Let's look back. This was our preseason rank from CFN as of January 17 2008:
21. Michigan 2007 Record: 9-4
Expect a step back to take a big leap forward, at least offensively. There could've been one of the nation's best passing games with Ryan Mallett throwing to Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington, but they all took off. Who's the quarterback? Georgia Tech transfer Steven Threet? He's a passer, but Rich Rodriguez will want a dual-threat playmaker meaning Terrelle Pryor, the nation's top recruit, could be coming to Ann Arbor, or Carlos Brown could step in from the running back corps. The defense takes a big hit, but DT Terrance Taylor should be a strong anchor to build around.
This didn't exactly pan out. What it shows is that after we beat FL (using a spread offense), after Mallett and MM and AA were already gone, before the destination of TP was known, it wasn't unreasonable to guess that we would have success in 2008. In the months that followed it became apparent that UM would not be a top 25 team. Even so, expectations remained high, Alex Wang from June 2008:
Though the question marks are there—and they are numerous—I believe this team will be better than what most the prognosticators have projected. Most rumblings have Michigan as either a six or seven-win team, some even stating that the streak of 33 consecutive bowl games is at risk. While that situation is a distinct possibility, I envision a minimum of seven victories, and if everything goes Michigan’s way next fall, I see this team with the potential to win eight, maybe even nine games, and make a return trip to the Capital One Bowl come New Year's Day.
Though the question marks are there—and they are numerous—I believe this team will be better than what most the prognosticators have projected. Most rumblings have Michigan as either a six or seven-win team, some even stating that the streak of 33 consecutive bowl games is at risk.
While that situation is a distinct possibility, I envision a minimum of seven victories, and if everything goes Michigan’s way next fall, I see this team with the potential to win eight, maybe even nine games, and make a return trip to the Capital One Bowl come New Year's Day.
This didn't exactly pan out. But again we see a willingness to project UM with a fair amount of wins. And why not? You have a team that has enjoyed 40 years of success who just got what is supposed to be an upgrade to coaching and to the S&C program.
Let's assume the default projection from 2008 was 6-6. We all know how 2008 turned out - a good win at Minnesota, and two almost accidental wins against Miami OH and Wisconsin. Of our losses, the four closest losses were Utah, Purdue, Toledo, and Northwestern in that order. Three of these were home games. Assuming we win any three of these four games we end the season 6-6, go bowling and there is less gnashing of teeth. The losses against Purdue (4-8 in 2008) and Toledo (3-9), were losses against teams that RR should have beat.
At the beginning of this season, based on what we saw last year 6-6 seemed to be the default preseason estimate. Then we went 4-0, showed signs of competence, and even were a ranked team at some point. The two losses that followed were close games where we still looked like a servicable team. Delaware State doesn't count. PSU showed it is again a much better team than we are. So far nothing really unexpected.
Then Illinois and Purdue happen.
Both Illinois and Purdue currently have losing records and will probably end the season with losing records. In both games Michigan had the halftime lead. Again, two losses against teams we should have beat.
Assuming we beat Wisc in Madison and beat tUoOS at home (this confluence hasn't happened since 1999) then RR will have proven something. For the first time in his tenure, he will have given us results that we can point to as proof of our hope for the future. I will agree that even if we come away with one win RR will have demonstrated that he can overcome adversity. However, the more likely outcome will result in the second year of two where RR couldn't get his team to overachieve or even meet expectations.
The argument in favor of RR is that in time he will make us a consistent top 5 team. That may be so. The trouble I am having accepting that argument is that so far RR hasn't demonstrated he can live up to any expectations.
EDIT EDIT:: Now updated with BCS standings from Sunday night.
I thought I'd give a quick recap as to how things stand following yesterday's amazing day of action.
