I am not a coach, just an avid fan. If you don't want to read a long winded evaluation of our season by a lamen, please just skip it and don't bother slamming me
I think many people get on here and make extreme statements like "we will win 10 national championships in the next few years" or "Rodriguez is terrible and we would have won 9 or 10 games with Les Miles".
Of course, there are a number of people who try to be reasonable. I will try to make my case for what has been good or bad this year.
I think a 6-6 year would have been a good year. By that I mean, the team would be outperforming reasonable expectations based on all the factors going into the season. Those factors are the same ones Brian laid out for us in the summer. If you have followed college football closely and this blog before the season, you know how hard it would be to get a team as inexperienced as this one and make it a big time winner.
Let's look at our schedule.
Utah-a possible BCS buster with a running senior QB. They should beat us on paper. The only reason they didn't get more press preseason is that they were supposed to lose to us in their first game and that would have killed their BCS hopes. I don't think they are a great team and if we lined the same teams up against them next year, i think we would win. But not this year with only one returning starter on offense. (I don't count Butler)
Miami-we should never lose to a MAC team. Just my opinion but the recruiting difference is so vast. The only time it should maybe happen is when we are having a really down year and its the best MAC team in the conference with a bunch of seniors.
Notre Dame-They are a young team with an overated coach, but they still have a bunch of sophomores with more experience than us who were part of a great recruiting class. We played in South Bend. I thought they should beat us on paper.
Wisconsin-should have killed us on paper. Of course, they ended up being worse than we thought, but still, they have a better team than us this year.
Illinois- they are better than us this year. Juice Williams alone put this game in their favor. (I did however incorrectly pick an upset here in my preseason predictions)
Toledo- see above about MAC teams.
Penn State- We knew they'd have a decent team this year. No way we should beat them on paper.
MSU- On paper we're closer to these guys but its a rivalry we've been winning a lot. We needed a great comback last year. MSU was due and they have a pretty good runner in Ringer. MSU should win this.
Purdue- Sadly, we are close to this team on paper but by now inexperience isn't as much of a factor as the year goes on. I thought we should win this.
Minnesota- I didn't predict the turn around for them, but we should beat them. We just have more talent.
Northwestern- Tough one to predict preseason because they played us tough last year. However, its at home and we have had a season to work out the kinks. I think this is a game we should win.
OSU-Preseason these guys destroy us on paper.
Looking at that, it seemed like, imho, if we played at our players potential:
wins- Miami, Toledo, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern.
Loses-Utah, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU, PSU, OSU
I hoped we'd win in an upset and not get upset ourselves making a "good" season 6-6.
Now the reality.
Early in the year, things went approximately how I expected. Our offense was more inept than I had imagined and the defense not quite as good as I had hoped, but there were moments and our offense looked like it had potential if you squinted just right.
But we beat Miami like we were supposed to and even got our upset against Wisconsin. We had a two point conversion to tie Utah and outplayed Notre Dame in every department except turnovers and points. We went up by 14 over Illinois and all sorts of unrealistic ideas floated through my head. Then Juice sliced us up and we were at 2-2.
Then, Toledo happened. I blame a lot of the game on Threet being out in the second half, but I think our team should have won anyway. I don't blame our coaches as much as the players. The scheme wasn't enough of an issue that I can ignore the lack of playmaking.
MSU- Our D and our offense let us down this game. We scored 21 points but had a lot of three and outs. Either way, MSU was just a better team than us this year, imo.
Purdue- First major complaint against Rodriguez starts here. I think the 3-3-5 was a mistake. As Brian and a lot of other people on this site have stated, we need our best 4 players on the field. Also, putting Harrson or Cissoko at db/linebacker puts another better defender out there instead of Thompson. I think Rodriguez took a chance and was wrong.
Minnesota- good game for us but don't forget we had a really hard time getting in the end zone and Sheridan got lucky on a couple passes.
Northwestern- Really depressing. Also, typical for the season.
Our defense hasn't improved throughout the year the way you would hope. D played well for most of the game but gave up touchdowns on three long passes. They also gave up a lot of short passes in the second half. Our secondary is a huge disappointment and I do blame our coaches for not getting them to play better as the year went on.
