"Northwestern fans can be both heartened and disheartened by the loss to Minnesota just like how nineteenth-century resurrectionists were heartened when they pried a heart from a freshly-buried corpse and then disheartened it when they sold it to a disreputable anatomist."
I hope all of you appreciate now how DIFFICULT it is to win 8 to 10 games, win/compete for B1G championships, and go to a bowl game EVERY YEAR!
Coach Carr was pushed out by people (this site included) who thought any idiot off the street can do what Carr did year after year. After two coaches and too many embarrassing loses later, we all know the truth now.
Coaching football in NCAA is hard. Not very many people are good at it. It is difficult even when you have the enormous resources that this great university can provide.
I hope you remember that for the next coach and beyond.
Lloyd Carr just rode by in a red classic convertable with Lynn Swan and Orlando Pace in the Rose Parade. Evidently he is being inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
(Note: I was just about to post this prior to Brian's post about the "fickle" fans. I actually think this relates very closely to that discussion and doesn't even bring the obvious financial impact into the debate.)
It probably won’t surprise any readers of this site when I say that I’ve had many a debate with fellow fans recently about the way this season has unfolded. One such recent debate with my brother centered around why everyone seems so frustrated and is writing off the OSU game entirely. His argument was that we never used to feel that way under Lloyd Carr – even though Carr had more seasons with 3 or more losses than he did with fewer than 3. The initial theories we debated for why we are so more negative this season were:
- In the information age it is easier to be an arm-chair coach with the advanced metrics, easy to obtain video, sites like MGoBlog, etc.
- We’re headed into year 7 of frustration and are just less patient than we were under Carr.
- Brian Cook is like the pied piper of negativity for his readership and we should all stare at videos of cats and feel better about ourselves instead of letting Brian corrupt our minds.
- Perhaps Carr wasn’t very good and “This Is Michigan” really means “We’re likely to have 3-4 losses and shouldn’t be surprised like we are right now."
That last point got me to thinking – why can’t I remember heading into an OSU game prior to Rich Rodriguez being hired where I felt there was zero chance of winning or that the season was a failure like I have so many times since then? John Cooper obviously helped that perception, but that wasn’t all of it. Why are we so bitter now but weren’t even in Carr years with 3 losses?
Prior to doing the research my hypothesis was that we stayed optimistic as fans because we ALWAYS played close games when Carr was coaching. No matter who we were playing, we had a chance. Our frustration with Carr at times was that he was so conservative that we played down to lesser opponents and that resulted in narrow victories or the occasional surprising upset. But no matter who we were playing, we felt we had a chance.
So I created a chart of Carr’s final decade of coaching. I only went back to 1997 since MGoBlue’s records only go back that far and this is the portion of his career where his reputation was built and what earned him a lifetime contract:
|1998||8-2||7-0||8-3||@ND (36-20), Syr (38-28), @OSU (31-16)||2|
|1999||8-2||5-2||9-2||@MSU (34-31), ILL (35-29)||0|
|2000||7-3||5-2||9-2||@UCLA (23-20), @Purdue (32-31), @NU (54-51)||0|
|2001||8-2||6-1||8-3||@Wash (23-18), @MSU (26-24), OSU (26-20)||0|
|2002||9-2||6-1||9-3||@ND (25-23), Iowa (34-9), @OSU (14-9)||1|
|2003||9-2||6-1||10-2||@ORE (31-27), @Iowa (30-27)||0|
|2004||9-1||7-0||9-2||@ND (28-20), @OSU (37-21)||1|
|2005||7-3||5-2||7-4||ND (17-10), @WI (23-20), MN (23-20), OSU (25-21)||0|
|2007||8-3||6-1||8-4||APSt (34-32), ORE (39-7), @WI (37-21), OSU (14-3)||3|
First, a comment on the chart: I admittedly ignored bowl games in this analysis. I did this because I’m measuring whether fans were still interested, happy, and optimistic leading up to the end of the regular season. Bowl games are a black mark on Carr’s resume, but that’s a separate discussion.
I think I’ve proven the hypothesis to be true. In the span of a decade Carr had only SEVEN games where we lost by more than 10 points. If you throw out his swan-song season of 2007 that number drops to an amazing FOUR. Think about that - in a full ten years we were blown out just four times! This includes trips to Oregon, UCLA, Washington, OSU, MSU, and Notre Dame just to name a few. In Brady Hoke’s three seasons we’ve had as many blowout losses as we had over a ten-year span during Carr’s career.
With Carr we may have had a couple of frustrating losses in a season, but we never entered a game knowing we had no realistic chance to win. THAT is what we’re longing for as fans and why this season feels so different when we look at the OSU game.
But there’s more!