1) Fla / Ala still on track for "OMG Death Match 2009 Greatest Game In History of College Football" in SEC championship. After looking at the polls released this morning and listening to some of the scuttlebutt in the media, I think this is a no-doubt elimination game for one of the nat'l championship slots. Ala got their big roadblock game out of the way, and even a loss to Auburn may not hold them back fro the BCS championship if they beat Fla in the SEC Championship. Fla only has SoCar, Fla Intl and FSU left, so their path seems fairly straight.
2) A Big XII champion Texas will take the second slot. The only real probable stumbles for Texas left are roadies at Baylor (not too hard) and at Tex A&M (rivalry, but still should be a blowout). The big rock in their path now is the Big XII championship game where either a DL loaded Neb or a resurgent K-St awaits.
3) TCU has jumped Cincy for #4 in BCS, but this may be temporary as Cincy's high profile schedule is about to start. However, looking at the BCS standings (4th in both human polls and 4th in computers) I don't think we can discount anymore the real possibility that TCU's a stunning Cinderella to human voters to the point where they may stay ahead of Cincy as prime beneficiary of a Fla/Ala/Tex stumble. I still think Cincy in the end is going to end up ahead of TCU, but I think the chances of a TCU jump and hold over Cincy is growing.
4) Sorry Boise, but you're out unless TCU stumbles and everyone else collapses. Your hopes were banked on a 1-loss Oregon and voters with a moral dilemma on whether to vote a team with a worse record and a loss head to head above you. Boise looks good in BCS standings, but may be the first team to be in all the positions (non BCS conf in the top 8) for an auto-qualify but not get one.
The At-Large Situation
Reference: 10 slots, 6 conf autobids, 4 at large
ACC: Ga Tech
Big East: Cincy
Big Ten: more on that in a moment
Big XII: Texas
SEC: Fla / Ala winner
PAC-10: Oregon, for now
How many at-large left? 4
So does an undefeated non-BCS team get in? For sure one, so let's assume chalk holds and TCU gets the auto-qualify for non-BCS teams.
Ok so now there are 3 at large bids, who's in? 2 bid conferences?
Yes, so let's look at candidates by conference.
ACC: No one jumps out. Maybe a 2-loss Miami at #14 in BCS standings? Let's put them in the candidate pool
Big East: 1-loss Pitt would be the only real resume blockbuster (#12 BCS), but if we assume a Cincy win in two weeks, then a 2-loss Pitt isn't that attractive.
Big Ten: Here's the rub. Penn St was all setup to be a 2nd BCS bid easy, but with the turmoil of yesterday, it seems that Iowa (#10 BCS) / Ohio St (#11 BCS) next week is an elimination game. I don't think a 2- loss Iowa, a 3-loss OSU or a 2-loss Penn St (who lost every meaningful game this year) is that attractive.
Big XII: A 2-loss OkSt (#19) would seem to be on the only candidate. We'll throw them in the pool
SEC: Fla / Ala loser. That's it since conferences can't get more than 1 at large
PAC-10: Is a 2-loss USC attractive? In this climate, yes. USC sits at #9 BCS. If Oregon (#13 BCS) tanks again though, we're only looking at 1 Pac-10 team. Arizona has a good BCS rank (#17) but USC and Oregon are going to take the Pac-10's two slots available.
Yes, an undefeated Boise St team gets a dip in the candidate pool.
So anyone get in right away?
Assuming Oregon holds on to get the Pac-10 title, and USC wins out, I'll put a 2-loss USC team in.
So who's in at at-larges? TCU, Fla/Ala loser, USC
Leaving? undefeated Boise St, 2-loss Miami, 2-loss Pitt, 2-loss OkSt
Meaning? as much as cache means with Miami, it may come down to Actual Bowl Slots....
BCS Title: Fla (sake of discussion) v Texas
Rose Bowl: Oregon v. Big Ten Champ (Iowa for sake of discussion)
Orange Bowl:Ga Tech v. ????
Fiesta Bowl: ??? v ???
Sugar Bowl: ??? v. ???