Our offense looked terrible. Against NW we had our worst offensive performance since Toledo. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the Threet-Sheridan tango. Maybe it was missing Minor. Whatever it was, the offense took a step back and its too late in the year to completely blame it on inexperience. There is some lack of talent this year compared to years past, but we still have more than NW. Imho, Rodriguez has to share blame for NW.
Our special teams has also been the same all year. Half it is great, the other disaster. We scored on a punt block, but gave them great field position on the Odoms blunder and missed a field goal.
So, how much of this season can we blame on Rodriguez? Not much, but some. I think our players significantly underperformed in a few games. Our defensive and special teams coaching are a bigger issue right now I think. Our season has gone a lot worse than I thought possible. At the beggining of the season, I would not have been surprised with a 4-8 finish, but that really was my absolute bottom.
In the end, beating OSU will be the only thing to redeem this season. Otherwise, it will be a long cold winter waiting for our team to start playing to its potential again, and hopefully, exceeding it.
One of my fears is that Rodriguez failing because the Big Ten is a lot tougher than the Big East and the ACC. Under this theory, the Big Ten is a lot closer to the SEC than people credit us for, and the Big East is a lot farther away.
I have never been all that impressed by Rodriguez's record at WVU because I don't believe the Big East is anywhere near as tough as the Big Ten. (Same argument applies to his experience at Tulane and Clemson/ACC).
I am wondering if the problem is that he hasn't coached enough against talent at the Big Ten level, both on the field and off.
He and his coordinators have frequently appeared out-coached. His key hire, Scott Shafer, has not impressed many people. Giving up a fake punt with 5 minutes left in the game is being out-coached.
The quick skill players he loves have done a lot of good things, but they have also looked overmatched at times against Big Ten size. Their running game has been best with big, strong Brandon Minor, a prototype Big Ten back, not a speedy WVU back.
Did we just give too much credit to the Big East?
*Note: this theory has the advantage of auto-disrespecting all West Virginia loons.
3-8 (1-6 Big East)
L, 10-34 @ Boston College
(final record 8-4, won Music City Bowl)
W, 20-3 Ohio
(final record 1-10)
W, 34-14 Kent State
(final record 6-5)
L, 20-32 @ #25 Maryland
(final record 10-2, lost Orange Bowl)
L, 0-35 #6 Virginia Tech
(final record 8-4, lost Gator Bowl)
L, 24-34 @ Notre Dame
(final record 5-6)
L, 3-45 @ #1 Miami
(final record 12-0, won Rose Bowl)
W, 80-7 Rutgers
(final record 2-9)
L, 13-24 @ #14 Syracuse
(final record 10-3, won Insight Bowl)
L, 14-17 Temple
(final record 4-7)
L, 17-23 Pittsburgh
(final record 7-5, won Tangerine Bowl)
Opponent Combined Record = 73-55 (.570)
Stat (WVU – opponent)
Points PG 21.4 - 24.4
Total YPG 345.7 - 349.9
Rushing YPG 181.1 - 213.2
Passing YPG 164.6 - 136.7
TO Margin (-8) - (+8)
UM 2008 (as of 11-15)
3-8 (2-5 Big Ten)
L, 23-25 Utah
W, 16-6 Miami (Ohio)
L, 17-35 @ Notre Dame
W, 27-25 #9 Wisconsin
L, 20-45 Illinois
L, 10-13 Toledo
L, 17-46 @ #3 Penn State
L, 21-35 Michigan State
L, 42-48 @ Purdue
W, 29-6 @ Minnesota
L, 14-21 Northwestern
Opponent Combined Record = 68-49 (.581)
Stat (UM – opponent)
Points PG 21.5 - 27.7
Total YPG 299.2 - 362.5
Rushing YPG 150.9 - 128.3
Passing YPG 148.3 - 234.2
TO Margin (-9) - (+9)
9-4 (6-1 Big East)
W, 56-7 Tennessee-Chattanooga
(final record 2-10)
L, 17-34 @ #25 Wisconsin
(final record 8-6, won Alamo Bowl)
W, 35-32 @Cincinnati
(final record 7-7, lost New Orleans Bowl)
W, 37-17 East Carolina
(final record 4-8)
L, 17-48 Maryland
(final record 11-3, won Peach Bowl)
W, 40-0 @ Rutgers
(final record 1-11)
W, 34-7 Syracuse
(final record 4-8)
L, 23-40 #1 Miami
(final record 12-1, lost Fiesta Bowl)
W, 46-20 @ Temple
(final record 4-8)
W, 24-14 Boston College
(final record 9-4, won Motor City Bowl)
W, 21-18 @ #13 Virginia Tech