While looking over that chart something else dawned on me that added to the conclusion. Look at the conference record heading into the OSU game. Not once did we enter the OSU game with more than two conference losses. Never!
If you go back to the previous statement that from 1997-2006 we had just four blowout losses you’ll see that two of those were following the national championship season. Yet immediately following those two losses we went on an 8-game winning streak and entered the game against OSU with a 7-0 conference record and chance for a title. So the one season in that period where we looked vulnerable still resulted in the OSU game having immense meaning and hope.
Not only did we compete in every game we played in, we almost always were still in contention for that conference title that Hoke talks about.
When Brady Hoke or any member of the fan base talk about getting back to what defined Michigan, this is what they mean. We were never the national juggernaut that Alabama has become – so dreams of undefeated regular seasons are probably misguided. But what we were for nearly Carr’s entire career (and that of Moeller and Bo before him) was a team that would compete in ANY GAME. We were a team that would get to the end of the season with something on the line more often than not and knew we could compete with OSU every year.
The reason we’re so frustrated and bitter this season is not just because we can’t win the conference title or are still bitter about RichRod – it is because we know we have no realistic chance of competing with OSU. Making matters even worse, we’ve already proven we have no realistic chance of beating our other main rival and get to watch MSU play for a title against OSU.
While I agree with Brian 100% on the financial aspect of the red jerseys we'll see in the stands Saturday, I also believe that if our team was capable of upsetting our undefeated rival the stands would be full of blue jerseys. Just as they were for all of those Carr seasons, despite knowing we weren't headed to the national championship game.
I have been trying to put my finger on the pulse of this team for the past few days, ever since I realized that, after the Indiana game, that this season was something of a not-entierly-lost-but-still-kinda-lost cause. In a year or two, these games will either be described as the building blocks of a top ten team— or as the first bricks in Hoke's mausoleum.
My frame of reference is the situation here in Knoxville, where I currently reside. I see so many similarities between Butch Jones and Brady Hoke's first year (except the record). I can sense a very similar positive attitude shift, where "how can we mess up this time" is replaced with "we have a fighting chance." This is, of course the honeymoon period for most Tennessee fans, with the Georgia game promising what the South Carolina game delivered. Most fans (well, at least the rational ones) are even willing to accept 7-5 or even 6/6 next year as something of an inevitability, since their quality O-line will be lost to graduation, their QB situation will either be "mediocrity" or "young prospect x," and even some of the senior leadership will be lost from the defense.
I recognize the hopeful feeling since we all here just experienced it. I can see the calm rationality which they have now, feeling that they somehow found a real coach, a sense that a blunder has been replaced with a process, that Real Coaching ™ is here, that it will only get better. This fan base is the honeymooner's of college football. We, however, are the "In-Betweener's" (and no, not that over-rated British television show... well, kind of, actually).
Michigan fans, fresh off this feeling, see a promise that has not been realized— a team which 2012 would beat by 10 and 2011 would beat by 21. The play calling appears at times to be an exercise in ideological fatalism, like trying to turn Texas into a socialist commune. Even the defensive coaching is being called into question.
At the other end of the spectrum— well, we all know what a program clearly spiraling out of control looks like. This is what bothers me about the team recently. I don't know if I am just out of touch, but it seems to me like what ever is going on, it isn't a program spinning out of control— just one that has made a decision which, in hindsight, feels sacrificial and a bit fatalistic (though I suppose that, if this is the end, I would say that it would be more slow and subtle rather than some dramatic death spiral). It feels like a team which is dedicated to a certain identity, one they have been wanting to convert to for the past few years and, with Robinson gone, they felt they could wholly commit to. Once it became apparent that that wasn't viable, they seem to have chosen to stick with it, believing not only will this be better for the future but also, I'd like to think, believing that a consistent dedication makes more sense— i.e., that changing the game plan will be detrimental. The reason I think this is the case is for a few particulars: mainly, that coaching staff might see a turnstile starting at all three positions between the tackles PLUS a QB which doesn't seem to respond well to confusion on the O-line, and conclude that changing the game plan significantly would be exacerbating and not fixing these problems.
The hope is, of course, that this faith will be rewarded (though, clearly, the odds of that happening this season are diminishing by the week), that someday we will read a puff piece by Tom Rinaldi talking about "keeping the faith", "weathering the storm",and the like. Perhaps someone will write a book and tell the story about how this was the beginning of the end for an overmatched coaching staff which eventually ran out of steam. For the record, I don't see the latter being the case. I think next year will be better than this and the year afterwards will be even better.
This perspective gives me hope and grave concern: one the one hand, this belief might turn out to be justified, and we might enter an Carr-like, NFL-factory age where top recruiting classes and top-level bowl games are the norm-but with a coach willing to roll the dice when it counts. The fear which is driving trolls to troll, the faithful to have a Kiergegaardian struggle, and many reasoned people to "leave" the board by posting about doing so regularly is painfully obvious: in maintaining the premise that the system will work, the coaching staff just might sacrifice too much to ever realize the fruits of their labor.