Miami would be a nice choice in the Orange Bowl, but as a poster pointed out, an all-ACC Orange Bowl isn't likely. Let's start with putting the already qualified at-large's + the Big East champ Cincy (since they don't have a formal tie-in) in:
Sugar Bowl: would still like a SEC team, so with Ala sitting there, let's put them in.
Fiesta Bowl: would like a western team for attendance purposes and they get one of the 1st two at-large choices since the Big XII team is in the championship, so let's put USC there (big draw)
So now we have:
BCS Title: Fla v Tex
Rose Bowl: Oregon v. Iowa
Orange Bowl: GaTech v ???
Fiesta Bowl: USC v. ???
Sugar Bowl: Alabama v. ???
Well b/c of conference tie-ins and choices for big name teams, we likely will not have the poor man's natl championship of Cincy v TCU possible. So let's slot:
* Put TCU in Fiesta v USC as Dallas area alums will flock to Arizona
* Cincy as an undefeated team has some interest and a Cincy v Alabama matchup would be good for ratings.
* This leaves the Orange Bowl. As I said before, Miami would be nice, but unlikely due to ACC rematchery. next best looking is either an undefeated Boise St or the Fighting T-Boone's. While OkSt may guarantee an ungodly number of tickets sold due to Pickens fronting cash, I think Boise gets it.
So that's it?
Well no. If either USC or Oregon drops another game, I think you may be looking at a "poor man's natl championship" in the Fiesta Bowl with TCU v. Boise St, Cincy v Alabama in the Sugar, and OkSt taking on GaTech in the Orange.
Any big losers from yesterday?
Yes, three big losers come out
1) Penn St-- they had a BCS bid locked if they could just win out. Now they may be competing with Wisconsin&tOSU/Iowa for 2nd best Big 10 bowl
2) Notre Dame-- Another team who had their BCS bid mapped out, beat Navy, Pitt, UConn, and Stanford, and they're cashing a huge check.
3) The Pac-10-- Oregon's loss as mentioned above puts 2 Pac-10 BCS bids in serious question.
We stand on the precipice of 4 Div I teams being undefeated at the end of the season, all with BCS victories. Chaos ensues.
I like Rich Rod. I don't have any real reason for this but I do. I dig his Aww, Shucks attitude and love the potential he brings to Michigan. I firmly believe that he would take us to consistent top 5 finishes if given the time to rebuild this program. There are many variables at work here so I'll just focus on:
- Michigan has the worst defense in the B10. This is not really news and is not relying on any statistics but just my opinion having watched a lot of B10 games this year. This defense has no time or personnel to change what it is and the real problem is in looking ahead to next year: The defense could actually be even worse. Our best D-lineman and Linebacker (by far) will be gone. We have no best Safety. Our best Corner (by far) may very possibly be gone as well. There are bright spots: Roh and Martin are beasts, Fitz has looked pretty good lately, Justin Turner gives us hope. Here's to hoping that simply having the continuity of a second year of the same defensive system will make Michigan's defense better.
- The offense continues to improve. The first half against Purdue was the single best half of offense we have seen since the Notre Dame game at least. Our first four drives ended in points, three of them touchdowns. Purdue is not a top end defense so we should have expected this but what, with all of the turnovers lately (read: past two seasons), it was like a breath of fresh air. Then the second half continued its curse on us. Next year should be better still for this Offense with second year QBs, faster and less-injured RBs, more experienced WRs, and more talented and developed O-linemen.
- This confluence of probabilities is not favorable for the current coaching staff. Michigan is known for giving its coaches time and not being hasty in firings. That said this situation may not right itself in time to save Rich Rod and friends even given the extra slack. The offense, no matter how good it gets, cannot be expected to make up for a defense sucking at the level of this year and probably next. At this point I would put our record next year at 7-5 and that may be optimistic. There is a serious and very uncomfortable chance of 3 straight losing seasons if I am reading the tea leaves right. It appears that 2011 is our real chance for redemption at this point but by then the atmosphere around Rich Rod and the program may be so toxic that anything short of awesome in 2011 wouldn't be enough to save this staff.