(final record 10-4, won San Francisco Bowl)
W, 24-17 @ #17 Pittsburgh
(final record 9-4, won Insight Bowl)
L, 22-48 vs. Virginia (Continental Tire Bowl)
(final record 9-5, won Continental Tire Bowl)
Opponent Combined Record = 90-79 (0.533)
Stat (WVU – opponent)
Points PG 30.5 - 23.2
Total YPG 418.5 - 335.5
Rushing YPG 283.6 - 121.8
Passing YPG 134.8 - 213.6
TO Margin (+19) - (-19)
So as you can see, WVU's 2001 season, its first under Rich Rod, is pretty similar to our 2008 season. The stats for this season will probably look even worse after the tOSU game (I'm as optimistic as anyone, but we won't win that game), but our strength of schedule will increase once we play the Bucks. So WVU's 2001 stats against a somewhat weaker schedule will pretty much equal our 2008 stats against a somewhat tougher schedule.
Looking at WVU's 2002 season is very encouraging. The offensive stats improve markedly from the 2001 season, and one thing that really stands out is the drastic change in turnover margin from 01 to 02. Also, Rasheed Marshall, WVU's first dual-threat QB under Rich Rod, took over the reins starting with the 02 season. Brad Lewis, a holdover from the Nehlen era at WVU, was the starting QB during the 01 season. So Rich Rod's 02 success wasn't due to a returning experienced QB, which is exactly the same situation we'll find ourselves in next year with (most likely) either Forcier or Beaver starting. WVU's running game went from average in 01 to explosive in 02, ranking as the second-best attack in the nation.
The situations in Morgantown in 2001 and Ann Arbor in 2008 were undoubtedly different in some ways, but many parallels can be drawn between the two seasons. Hopefully many parallels will be drawn between the 2002 and 2009 seasons, because I think every U of M fan would be happy with a 9-4 season next year.
IN RICH ROD WE TRUST
"You show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser" - Alan Johnson, Peep Show
While I know Michigan is really terrible at the footballs this year, there is a shift going on, at least in my mind, and I think several of you have noticed it too. This is not about schemes, or coaches, or Ws and Ls. It's about how we view each game; how we view each loss; how we view each win.
The fear element is gone. Remember that tinge in the back of your head before the App State game? Before OSU '04? That nagging feeling in the back of your head that, every game Michigan played, we should win, not we could win; that we somehow were 'owed' the game and, since "We're Michigan" it's somehow 'crushing' when we lose. Our fears were paralyzing. I think that's one of the reasons there was so much apathy from fans.
When we won, we weren't soaked in joy. We were soaked in relief.
Yes, we now have moved away from the FEAR side of the Life Line, and the only remaining direction to go is toward LOVE.
Now, this doesn't mean I think it doesn't suck to lose, and I think it would be a very bad thing if we continue to post up 3-9 seasons. However being as catastrophically bad as we are this year has had a few interesting effects. Other than about a week of a few MSU students/alums being MSU students/alums, no one is really 'excited' they beat us, broke losing streaks against us, etc.
When PSU beat us, Happy Valley was completely dead. No one even cared. When MSU beat us, I got exactly zero text messages from State fans. I generally get about 7 from them when we lose to them in basketball, and most of said friends care about football just as much or more than they do about basketball.
Now the fear element is in their corner. Could you imagine being a BCS Bowl hopeful team and then lose to a 3-8 team? Football is a strange sport, and crazy things like that happen *cough* USC *cough*.
Next week, I get to watch us play tOSU with no real fear. I am pretty damn sure we will lose to the Buckeyes in epic fashion, sealing a 3-9 season and a 5th straight OSU loss. If a big play or two keeps the game close, I get to hope we win, not fear we lose. It's liberating, and it's exciting, especially with the roulette wheel of a team we have in almost every aspect of the game.
