Mike Lantry, 1972
Over the last few years, I have begun thinking more and more that UM football was getting kind of “lucky” and squeaking by and on the verge of things going south if a few breaks went the other way. I decided to look back at UM’s record since 1997 (as far back as I could easily get to on mgoblue.com and a reasonable statement of the “modern era”) and see what UM’s record was in close games. I defined close games as being decided by seven points or less. My reasoning for that distinction being that literally one play could have made the difference in the game. I realize that is somewhat simplistic, but hey, this is probably a somewhat simplistic exercise.
Here are the records. Overall and “close games” in parenthesis.
1997 – 12-0 (4-0)
1998 – 10-3 (3-0)
1999 – 10-2 (7-2)
2000 – 9-3 (3-3)
2001 – 8-4 (2-3)
2002 – 10-3 (5-2)
2003 – 10-3 (2-2)
2004 – 9-3 (3-1)
2005 – 7-5 (3-5)
2006 – 11-2 (1-1)
2007 – 9-4 (4-1)
Total - 105 - 32 (37 - 20)
Looking back, UM won 76.6% of games overall and 64.9% of games decided by a touchdown or less in the last 11 years of the Carr regime. The question then becomes, what is a reasonable expectation for a good and / or elite team for a record in close games? I did a little research and picked 5 “elite” teams and 5 blah / so so / meh teams and looked at how they did. Note: For the elite teams I took their record starting with the second season of their current coach. For the blah teams, I just took the last five years.
USC – 82-9 (11-9)
OSU – 76-14 (18-8)
Florida – 35-6 (7-4)
LSU – 31-9 (9-5)
Georgia – 74-18 (26-12)
Arizona State – 38-24 (10-5)
Oregon – 41-21 (12-7)
Oklahoma State – 34-28 (6-9)
Michigan State – 30-31 (5-16)
Pittsburgh – 33-27 (12-11)
What does this tell us? Umm… I’m not really sure, other than it took me way too long to look all of this up. Some things to note.
- USC hasn’t lost a game by more than a touchdown since Carroll’s first year. Wow.
- USC is pretty average if you get them in a tight game.
- Arizona State doesn’t play many close games. Must be kind of boring to watch.
- Not evident in these stats, but OSU was an amazing 11-1 in 12 games decided by a touchdown or less in ’02 and ’03 (big winning years). Krenzel was probably pretty underrated when it came to getting the job done.
- State was atrocious in close games over the last five years. If they break even in them, John L is probably still there.
- Michigan played more close games than anyone else in this data. A whopping 41.6% of UM’s games were decided by a touchdown or less. This probably doesn’t shock anyone that UM got into too many close games over Carr’s tenure. Only Georgia with 41.3% close games was in the same ball park. The funny thing is, over the last while, I would have picked Georgia out as a UM clone.
- As to my original hypothesis, with the exception of USC, teams with the highest winning percentages overall also had the highest winning percentage in close games. This tells me that Michigan “squeaking by” in those close games wasn’t really luck, it was because they were good. Or they were good because they were lucky. Or when it comes down to it, good and lucky are kind of the same thing. To me, that’s good to see.
- If UM would have won its customary 65% of close games last year, they would have been 5-7, which to me would have been easier to stomach. It wasn’t that far off, really. Beat Toledo and pull out one of Utah, NW, or Purdue and there they are.
- USC, Ohio State, Florida, and Georgia all made significant turnarounds in their respective coaches second years. Granted, none of their first years were as bad as Rodriguez’s, but it’s a good sign.
So there’s all of that, for what it’s worth.
I don't start many topics, but I am so sick of recruiting and troll bashing that I wanted to try to get some discussion going about the season.
I read a rivals article about the MSU game this year and I was thinking about what would be the "most important" (define that as you wish) game of the year.
My pick is MSU. I know OSU has beaten us 5 years in a row and that sucks, but I don't expect to beat them this year and I think the year can still be considered a success if we lose.
I am not as concerned about the recruiting battle between us and MSU as much as some, but I don't want to see a trend and we haven't lost to them two years in a row since the sixties.
But the reason I think it will be the most important is because it is a rivalry game that could be a turning point in the season.
Looking at the schedule:
It is our first road game and against a rival. It is a winnable game with MSU replacing their qb and rb. The game was closer last year than the score indicated and hopefully we will have our snap count better prepared. With a win, we very likely could be 5-0 or 4-1, eclipsing the previous win total. People will be all aboard the UM band wagon if we win. This helps recruiting and my sanity. The rest of the season is rough but there are two very winnable games with Delaware State and Purdue at home, so MSU could be the difference between bowling or not. That is why I think win at MSU, we have a good season, lose there, and I don't think we make a bowl and more people get on the fire Rodriguez pitchfork squad. I also think that winning his first road game will help the team's confidence and may lead to a surprise win or two in the remaining road games.