- I would put it at at least improbable that we will win either of our last two games this season. Assuming that we finish 5-7 and miss a bowl game for a second year in a row, is there any way recruiting does not take a serious hit? Yes, we are still Michigan but incoming recruits would have to be nervous about the possibility of a coaching change. This comes at a time when Michigan desperately needs to land the commitments they have now and add some more on defense to address depth issues.
- Danny Hope is an asshole.
Let me start by admitting that my gloomy attitude is a distinct departure from my earlier posts this season. I think we all can admit that our perspective has been changed somewhat in the past month. It is truly startling how fast this team has gone from "on the rise" to "on the ropes." So much of the near future of Michigan Football and Rich Rod's place in it looks to depend on the next two games. I don't like our chances of winning either of them but a win could make many of my above thoughts somewhat moot. So let's start by hoping against hope for a win at Wisky or against O$U.
There are glimmers of hope for the defense next year as well. Maybe Warren looks to increase his draft stock and stays. Maybe Turner is a freshman Warren next year and the two of them can solidify the corners. Maybe Vlad or a freshman MRob emerges as a competent safety to play opposite Woolfolk and saves our secondary. Perhaps Fitz steps up to lead a young linebacking unit to competency. Our D-line should be OK but you can't replace Graham with what we have on hand. So maybe the defense could be improved. The problem is then that one injury creates a hole and derails the improvement. And what we can bank on is that no season will be injury free.
So to sum up, I don't see us making a bowl game this year (but holy hell would it help down the road), and next year is looking like bowl game or bust. I should mention again that I like Rich Rod and hope he coaches here for a long while. The sad reality is that he is in a very bad spot and circumstances may send him packing before he can turn this boat around.
Go Blue. Beat them Badgers and save this season.
Whether you think it likely or not based on this team's performance to date that we will lose at Camp Randall to Wisconsin and back home to OSU to finish 5-7 (after the last two weeks, it's hard to see any other outcome as more likely), this analysis ASSUMES THOSE LOSSES. I'm not pulling for those losses, but these stats/data points are designed to give color to where we'd be IF that comes.
Since 1900 (but not including this year), 47 coaches have begun their tenure with Big Ten teams with two losing seasons. Of those 47 coaches:
*5 (10.6%) have won even a single Big Ten title;
*5 (10.6%) have finished their tenure with even a winning record;
*2 (4.3%) have won at least one Big Ten title AND finished with a winning record; and
*0 have won national titles.
In chronological order, these coaches are:
-James M. "Jimmy" Phelan, Purdue (1922-1929) (32-22, no titles)
-Robert A. "Bob" Higgins, Penn State (1930-1948) (91-57-11, no titles, although PSU was playing a JV schedule at the time)
-John Pont, Indiana (1965-1972) (31-51, one Big Ten title)
-Hayden Fry, Iowa (1979-1998) (143-89, three Big Ten titles)
-Gary Barnett, Northwestern (1992-1998) (36-44-1, two Big Ten titles)
-Ron Turner, Illinois (1997-2004) (35-57, one Big Ten title)
-Glen Mason, Minnesota (1997-2006) (64-57, no titles)
-Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (1999-2008) (70-53, two Big Ten titles
17% of coaches who have begun with back-to-back losing seasons have attained EITHER a winning record in their tenure OR a conference championship. This data, to me, begs the following question: why does conventional wisdom still err toward giving these coaches more time? It appears to me that in a large number of cases, this poor of a start has doomed a coach more than it's been a precursor to a successful turnaround.
I understand that the change from Lloyd's offense to RichRod's is massive, there are plenty of explanations for the bad record, etc., etc., but just LOOK at that list. At this point, based on well over 1,000 seasons of Big Ten Football that have been played, history would indicate that the absolute BEST we could hope for would be three Big Ten titles in a 20 year span from a guy who got run out of town for losing (Fry). Ferentz may end up better than that, but I will also note another common theme - these coaches all came into situations in which the team was a losing team BEFORE they came. Michigan 2007 won the Capital One Bowl.