Bring on next Saturday, and bring on next season. I, for one, am excited about it all. Who knows? The underdog spirit in football is one of the most powerful of any sport. Buck the Fuckeyes!
... told me, "If you don't have anything nice to say"... but DAMN, my head is going to explode. (I'd have liked to use the "head asplode" as I generally find it humorous, but nothing is humorous anymore.)
Don't mistake my intent: I am the eternal optimist, think RR will produce a quality team here in the next few years, am excited about our recruiting, think success will be sweeter for having to suffer for it first, etc.
I'm also fine with believing we should stay the coarse with the new schemes, to get experience, work on execution, etc. I am not one of those calling for a return to Carr-esque pro-style offense/defense and am actually glad our coach isn't afraid to be accused of "adapting too slowly" just to appease the media/fans.
But for God's sake, some things just need to change:
Special teams coach needs to go, period. I'm sorry but it's been downright embarassing, plainly inept, and unexcusable. Somewhere along the way we should have realized that we needed to identify a non-starter returner who could devote time exclusively to special teams in practice.
The biggest concern I have with RR is how he's handled the QB situation. How on Earth could he have picked Sheridan this week? Injury forced his hand last week, but in a system struggling this badly, consistency is a HUGE factor. It was a no-brainer to go back to Threet. Even if still dinged up(seems unlikely since he came in), he's played dinged most of the year. Even with Threet's lack of perfection, he was finding a way to produce small gains each week, while allowing us to run some semblence of our future offense. Sheridan has made major steps backwards away from any progress that was being made. It concerns me going into next year, where once again, we'll have a QB "situation". I am convinced both Beaver and Forcier will play next year, and I'm now worried about us getting in the way of ourselves as far as development of the offense goes with untimely QB moves.
Lastly, can we please stop running laterally so much????? I am sick to death of the play where RB lines up next to QB - takes the underneath handoff crossing in front of QB and runs to the sideline looking for a hole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Again, I don't want to go back to Carr-ball but for crying out load, HIT A HOLE UP THE MIDDLE ONCE IN A WHILE. In the coarse of the year we have to have realized that our O-line (even with some improvement) cannot hold up long enough to allow such a play to develop. The spread could make use of some options, or even tosses where our "speedy buggers" might have a chance. It just seems that all year we've run our Shaw/Mcguffie types between the tackles and our Minor/Brown types off the edge.
Maybe the unprecendented 8 loses is pushing me over... However, I have to be honest, I've got concerns in starting to look back at the "season" that have nothing to do with mis-matched personnel (which I've been drinking the Kool-aid of all year). I almost hope that after a successful next year, RR admits that the coaching staff just started phoning it in the end of this season to keep teams from seeing future schemes.
Please tell me it'll be okay.
The season is winding down. Rather than embracing the final weeks of the football season, I am trying to talk myself into college basketball because once I do that I know I will remain interested and engaged in the sporting world for the next several months even as college football fades to black. By the time that rush ends, it will be April. The hockey playoffs and newness of the baseball season will take me into summer. And, hey, by that point, isn't the college football offseason really over. The new Phil Steele magazine will be out by then. Blue Ribbon wont be far behind. So will the latest Hail To The Victors. See, if you think about, next season is really almost here. Phew, I am glad I got that solved. Western Michigan, you are officially On Notice, bitches! Anyway, onto this week's Big 10 Picks, where we hope to keep the good times rolling (26-18-1 season long record for Big 10 Picks! Woot!) with the following suggestions.
Indiana at Penn St. Lines, Penn St +36.5, O/U 57.
Its been almost two years since a Big 10 was favored by 30 or more points against another Big 10 team. Feel free to take a venture at what that game was. I'll spill the beans a couple of paragraphs later. As far as this game, you have to question the mindset of Penn St on the heels of such a heartbreaking loss of rare magnitude. Penn St cant wait to come out in a showdown and show people they aren't as clunky as they looked in Iowa. I'm sure they will come out on all cylinders when the Big 10 title is on the line against Michigan State. Next week. As for tomorrow, I highly doubt the lowly Hoosiers have Penn St's undivided attention, at least not enough to cover such a gaudy numbers. IU has looked good in recent weeks. Over the last three games, they've exceeded 20 points each time, only have three turnovers, received imporved QB play from Ben Chappell and found a nice stable of RBs to run with. They scored 31 against Penn St last year and think they can get at least a couple TDs in this one. I feel they have a good chance to crack the 20-point mark. In the early going, expect IU's pressure to thwart Clark enough to keep PSU from going off early. Eventually, the Lions will will rev up and go up and down the field on an IU defense that has a ton of injury issues on its back seven. Its being reported they're playing a WR at Safety in this game and that this week in practice certain guys on D wore black shirts to signal no contact allowed. Still, I think the Hoosiers squeak out enough on offense to cover the five-TD spread.
