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.]
Well, Michigan has pissed away another game and has now lost five straight conference games (turnover = touchdown; onside kick = touchdown; missed extra point and field goal = loss). The defense gives up big play after big play while the offense can no longer be counted on to make the big play with the game on the line. This team finds a way to lose.
Can anyone really say victories over Wisconsin and Ohio State are possible at this point? Be rational, right?
So what is the Michigan fan supposed to think - in a clam and rational manner - if this team loses seven straight conference games, has a losing season, and misses out on a bowl game?
I am not advocating firing the coach and starting over. I do not think that is the answer. But what I would like to know is what all of these "calm down this is what we expected" folks think at this point.
Because I did not expect this team to compete for a Big Ten title or beat high caliber teams. But I sure as heck expected this team to not get crushed by Illinois and choke a game away against Purdue when they had a two touchdown lead at the half.
It seems likely to me that this team is going to have to improve just to be mediocre next year given the defense. And if the offensive line doesn't get substantially better how are we going to outscore everyone?
Maybe it is my fault for not realizing that Michigan would need three years to be competitive - not national but in the conference - again. Feels like this program is a lot farther behind than I thought.
I cant believe its already the first Saturday of November. The season has gone by in a blink of an eye. The Big 10 has divded into two groups: Iowa, PSU and OSU. And everyone else. Two of the former could still make the BCS, which could help the huddled middle class of the laegue. There is so much to shuffle out, but the league could have eight bowl eligible teams. Right now, the leagueis in contention to lead the country in teams finishing 6-6. That second BCS bid could let them all go bowling. But with two midmajors bucking for a spot, Notre Dame cruising to a 10-win season and possible contenders from the ACC and Pac 10 getting a rare at large for thier leagues (I would say USC, Miami, for example, could easily get at larges if they win out and dont win their leagues), the Big 10 could easily get shut out. Meanwhile, a mean chase for the Motor City, er Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl, will also play out. With that in mind, onto this week's picks:
Wisconsin at Indiana, noon, BTN. Lines: Wisco -11, O/U 54.5
Here's a list of all-time moments in Indiana-Wisconsin series history: The 1992 classic in Bloomington with the Hoosiers wheezing to a 10-3 win. The best play of the game was an 80-yard punt. It didnt matter as we swapped whiskey shots on a sun soaked October southern Indiana afternoon. Afterwards we went an amazing barbecue post game tailgate. One of the best football Saturdays I ever had while down there, the moments of which we dont have time for here. I was 20. Sigh; the 1999 tilt, where a group of us fellow Hoosiers took in the game from the Treasure Island sports book during a Vegas weekend. With the emerging threat of Antwaan Randle-El on our side, we were rather bullish on the Hoosiers that day catching points against the Badgers in a shootout, so we all took IU and the Over 56. Three hours and eleventy billion yards by Ron Dayne later, we were praying that the Badgers could at least cover the Over for us by themselves. They did. 58-0; the 2001 clash where, despite an All Big 10 performance the whole year out of Randle-El, IU entered the game winless. Gordie, my college roommate back in the day, was so disgusted with the compentecy of the Cam Cameron era that he bet the house on the Badgers who were laying something like two touchdowns. Indiana played the best game I've seen out of the program and won 63-28. We toasted the Hoosiers and mocked Gordie by downing Irish car bombs into the night; watching him do the same thing the following year in 2002 and seeing IU pull out another upset, abeit this one in a closer fashion, 31-28. So, you might as well keep an eye on this game so you don't miss the magic.
The Pick: Indiana +11.......Jonathan Clay is going to have a monster day. But, I dont think the Hoosiers shrink here. Their defensive front will confuse Badger QB Scott Tolzien into enough mistakes to give the Hoosiers a shot. A year after being non competitive in every game, the Hoosiers have outplayed their opponent in seven of nine games, IMHE. Badgers have had some trouble this year matching up with good receivers and unlike Purdue last week Doss and Belcher wont drop everything thrown to them. IU is one of the best in the nation at the turnover game, something I like in a home dog catching double figures. Am I betting with my heart? Maybe, but that heart is 4-1 ATS when going to the window with the Hoosiers this year. So, Indiana is the reliable football progam and Michigan can't win a Big 10 game? Good grief. What's next? Michigan's basketball team ranked in preseason poll and the IU hoopsters at the bottom of the standings? Wait, what?
Illinois at Minnesota, noon, BTN. Lines:Minny -7, O/U 54
The two most impressive Big 10 teams from a week ago meet up in this one. Dueling gambling trends knock heads as well with the 7-3 ATS road dog Illini going up against the 13-3 ATS against teams with a losing record Gophers. Hey, its the 89th and 108th scoring offenses vs the 76th and 73th scoring defense. Ron Zook vs Tim Brewster. That's some hot Big 10 action. I wish we could wager on things like 'will Pam Ward be broadcasting this game?' or 'will this be a Sam Rosen game on the BTN?' I think the Book would be surprised how much action they could get there.
