“On the offense last year, they had great spacing. That’s what I remember. Great spacing, great shooters, like Nik Stauskas, who’s not there right now. But they always have someone to fill the roles. They have a cutting offense, kind of hard to guard.”
This isn't exactly an exhaustively researched report, but there has been nothing in the diaries lately, and I thought I'd bring up a foreboding bit of Michigan history for you all. As we prepare to enter the 2012 season, I got just a minor sense of foreboding thinking of a few parallels to another well known season.
The year is 2006. Michigan football rebounds from an extremely disappointing 7-5 2005 campaign that sees losses to OSU and the bowl game to have a breakout year. The juniors on the team finally seem to gel completely and Michigan storms to an 11-2 record, including playing one of the most epic games in one of the most storied rivalries ever.
The following season, the pundits say, if there were ever a Michigan team that was primed to make a big run, it was the 2007 Wolverines. A truly gifted senior QB entering his 4th year of starting, who looks poised to make that leap to true stardom. A lockdown left tackle clearly produced by the NFL's most crack genetic engineers. A tailback that had emerged from a rash of injuries the previous season to prove a star, and a defense that had lost a few pieces but had improved so vastly from the seaon before that an upward trajectory could only be expected to continue.
Of course, we all know how that went.
Consider the 2011 Wolverines. Fresh off an extremely disappointing 7-5 campaign that sees losses to OSU and in the bowl game, the Wolverines put together a breakout year. The team seems to gel and Michigan storms to an 11-2 season including playing in one of the most epic games in one of the most storied rivalries ever.
For the 2012 season, Michigan will feature a truly gifted senior QB entering his 4th year of starting. He seems primed to make the leap from extremely talented to true stardom. Michigan features a lockdown left tackle seemingly produced by the NFL's most crack genetic engineers. We even have a tailback that emerged from a rash of injuries last season to prove a star, and a defense that made a stratospheric leap that bodes extremely well for the future.
Now, I'm not saying that Michigan 2012 is Michigan 2007. These teams are extremely different. But, it is the middle of the off season, and with Hoke heading things up, it's all sunshine and lollipops. What fun is that? Maybe it's good to be a little scared?
In an effort to stay out of the "RichRod sucks/Harbaugh is God" or "Harbaugh is a hack traitor/RichRod will win 20 MNCs" camps, I decided to refocus my attention on a possibly relevant topic: given the completed 2010 season, what should our expectations for 2011 be? More specifically, is there hope in recent Michigan history?
I began by comparing Michigan's results from 2010 with those from another recent 7-5 year, the 2005 Year of Infinite Pain (little did we know), a season that was widely heralded as Michigan's "once per score years down-year."
|Win #1||NIU, 33-17||UConn, 30-10|
|Win #2||EMU, 55-0||ND, 28-24|
|Win #3||MSU, 34-31||UMass, 42-37|
|Win #4||PSU, 27-25||BG, 65-21|
|Win #5||Iowa, 23-20||Indiana, 42-35|
|Win #6||Northwestern, 33-17||Illinois, 67-65|
|Win #7||Indiana, 41-14||Purdue, 27-16|
|Loss #1||ND, 10-17||MSU, 17-34|
|Loss #2||Wisconsin, 20-23||Iowa, 28-38|
|Loss #3||Minnesota, 20-23||PSU, 31-41|
|Loss #4||OSU, 21-25||Wisconsin, 28-48|
|Loss #5||Nebraska, 21-25||OSU, 7-37|
While at first glance I want to be able to look at this and say "we followed that 2005 season with a 2006 season led by a beast of a defense and a powerful offense, and came within a late-hit penalty of playing for the national championship," I can't see a similar turn-around for 2011. Outside of the records, these teams were night-and-day.
It's true that the 2011 team will be bringing back more guys than we did in 2006, but that's where the comparison ends. The 2005 team didn't lose a game by more than seven points, and lost their five games by a combined 21 points while outscoring their opponents in their wins by 122. The 2010 team suffered each loss by at least ten points and lost the five by a combined 87 points, while only outscoring their opponents by 83 in the wins. For those of you keeping track at home, that's a +101 scoring differential versus a -4.
So if we can't learn from 2005, what does progress really look like year-on-year from 2009?
|Win #1||WMU, 31-7||UConn, 30-10|
|Win #2||ND, 38-34||ND, 28-24|
|Win #3||EMU, 45-17||UMass, 42-37|
|Win #4||Delaware St., 63-6||BG, 65-21|
|Win #5||Indiana, 36-33||Indiana, 42-35|
|Loss/Win||Illinois, 13-38||Illinois, 67-65|
|Loss/Win||Purdue, 36-38||Purdue, 27-16|
|Loss #3/1||MSU, 20-26||MSU, 17-34|
|Loss #4/2||Iowa, 28-30||Iowa, 28-38|
|Loss #5/3||PSU, 10-35||PSU, 31-41|
|Loss #6/4||Wisconsin, 24-45||Wisconsin, 28-48|
|Loss #7/5||Ohio State, 10-21||OSU, 7-37|
Other than UConn being a marginally tougher opponent than WMU, we ran the table against ND and some cupcakes in the non-conference schedule. In both years we beat Indiana close and lost to Wisconsin by about 20.
In the positive column, we turned a 25 point Illinois loss into a 2 point win, and turned a 2 point Purdue loss into an 11 point win. We closed the gap with PSU from 25 points to 10 points.
On the negative, however, our three conference losses against the better Big Ten teams got much worse. Instead of losing in OT to MSU, we lost by 17. Instead of losing by 2 to Iowa, we lost by 10. Instead of an 11 point loss to OSU with five Tate Forcier turnovers, we lost by 30 in a game wherein OSU ran the ball on the final 16 plays and didn't attempt a pass in the 4th quarter (mimicking Wisconsin's performance the week before).
A sad stat for those arguing that 2010 was a strong step forward - the 2009 team was actually a +24 in scoring differential, which is four touchdowns favorable to the 2010 team that supposedly took a big step forward. If David Brandon keeps Rich Rodriguez on for a fourth year I'm rooting hard for him to succeed and for us to compete for a championship, but it appears he'll be doing it without the benefit of recent trends or history.
As a head's up, M vs Minnesota is on BTN for anyone staying in tonight. It's already in the 4th but hey, I'll watch anything Michigan right now. I'm paying particular attention to the defense in this game.
It's tied at 20 with 12:49 left in the 4th Q.