri, South Carolina) and another loss was to top 20 Texas A&M. The other game to a decent Ole Miss team. Again this was a favorable schedule - Florida stunk under Muschamp, Georgia was 8-5, Kentucky was Kentucky, and Tennessee was 5-7. Vandy must play Wake Forest every year because all 3 years at Vandy Franklin played Wake Forest and won. The season closed out with a win versus an ok 8-5 Houston. So quality of wins was not super - really it was Georgia and then beating up on a lot of bad SEC teams plus Wake Forest, Houston, and 3 baby seals. The losses made sense altough the defense did get blown off the field by A&M and Missouri (>50 pts given up each)
James Franklin is an interesting candidate but surely not a home run...or even a triple; Charlie Strong's resume looks a lot better from this set of eyes. He does have Josh Freeman's first 2 years at KSU as a feather in his cap but the performance at Maryland was wholly uninspiring. Despite rising up the ranks on the offensive side of the ball he has no great offenses like a Sumlin or Graham has had. That said, what he did in terms of W/L at Vanderbilt is very similar to what Gary Barnett did at Northwestern but Franklin did it in a much shorter time frame. Now to be fair most of Franklin's wins were not against the best competition in the SEC or out of conference but still...it's Vanderbilt. Recruiting improved significantly under Franklin as well.
The key to Vanderbilt's resurgence was defense - which is not Franklin's apparent background. So an open question sits out there as to if Bob Shoop is the grinder behind the scenes while Franklin is the face. That is not necessarily a bad thing per se, unless Shoop gets offered a HC opportunity down the line - then if Franklin is not the key behind the defensive performance you could have serious issues. Also Franklin does have some "PR" issues with some of his public statements the past few years. And his Big 10 footprint outside from "being born in PA" is not great - however he does have good East Coast presence. Winning at a strong academic program might also make Dave Brandon look very closely at Franklin. Franklin is also a very assertive, outgoing, personable type who you can see as a sensible "face" for a major program so on the intangibles measures, Franklin would score well.