When RichRod was hired, if you'd been told the ceiling is a Big Ten Title once every five years, that a national title was out of the question, and that there's closer to a 90% chance that he wouldn't finish with a winning record or ever win a Big Ten Title at Michigan, would you back the hire?
My point isn't that we're screwed - it's that we're in truly uncharted territory if we're to stay optimistic here. Getting to where Michigan expects to be from where we're at right now just doesn't happen - once a coach starts this way, it changes the ceiling. Until this season Michigan and Ohio State were the only two schools to never have a coach begin his tenure with back-to-back losing seasons (PSU and MSU have each had it happen just once); here's hoping we stay on that list, and avoid adding to the already voluminous pile of "firsts" or "sinces" we've been attaining this year and last.
Go Blue, Beat Wisconsin and OSU!
|First Two||Total #||Total||Total||Total||Conf.|
|Indiana||Harlan O. "Pat" Page||1926-30||5||14||24||3||0|
|Indiana||Earle C. "Billy" Hayes||1931-32||3||6||14||4||0|
|Indiana||Clyde B. Smith||1948-49||4||8||27||1||0|
|Indiana||Bernie A. Crimmins||1952-53||5||13||32||0||0|
|Michigan State||Frank "Muddy" Waters||1980-81||3||10||23||0||0|
|Northwestern||Charles E. Hammett||1910-11||3||6||10||2||0|
|Northwestern||Fred J. Murphy||1914-15||5||16||16||1||0|
|Northwestern||Elmer W. McDevitt||1920-21||2||4||10||0||0|
|Penn State||Robert A. "Bob" Higgins||1930-31||19||91||57||11||0|
|Purdue||M. Frank "Bill" Horr||1910-11||3||8||11||1||0|
|Purdue||Cleo A. O'Donnell||1916-17||2||5||8||1||0|
|Purdue||James M. "Jimmy" Phelan||1922-23||8||35||22||5||0|
Let me preface this post with the following: I grew up a Michigan fan. I did not know how much I loved the U until I attended in 2002 and how much of an awkward choice it would be to graduate in three years but for the fact that, upon graduating, I missed it so much. Further, I'm applying in about two weeks to return to Ann Arbor for grad school (x3) in order to finish my education where I began and where I loved.
I have never cared this much about Michigan football.
To the point it is honestly screwing up my life.
When Rich Rodriguez was hired I was ambivalent and optimistic. He had the pedigree and he is a strong voice, albeit a bit "don'tchaknow." 3-9 was rough but I got over it looking at the team and looking at the uphill battle the coaches (and team) faced in such a year.
4-0 was amazing. The pep in my step and all-around joy of seeing success was amazing. Somewhere in there I realized that by hitting bottom I had suddenly cared so much more about this team. Somewhere in the failure and ridicule I realized I too had put myself against the wall and decided I would love this team more than I had before, when it was easy.
"ALL IN" seemed a bit easy to fall into when your team goes 3-9 and you've followed long enough. It was more a rallying cry (publicly) for those fans who enjoyed the ride and had been dissuaded. PR at its best. But I was happy to see myself (and the alumni) fall in. Because this is Michigan. And we love Michigan.
Somewhere after the MSU game my heart broke. I had an awful 3-4 days and was kind of scared if it was just a dose of genuine, gosh darnit depression or if I cared that much. The Iowa loss clarified. I love this team so damn much that their loss genuinely loses me. I can only fathom what it means to be a player. But as the losses have piled up, it, to a degree, has become closer of an experience.
God am I happy for Brandon Graham. Good for him. To avoid a year of professional football so as to be the voice of this team... to say that UM would beat MSU in such a down season simply because SOMEONE had to be a voice, regardless of rationale, to keep that team through practice and into the game... my local alumni group practically broke the bar (literally) when he scored his touchdown against Delaware State. Not because he had achieved a milestone (which he had) but for the fact he had returned and deserved every f'ing stat possible. For God's sake he should return a punt return and throw on an awkward down just because, dammit, he came back. And that means something.