The Pick: Minnesota -7......yeah, I dont trust the Illini are back. I like the way the Gophers have played at home this year. They'll jump on the Illini early. Illinois will have trouble with Weber's passing. The ball hawking Gopher defense will create a couple key turnovers and might even score. Gophers will be in control most of the game and pull away late to win by more than two scores.
Northwestern at Iowa, noon, ESPN. Lines: Iowa -15.5, O/U 45
Iowa's roller coaster ride in their surprising pursuit of a National Title meets up with a Northwestern team that has actually beaten the Hawks in three of their last four meetings. With a possible look ahead to the Buckeyes next week, are the Hawkeyes primed for an upset? Hey, anything is possible when the ball is in Ricky Stanzi's hand. In the end, I dont think Iowa trips up here. In fact, they get this done by three touchdowns. They were lucky last week to cover the big number, but this week they're legit in earning it. Northwestern can move the ball through the air. Kafka might be the best passer in the Big 10. But, look for Iowa to dominate the field position game as there's a big difference in the punting games in the Hawks favor. I dont trust any QB in the Big 10 to drive long fields consistently against Iowa. Kafka can fall into sloppy tendencies, too, so eventually he might give Stanzi Ball a run for its money. The Wildcats scored just 13 points against PSU and I dont think they get too much more here. Iowa pays back Northwestern in a big way.
The Pick: Iowa -15.5.........If the Hawkeyes are at home, I'm playing them. I have always had a love affair with Iowa due to a four-year span beginning with the Brad Banks era where I seemed to nail everyone of their games. They printed money at Kinnick Stadium. The last two seasons, highlighted by the nation's second longest winning, have been like having a steamy affair with an old flame. I'm on them today and I look forward to their defensive line thrashing Kafka into his worst day of the season.
Purdue at Michigan, noon, BTN. Lines: Michigan -6, O/U 53.5
I share everyone else's fascination with this pointspread, even though I said on the podcast it would probably be around five points. Who really needs nearly a full touchdown to be goaded into betting against Michigan the way they've played? Are we to believe there is such a clamor of people going to the window that the odds needed to be jacked up this high to stem the tide of Wolverine money? Apparently, because that's what happened. When some of the first off shores posted lines late Sunday night and into Monday morning, I saw a number of places, notably caribsports, pinnacle and sportsbook, had Michigan favored by 3.5. I am in a weekly football pool that includes a handful of college and NFL games and the proprietor of the pool grabs Monday lines from an offshore and sends the pool. This game is 3.5 on that sheet. But, then before you know it shot up to 6 points. That's a huge surge of steam towards Michigan. You know who usually bets a ton of money, enough to move the line, that early in the week? Wiseguy types who rake in every week betting the games. Interesting. Of course, many of those same folks will all be investing in Purdue on the late line in attempt to win a juicy middle with a four or five point Michigan win. Thats why they call it gambling. Anyway, for my tastes, I dont think you can lay a lot of points with a defense like Michigan's that can be scored on with any play from anywhere on the field. I think there should be a lot of points, so after two weeks of Unders, expect the Over to cash in a Michigan game. And, if you can, put some chips on the Over for total combined turnovers. Holy hell, these teams perfected the art. Everyone around here likes to say its Michigan 2008 all over again. Except, Purdue has actually stolen the disguise as well. Hard to imagine less than 5 giveaways in this one.
The Pick: Purdue +6......I love going to games. But, if I have to leave depressed by their effort, or see black and gold clad fans snapping photos of the scoreboard like they're at Disneyland, then I might as well profit. And, if the Wolverines come out and play their best game of the season and win this one easy, then I consider this money well spent.
Ohio State at Penn State, 3:30, ABC. Lines: PSU -5, O/U 39
A heavyweight fight. Last year's game was a bloodbath. This will end being one of the more physical games played this season. Frankly, I think Penn State is way more equipped to succeed and win in that type of game. They strike me as the type of team who can win anywhere in any style of game. Ohio State looks like a team that might fold if he gets caught in the mouth. Penn State will come out swinging, eventually landing enough blows en route to winning this game by at least a touchdown. Not a lot of points will be on the scoreboard. Both defensive lines have serious matchup advantages against their opposing offensive lines. But, the I think the PSU DL will inflict a lot more lethal damage on Pryor than the OSU front will cause Clark and company. The Beavers are running smooth on offense. Clark is putting together a fantastic senior season proving doofus doubters like myself wrong. Pryor is a turnover and incompletion machine. I'm not sure I trust him to lead his team to touchdowns against good teams, let alone winning a game. I think he's going to get to know Navarro Bowman and Jared Odrick real well tomorrow. He might even complete a pass to one and hand the ball of to the other. But, he might ditch both of them altogether and toss loving kisses to Sean Lee all day. Take the Under wherever you can on Pryor's stat line.
The Pick: Penn State -5........the home team has gone 10-6 ATS since they've been league rivals with PSU covering four of the last five on this field. Buckeyes breaking in a new kicker. Points will be so hard to come by in this one that its hard not seeing that being a negative impact on OSU.