The Pick: IU +36.5, Over 57........yeah, lots of points will be scored. In fact, I am a little afraid that PSU will cover to Over all by themselves. I'm thinking there's a 10 percent chance this could happen. So, consider the Over bet a hedge on the fact that Penn St comes out smoking and scores more than 60 points.
Purdue at Iowa. Lines, Iowa -18, O/U 44.
The nation has finally caught on to the mini Iowa Renaissance we've seen this autumn. Not to mention the excellence that has been Shon Green's season. Thats what coming through with one of the season's signature upsets will do for you. It will also crowd the betting window. Consider the line movement in this game has grown from 14.5 when LVSC released lines on Sunday to now 18 as kickoff nears. The whole world appears to be on Iowa. Usually, I like fading the public, especially with the Hawks coming off such a huge win and being on serious letdown alert. But, I just cant do it. There's too many numbers I like about Iowa. The Hawks are 37-16 ATS at home and 13-3 ATS in their final home game. November is typically their times as Iowa is 22-15-1 ATS in the final four regular season games of the season in the Ferentz era, 12-6 in home games during those stretches. I never fear laying big chalk with Iowa, especially at home, where they're 17-8 ATS laying double digits. One thing worth pointing out about all those numbers is the 2006 season where the Hawks, shockingly, only covered at home once. All these numbers took a hit because of that outlier. All those numbers have bounced back in the nearly two seasons since. Of course, then there is woeful Purdue. I've been pointing this out all year: Purdue is 4-24 SU, 9-19 ATS against bowl teams. They're 2-6 ATS in that spot this season. This is the last chance to play this angle this year and I see no reason to stop. Purdue has only scrapped up 16 ppg in league play this year, but take out that explosion against UM (a non bowl team, by the way) and the Boilers aren't even scoring more than 10 points in league games. Iowa just does not give up a whole lot of points, allowing 13.2 ppg on the season. I have a hard time seeing Purdue breaking double digits. I expect a Senior Day rout of the 31-7 variety. Iowa makes a big defensive stand in the final minute to preserve the spread.
The Pick: Iowa -18......i just had the following conversation with my friend Cherie about this game. She said she liked Iowa. I reminded her about the possible letdown and the huge spread and asked why she was so quick with the Hawks. "They're at home," she snapped. The last time we had this conversation was their game last season with Syracuse. The Hawks won that 35-0 as 24-point favorites. I'm just sayin!
Northwestern at Michigan, Lines Michigan -3, O/U 46.
The last time another Big 10 was favored by at least 30 points in a conference game was when the Wildcats last visited Ann Arbor late in the 2006 season. A lot has changed since then, although it looks like the weather for this one might be as lousy as it was for the 2006 affair. Tomorrow, the Wildcats arrive in Ann Arbor in an underdog role that has people scratching their heads. Its not often you see a 3-7 team favored to beat a 7-3 team. Michigan has the better running and kicking games heading into tomorrow's game, at least as those units have performed in recent games. That gets them through this slog fest. Northwestern is one of the few teams that will gladly match UM turnover for turnover. I think that comes into play tomorrow and I just have this gut feel that Shaffer is going to come out and unleash the D tomorrow. He must feel like his back is to the wall. If last week was indicative of how he responds in the face of loud public criticsm, then I say we register and administer fireshaffer.com for the next several years just to keep him sweating.
The Pick, UM -3......obviously, backing Michigan is done with reluctance. In the end, I will pay a little extra juice on the money line and just need Michigan to win. But, we're playing with spreads here, so -3 will do. I like having cash on games I go to, and every now and then you have to say 'what the fuck' and just bet with your heart and see what happens.