The losses have been rough. I drove 20 hours to Michigan to spend my birthday in sleet and poor football watching PSU stomp Michigan because this team means something to me. And it was awful and my heart broke as the tackles did and Michigan fell deeper into the pit that has fortuitously developed after Illinois. And don't get me started on Illinois because I drank way too much to anger-f@#k the demons that emerged from that game.
But the Purdue game just happened. And the Defense under GERG really stood up... the first half. And the second half happened and there was freshman and youth and blocking the receiver when the quarterback is 5 yards past the line of scrimmage and is scoring andohmygodhewaspastthelineofscrimmagetackletackletackle. And my heart broke. And I was an a-hole to my wife on the phone when she checked in on me and I quickly scrambled to make sure this team, that I love, doesn't affect my personal life. The answer to making that not happen isn't clear. But not many answers are clear. Except finding out just how much love for this school... and team... is healthy. And in that, I guess it's a growing experience... much like this team is going through.
I guess why I made this diary is simple. For those of us All In, the road is narrow and uphill. The likelihood is 5-7 and the off-season is going to be months of looking at checkbooks and wondering "why did I spend $50 to drink at the bar and watch non-Siller shred us in November." This is difficult and not even close to the experience of overcoming kneeshoulderelbowhead like Forcier or any player is facing. But the fanbase has its own wounds. And they're licked (that's what she said).
I guess what I'm trying to say is the games have been lost and the faithful are hurting. The bandwagon who chose Michigan over MSU/CMU/EMU/GVSU/NMU/SMU/Toledo/FUOSU probably aren't as injured. But we are. And who knows if RR will be around in 2012. Or 2011. Or 20#$. But this will matter. Because you know whether sports mean enough to you or whether they're a Saturday. For me I have to find the healthy level to love this team. As I saw SEC fans cheer Purdue on simply because enough UM fans cared to show up, I knew this pursuit of glory despite bs would be uphill and callous. Sacking up is an understatement. But going Valenti on this team answers ZERO problems. We will find our own way to adjust but rallying around HR PuffnStuff will do nothing. Instead we have to find our own niches and work within them.
Not going to a bowl may be tough. Beating Wisconsin or OSU to go to the InsightPizzaKmartBestBuyOMGChuckyCheeseBowl will be epic. And some of us will deserve it and others won't. Complain all you want but it won't avoid fumbles, it won't avoid drops or picks or a game of inches. It will only help or hurt your ability to love this University.
As much as it hurts, I still love this University. And I will love this team. Even when it loses. Because I have to.
Because I Go Blue.
I encourage you to do the same.
First, I think we have to tip out hats to Purdue. They fought hard (as did we). That onside kick call was brilliant and took some stones to do it. Purdue made more big plays than we did and that's why they beat us.
Second, despite the loss, we did look better overall than we did the past several weeks. Yes, there were many horrible mental mistakes on defense (anyone surprised?), but there were some positive signs, too. The offense continues to gel, Tate continues to gain confidence and cut back on some (but not all) of his mistakes, and it was good to see our young receivers making crucial plays.
Third, RichRod was wrong not to kick the field goal on 4th and 10. And not in hindsight - it was wrong no matter the result. Hopefully he learns from that mistake and won't do it again.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly in the current "climate," regarding RichRod: It's pointless right now to talk about his future with the program. He's not getting fired anytime soon. He is what we have. Our confidence in him has been rattled, but it will be largely up to him whether we can turn things around. I hope he succeeds and will be cheering hard for him to do so.
[EDIT: I wrote this before I heard about Danny Hope's dick move after the game (discussed in the comments). While I still tip my hat to Purdue's outplaying us, I'm sure the team and RichRod will remember that gesture when preparing for our next game with them. And I believe RichRod will show more class than that we he gives his payback.]