Rivalry week is extra uncomfortable for me. As a lifelong Michigan fan and a Michigan State graduate, sometimes I feel like I don't belong on either side of the rivalry.
When I decided to attend Michigan State, remaining a Michigan fan was a no-brainer. The first football games I remember were Michigan contests. The Rose Bowls in the early 90s, the home games against Minnesota and Purdue that my family sat through no matter the score or weather. And of course, the Virginia game - hence the username.
Being a fan of your school's biggest rival has major challenges that most sports fans never consider and that's why I'm writing this diary.
In undergrad, I was open about my fanhood. There were other Michigan fans on campus, in my dorm and on the floor, but I was the only one who would go tailgate with my friends during rivalry week in a Charles Woodson jersey. Only a few people tried to fight me each game day.
It's not like being at Michigan was any better. In college, the first thing anyone asked is what your major was. When I said "journalism" everyone knew I wasn't a Michigan student. The next question of course was, "why aren't you a Michigan student?" The conversation always turned into some diatribe about how much better U-M was than MSU, as if I didn't know the University of Michigan pedigree. These academic conversations bothered me immensely because I didnt have the grades to go to U-M. As a huge Michigan supporter, this was crushing. But what can I say, I didn't have the foresight as a 13-year-old to understand how important my algebra and global studies courses were.
As I began to make something of myself, the conversations stopped bothering me. I'm proud of what I have accomplished and my MSU degree. I love the campus and my friends and family - just not the sports.
Some MSU fans can understand but some can't. Irrational fans, arguers, drunks and people who went to LCC love to lecture me on how I should be a Spartan fan. Meanwhile, my fiance's family - a long line of Spartan fans and athlete's don't mean to mind one bit. I even dated a girl in college whose grandpa coached football for MSU and her family was more understanding about the unique situation than 99 percent of the fans I knew.
Still there are situations where it is certainly not safe to admit to being a Michigan fan. My industry is dominated by Spartan graduates and I don't want to damage any relationships by pissing off the wrong crazy Spartan fan. Similarly, I wonder what other die-hard Michigan fans really think when I tell them I am a Wolverines fan. Do they even believe me?
As a former sports journalist, my work gave me a unique perspective on rivalries and sports in general. I covered MSU athletics without any bias, roomed with Spartan athletes and even had John L. Smith hit me with a rolled up newspaper in a joking fashion. He was truly one of the nicest people I ever had the pleasure interviewing.
Lloyd Carr on the other hand, not so much. I met him while job shadowing a U-M beat writer during OSU week. She told him I was a season ticket holder but an MSU student. He refused to shake my hand. I took this as the most direspectful thing anyone has done. He was kind of joking about the entire incident, but not entirely. He never shook my hand, which is like, 'what the hell dude, I buy tickets and support your team'! Seriously, I drove from East Lansing with another MSU student and U-M fan for every home game for the two years that I had access to a car.
Nine months later I sat in the stands during the Horror. I got so many text messages after the blocked field goal that my Blackberry crashed. I don't know if that is an indication of how poor the Blackberry devices were or how bad it is when all of your friends are Spartans.
Now that I'm older, the trash talk has slowed a bit. People are more mature, but there are still things that frustrate me. The Wal-Mart Wolverine cracks from the MSU fans and the MSU academia jokes from the Wolverines fans make me want to punch Taco Pants in the neck.
And we haven't even talked about the games yet. I can't tailgate at U-M because no one in my social circle does so. I can't tailgate at MSU because I will miss the U-M games. Sometimes schedule quirks allow for both, but generally I miss out. And since my fiance is an MSU fans, it usually turns into some awkward game day happenings. A few years ago I was forced to watch the U-M/UMass game a the East Lansing Bdubs. There are worse things that can happen in life, but most involve lizards eating your legs.
Even simple things like social media aren't fun when you root for your school's rival. Win or lose on gameday, my feeds will be filled with images of Mork Dantonio and whatever QB is playing this week. It is maddening. But I guess I signed up for this when I decided to remain a Wolverine.
Were there times when I considered changing my allegiance? Not really. The closest I came was after the Rodriguez debacle. I was team RichRod, and after his firing briefly considered making life easier and giving up football or casually cheering for MSU with my family and firends. Emphasis on briefly. I put up with the Horror, the basketball sanctions, Brian Ellerbee and Mike DeBord. That and the mere thought of giving up Michigan for MSU turned my stomach.
So here's to Michigan hopefully making my Saturday/Weekend/Week/Month better by getting a win on Saturday. If not I'm going to hear about from every direction.
Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to return to ignoring my Facebook feed which is full of YouTube videos about how I'm not allowed to root for Michigan and that I'm a Wal-Mart Wolverine. Fuck that. Go Blue.
There was a big deal made among our fanbase about how few plays we ran against Minnesota, 52. I was curious to know what bothered some of my fellow fans as to what bothered them so much about this number. Clearly the number is skewed a bit as Minnesota ran a 9+ minute drive early that ate up a ton of the clock. But still 52 is far less than the 75, 80, 90+ that some of the top programs in the country are able to run week in and week out. We did manage to snap 82 times against PSU, but that did include 4 OTs and a rather harried, crazy game as well.
I recall thinking at the beginning of this year while watching the first few games of the football season that Thursday night (including MSU) that I hadn’t really seen a team huddle that entire night. I was then a bit relieved to see our offense against CMU also participating in this no-huddle idea (I'm quite certain we no-hudddled or I guess it could have been considered just a quick huddle) . I think the relief was more of a macro “keeping up with the Joneses” idea than anything more specific or tangible. Now I know exactly the reasons why I think a no-huddle, faster paced strategy is not only optimal, but required to be successful in this day and age of college football.
Here are my various points/thoughts on why I believe this strategy is so effective, and conversely when not used why it is such a huge detriment.
1. Defensive substitutions – when you control the pace on offense you will control the pace of defensive substitutions/adjustments as well. This is even more important when playing us this year as our DLinemen seem to rotate in/out of a game nearly every play. The funny thing to me is that the very reason that we probably do this is to keep our guys fresh. But I would argue that having them play a down then immediately have to sprint off the field, or sprint onto the field then have to play a down actually tires them out more than if they just ran a play, stood there, then ran another play.
2. Another poster pointed out the differences between how Oregon runs a practice and Michigan. Our practices are slower paced with much more instruction. Theirs are fast paced with fast repetition. I would assume Oregon probably runs twice as many plays in any given practice as we do. This seems like an important advantage to me over the course of a season as the offense should become much more comfortable to a player with increased repetition, like with almost anything in life. I believe someone else pointed out that Washington has also picked up on this idea and I can only imagine those two teams are not alone.
The two items above are specific advantages to running a fast paced offense. But there is really another more important aspect to this. And to me the no-huddle aspect is far and away the most important.
I have always been annoyed when Peyton Manning comes to the line and spends 15 seconds barking out “Omaha” and other shit. Sometimes he’s actually changing the play just prior to the snap and other times it’s all just BS to get the defense to overthink and maybe change their call. But regardless of his intention he does this before almost every snap and uses up most of the play clock each time. What this does is gives him the last play call option against the defense every single time.
Similarly to how I feel watching Manning I get very frustrated watching NW line up quickly before every play then the entire offense looks over to the sideline. Their offensive coordinator is squeezing every drop of advantage out of each situation by calling the most optimal play based on down/distance/time/score and most importantly how the defense is set up. This is the poker equivalent of always playing from the button. This is a HUGE advantage.
Michigan and Borges however seems to have gotten away from the no-huddle idea that I was so relieved to see in the first game of the season against CMU (at least I believe we did some no huddle against CMU). When you break the huddle with the play clock quickly winding down it takes away every single advantage that teams like NW have created for themselves. Devin has zero time to make any real adjustments based on the defensive set, not to mention costly delays of game or burning costly timeouts to avoid them.
Here is a screen shot I saw posted somewhere of an OT play against PSU.
It was mentioned that this was a run to the short side of the field. So assuming that this was: a) not photoshopped, and b) a run to the short side of the field then, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? What play do you think NW would run if they came to the line and saw this being offered by the defense? I’m sure they would have about 20 seconds to decide what to do and it sure as fugg wouldn’t be a run to the short side.
I really like Brady Hoke. Early on he showed some balls periodically by going for it on short 4th downs where most likely Carr would have punted. I also thought RR was a real bonehead regarding a lot of the things that he did both on and off the field. But I don’t know man, we seem to have regressed right back in the Carr/Debord years on the offenseive side of the ball. RichRod might have been a lot of things, but from an offensive pace and strategy standpoint I was very satisfied. I don’t want to go around calling for people’s heads, but Beilein made the decision after I believe his third year to make some major changes because he was not happy and look how that turned out for our bball program.
With every other item where we struggle with the game couldn’t we at least get to a no-huddle or quick huddle most of the game and give our offense some sort of advantage to make up for everything else? If this was done against CMU then why can’t Borges just turn it back on again so he can opt to have Devin throw the ball to one of the two WRs standing all by themselves when the defense lines up like they did above? That is just absurd to not even give yourself the option to do so in those circumstances.