Ohio State at Illinois, Lines OSU -9.5, O/U 45.5
No team has played Ohio State better in recent seasons than Ron Zook's Illini. The maligned Zooker has a great reputation as a recruiter, but he should also be touted as a great underdog coach. His teams--including his tenure at Florida--are 20-15 ATS when catching points. But, dont you almost have to overlook the 3-7 mark logged that first year in Champagne? He inherited such a dogmeat program that had even less experience than this year's Michigan outfit. Those are some great numbers if you consider 2006 an exception to the rule. Regardless, Zook is 9-5 as an underdog when Mr. Juice Williams is his starting QB. I still think OSU has trouble with the looks a Juice-led offense shows. There's been something off about the Bucks all season long. Britt Miller and Vontae Davis are going to torment young Pryor tomorrow. Last year, OSU could not contain the Illini's big plays or the legs of Juice Williams. The Illini will repeat enough of that effort to make this a back and forth game thats undecided the whole way. Illinois plays so much better at home, scoring over 30 points a game. They are one of the few teams this year that didn't stall against the stingy Iowa D, so I feel like they can have similar success on this field against the Bucks. Illinois lost to OSU by 7 two years ago and upset them in Columbus last season. Illinois is about the same, while OSU is not as good as their predecessors. I dont understand how they can be expected to in this one by double digits. I've boasted all season that OSU would lose twice in the Big 10 this season and have been anticipating Illinois as an attractive home dog in his game for weeks now. We'll see if its too good to be true.
The Pick, Illinois +9.5.......is it worth mentioning that OSU is 3-9 ATS the week before the Michigan game, and 0-6 when that foe is Illinois? I thought you might like to know that.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, Lines Wisco -14, O/U 46
Like the Iowa line, this sucker has has grown with money coming in all week on the favorite. What opened as a 10-point line has settled in at 13.5 for the last couple days. Unlike the Iowa game, I will go against the public grain in this one. In a very underrated rivalry game, the underdog actually has some pretty good numbers, logging a 14-8-1 ATS mark since 1985. That gives me enough of an opening to jump on the Minnesota bandwagon when the rest of the world is fleeing like buffett cooks when the Notre Dame coaching staff walks into their restuarant. Minnesota's downtown conveniently coincided with my Diary back in October praising their turnaround as legit. Thanks Golden Gophers! I love ya! Oh, but I do. In the battle of that weird, big, sorta dangerous looking axe these clubs play for, anything goes and as detailed above you should never count the underdog out. Last year, Wisconsin survived and won by a touchdown late in the game. Minnesota is much better than they were a year ago. Wisconsin this November is not as sharp as last November. Despite the change of venue, this game figures to be as close as last year's match. The Gophers looked terrible last week against Michigan, but wasn't it revealing to hear Wolverine players this week talk about how apparent it was the Gohpers looked past them. In an arguably bigger rivalry game for his local fan base, that wont happen again with master motivator Tim Brewster running the show. The Gophers have covered all four road games this season, winning three outright on the scoreboard. I think they're going to rise up to the moment tomorrow, even without Decker playing at WR.
The Pick, Minny +14 Over 46......I am feeling a shootout in this one. Since 1985, an average of 50.5 ppg have been scored when these teams play. Thats not a big deal, but consider the trend upwards the last eight years, with 67.6 ppg scored a contest. The loser in this game has exceeded 30 points in 5 of the last seven games. Expect Brandon Green to have his first big play TD of his career, Adam Weber to rip off a long TD scamper and one defensive score from its hawking D. Wisco wont be outdone as Clay will shred and slice his way to at least one 40-yard TD, Gilreith and Graham will each snare TDs and the Badgers might just match the Gophers pick-6. While the outcome may only decide who plays in Orlando or Phoenix, the action will exceed those stakes.
Seven picks this week, all five sides and a pair of overs. I dont feel all that awesome about this week's games. First time in a month where I've been shaky on the lines all week. I love underdogs, so its always hard for me to separate that bias when juicy lines get thrown up there. The two most exciting and watchable games will be OSU-Illinois and Minny-Wisco and in both I like the significant dog to keep it close. We'll see if I have fallen into some traps, but my day will be decided on those games.
Have fun watching football tomorrow (although by now, its today), and if you're heading to Ann Arbor, have fun and drive safely, looks like we'll be dealing with bad weather.