So what do you think? Is there a make or break game for the team next year? If so, which one?
The Barking Sphincter has just given voice in his post below to a real, though irrational, voice in all our heads. It is wholly irrational because it draws premature conclusions. It is akin to him noticing a blemish on his skin and fainting in horror because he’s sure it is melanoma. Or declaring a pharmaceutical study with an n of 1 is definitive. His world is possible, yes, but not probable given the track record of the coach in question.
Yet he represents, like a monster-shaped shadow on the wall of our room when we were six, the gibbering irrational terror that Michigan football might not get better very soon. Various posters tried turning on the light to show the Sphincter that the shadow is just the three bags of circus peanuts he was saving for a special occasion, but he squeamishly delights in the thought that the monster is real. That’s his problem.
The evidence has been presented. But there is one additional piece of evidence that I want to offer, and it takes this form: Why is the current recruiting class predictive of peril (if you grant that the class finishes out as it has started)?
I have heard people talking about Penn State and Michigan State and Iowa all being much more fearsome than Michigan this upcoming year. But based on what level of talent? For example, the 2007 Penn State class averaged roughly 5.6 for a Rivals Rating. If Jones, Avery and Williamson (who have no RR now) among our current commits get rated around 5.3 or 5.4, then that will be (roughly) where this Michigan class is. Now, I don’t want to do a Sphincter move and use an n of 1; the previous Penn State class was better. But so was ours.
The point is, many, many teams have been, over the years, highly regarded with the kind of talent we’re bringing in now – old WVU teams, second tier SEC teams, teams like Boise State, Big 10 teams not named OSU and Michigan. You’ll slap me with scheme and GERG being new and freshman QBs…but that’s not my point. My point is simply that this level of talent predicts nothing about a decline or about any inability of Rodriguez to win in the future. .
Would all five stars be better? Of course. But this talent – particularly if it fits the scheme – does not predict bad things.
Let’s take Iowa and make my Title relevant. Iowa coaches, to paraphrase Robert Ludlum in the Matarese Circle, would kill their mothers in front of their priests for a class like we are assembling right now. Not one of their last five classes averages the star ratings that this class is averaging. None come close. And, even though Iowa lost Shonn Green and two OLineman to the NFL, they are routinely picked above Michigan with 8-4 and 9-3 being bandied about. Would you take their players above ours? Ferentz over RRod? I am not being naïve – I am aware of various mitigating factors – all I am suggesting is that this recruiting class predicts absolutely nothing at this point. It certainly does not predict, in my opinion, a weak season in three or four years from now when the meat of this class is on the field.
It’s a new day, and time for a new “Blog.”
Well, I saw so much anger and frustration come out with Barking Sphincter Blog I that I decided to stay on topic and continue in my vein of axing just why the hell so many people think Rodriguez should be given so many free passes. But I’m not going to concentrate on Rodriguez here—I’m going to call out the Defenders of the Rod with this one.
The angst UM fans are feeling is polluting the intranets. The Defenders of the Rod (TDoR) come out enforce to rail at anyone who questions not just Rodriguez, but the state of UM football and recruiting. A guy on a premium pay site axes something like, “Hey, who we gonna go after on defense? A lot of highly-ranked defensive recruits are off the board.” WHAMMO. Within minutes this post is swarmed upon as if it was dollar-days at a downriver Wal Mart and Cheeze Whiz was on special. The guy is called a “Chicken Little” a “Debbie Downer” a “Closet Sparty” or is barraged with sarcastic bullshit like, “Hey you’re right. Maybe Michigan should just give up football.” All that ridiculousness aside, the worst part is when the TDoR start justifying 3-9 and why it happened.
I guess the worst record in the history of the program will do that to an emotionally fragile fan base whose identity is based in no small part on the successes and failures of the Wolverines. But it does beg the question: How does a legitimate query about THIS year’s recruiting turn into a self-pitying justification party about the PREVIOUS season? If the TDoR want to put 3-9 behind them, or tell others to do so, why are they always the first ones to bring it up? Take a look at my first blog. I had the vultures all over that post screaming like little girls at a Jonas Brothers concert, and about all they could spit out was “3-9! 3-9! Cupboard bare! Lloyd Bad Man leave no players!” Well, if 3-9 hurts recruiting so badly, how’s come Rich Rod landed some pretty good talent as the season wore on, and did so even after it ended? The dude blew a 40-year streak of non-losing seasons, crashed and burned a 33-year bowl streak, and really good players still signed on.
But THIS year, it’s different. Even after bringing a big time defensive coordinator on board in Greg Robinson. THIS year, 3-9 matters. Gone are the cries of “Yowza! 3-9 and we can still have a top 10 class? We are the ballz!” Gone are the cries of “THIS is gonna be the big year of turnaround! 2009—smokin, baby!” Those rallying shouts have been replaced by “I’m thinking that by 2011 we should be really good.” Bravado moving forward has been replaced by backpedalling and reminding everyone that our poor, young new coach was saddled by horrible players out to get him, Lloyd Carr lurking in the shadows with his non-support or super-secret coven of anti-Rodriguez co-conspirators, and a Michigan Media throwing its full support behind the bible-thumping Prophet of Lansing, Mark Dantonio.
And with all that back pedaling comes the revealing of a very confidence-challenged fan base worried about Michigan falling off the map as so many other Big Timers have. The UM fan base, which never saw a precipitous fall as even remotely possible before 3-9, reels from it and vehemently pounces on anyone who dares question whether Rich Rodriguez can get things back in order. Gone is civil discourse. Gone is acceptance, and discussion with those of differing opinions. These so-called fans, who claim to support a great university known for tolerance and open-mindedness are in stark, dark contrast to the image of Michigan. Many claim to be graduates of the school; to that I say “Bullshit.” Neither their writing, their use of the English language, nor their ignorant closed-mindedness and lack of intelligent conversation speaks to being a graduate of such a great institution of higher learning.
And this is no more proudly on display than when a recruit backs out on a commitment to UM or elects to go elsewhere if the fan base feels they were somehow “led on” by a recruit. Oh, that kid is in for some serious bashing. I remember the backlash against last year’s batch of decommits. Kevin Newsome, Shavodrick Beaver, and all the rest were creamed, called liars, their integrity was challenged, their families were insulted, and all because they simply changed their minds. Often, if not every time, the UM coaching staff had cooled on the kid and the decommit was more of a suggestion to him rather than the recruit just flipping. But no matter; these decommitments evoked a reaction that can not be described as anything but visceral. And all without ANY knowledge of the situation or the recruit in question. The really sad part was that type of reaction came from the majority, not the crazy marginalized sector, as is usually the case with this type of Mob Rule.
So it stands to reason that we now see these angry protestations against those who are, very legitimately, wondering about the status of this once-proud program. I say again: Michigan State is winning a cultural war with UM in the state of Michigan. MSU has “perception” on its side in a big way. Acknowledge it and fight it, or lose 40 years of goodwill and dominance in your own back yard. But again, to accept the challenge offered by Mr. Michigan is Greener means a wave of Maize Ragers raining down on you with the kind of contempt usually reserved for baby seal clubbers or soccer moms.
How long will this go on? Is it true that winning will cure everything? It remains to be seen if Rodriguez will build a winner—how much time does he have? and it remains to be seen—if he has time and does it—whether the “I told you so” crowd will welcome back their fellow UM supporters who, pretty much objectively, have done nothing more than voice warranted concerns.
Have a great weekend people! GO BLUE!
I'm a long time reader finally registered to the site. I know my user name will come under alot of scrutiny but hell I am what I am. I'm a die hard Michigan fan that grew up with season football tickets and went to dozens of hockey and basketball games every year. Due to my lack of intelligence, the good people at the University of Michigan did not allow me to attend their university. I'm not bitter at all like many become but I will always root for Michigan and Michigan State athletics can go to hell, I will be there for 4 years, get my degree and move on. I know I know, why Michigan State of all schools? Well I figured if I can't go to Michigan and don't really have the money to go out of state, it would still be nice to go to a HUGE school so that well limits my options. I know some of you won't like me but I could careless, I am just as big of a Michigan fan as anyone else in here. I consider myself very knowledgeable when it comes to Michigan football and basketball. I follow recruiting like many way too closely and waste way too much time on the recruiting sites worrying about who we get or don't get next. I'm also a big University of Arizona basketball fan, a big Tigers and Diamondbacks fan. Outside of the MLB I'm not a huge pro sports fan. Well I take that back I love the NFL and unfortunately will always be a Lions fan. But I'm glad to have joined the site and look forward to contributing here....GO BLUE
The University of Michigan Athletic Department and eSports Partners, Inc., a leader in sports merchandise solutions, announced today (Tuesday, June 30) a multi-year agreement to operate all merchandise operations as the official Athletic Department merchandise partner. The new M Go Blue Shop is now the official store of Michigan Athletics.
According to the article, M Go Blue Shop will be replacing MDEN at the Michigan Stadium. It also sounds from the release that M Go Blue Shop will be opening stores throughout Michigan.
One thing that I hope is that they open stores throughout Michigan, not just in the Southeast Michigan area.
However, it seems that Michigan will benefit greatly from this new alliance. Proceeds from purchases at M Go Blue Shop will directly benefit the University of Michigan Athletic Department scholarships and programs. Martin also stated, "Royalty revenues from these licensing endeavors help support our 25 sports teams, fund athletic department infrastructure, pay for long-term capital projects and contribute to U-M's academic programs."
I looked at the website and one thing that I noticed is that they don't have too many big sizes since I like my jerseys to be big so you can wear a sweat shirt underneath. But I thought I would let everyone know that there is a new store in town.