When he took over in Ann Arbor in 2011, to a swell of fanfare as the program finally bagged itself "a Michigan Man," he knew he had to win. As he told The New York Times in the fall of that year, "There are consequences for losing."
He must have known then, even as those consequences draw nearer now, that the bar was higher for college football’s all-time winningest program. He knew Top 25 rankings, BCS bowl games and beating "that school in Ohio" weren’t just bonuses — they were expected results.
But it’s not that Hoke doesn’t merit some sympathy, he just doesn’t need it.
Coach Kyle Whittingham said the memories of preparing for Hoke’s San Diego State teams in 2009 and 2010 aren’t useful, because too much has changed. But he observes something in Michigan’s game film that he noted back then, when the Aztecs gave the eventual 10-3 Utes a 38-34 dogfight.
"The style of football he likes is tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football," Whittingham said. "That’s what he preaches. That’s what he’s all about. You can see that in the play of Michigan."
The problem, then, might be that Hoke is blue-collar, but the Wolverines are blue bloods.
I was surprised by this closing sentence:
Hoke’s 4-6 record against Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State isn’t wholly satisfying, and he hasn’t beaten any of them on the road. Already, the speculation is rampant about potential replacements; some figure there’s no way Michigan keeps him barring a miraculous turnaround.
A msg poster from Utah was kind enough to post some thoughts from his side of the table in another thread so I will cut and paste his commentary into the first post of this thread. Here are some tidbits I have found from across the interwebs - these should be generally true.
First, there is no transitive theory in football but USC, Nebraska, and Utah have all feasted on Fresno State this year. No idea why Nebraska is forced to go play games at the Fresno State's of the world but Nebraska's game was on the road while Utah's was at home. Since we are far more familiar with Nebraska football then USC football, I'll keep it short and say the box scores look very similar in the Neb-FState and Utah-FState. Of course please account that these box scores don't break out 1st half versus 2nd half and surely both Nebraska and Utah were playing backups by middle to late 3rd quarter. So if transitive has any theory expect a team that is maybe 85-95% of Nebraska to show up in AA this Saturday.
QB Travis Wilson is a very big (6'7 240 lb) man. His 2013 season was highlighted by a lot of injuries and a lot of INTs, to the tune of 1:1 TD:INT. This year he has improved to 6 TD: 0 INT. Completion % thus far is up from 56% to 63%. Fluke due to baby seals? Maybe - but perhaps it's coaching. After screwing up Arizona State and getting fired Dennis Erickson went to Utah to be OC. He screwed that up so was demoted after last year to RB coach, and in came Dave Christensen. D.C. coached the Missouri offense for a decade (think Brad Smith/Chase Daniel), then went to Wyoming to be a HC - that didn't work out and he is back to his OC role. Early returns with the QB at least seem promising - reduce those turnovers. Wilson runs a "little bit" - surprising for his size but obviously not a home run threat. They do have a backup QB who has been playing who is more of a dual threat guy.
RBs - 2 headed Devontae Booker and Bubba Poole. Booker was a prolific JC transfer who sat out last year and in early returns versus baby seals seems more dangerous. Poole in 2013 averaged 4.1 per carry.
WRs - Some real danger here if Wilson is not pressured. Lost 3 of their top 4 WRs but their top guy is Dres Anderson who has a modest 27.9 average reception thru 2 games. That's not a fluke, he average 18.9 per catch in 2013 ... and he had 1000 yards last year even with a meh QB. He is 6'2 190 so think a tall Gallon. In a very offense friendly conference he is an All Conference candidate. Kenneth Scott is also an issue at 6'3 210 - suffered injury in first game of 2013 and missed the season but a 4 star recruit who is currently the reception leader thru 2 games.
TE - 5th year SR here in cool dude named Westlee Tonga (6'4, 250 lbs) who is 3rd on team in receptions with 6.
OL - short and sweet, left side brings 2 experienced starters who played every game last year including another cool name "Junior Salt". Center has some experience. Guys on the right side, not so much.
Thoughts - Taylor and Wilson back would be a big help as Utah has the tools to attack via the air. This is the first real WR Peppers will have seen outside of a practice. Anderson is better than anything ND threw out there. Peppers/Lewis and if Taylor gets back should go against him - looks like a guy who would sacrific Countess on a bloody altar. But you can't just worry about him - Kenneth Scott seems like a good player too. They also have a TE who is useful.
Based on game film I expect any team with the tools to use the pass to open up the run. This team has the tools. Our peeps facing right side of their OL need to create pressure as they are inexperienced there. Doubt their QB has faced an iota of pressure all year so let's do that ok DL? Utah brings a decent run game but if our run defense is as advertised we should be able to hurt it. This feels on paper like ND offense with a lesser QB but better WRs. (Edit - Utah plays at a quick pace)
I did less work on the defense than the offense so will have a shorter review.
DL - SR DE Nate Orchard (6'4, 255) looks to be a beast mode type of player, the kind who can be very scary for either Mason Cole or Ben Braden. Might need the TEs to stay in and help chip in on this guy a lot. Stanford has a very good OL - Orchard went off for 2 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in that game. Other DE is less scary. Utah lost quality DTs to graduation and current set of DTs are not over 300 lbs so won't be like the Notre Dame DTs.
LB - Utah lost its top LB to graduation. Coach's nephew Jason Whittngham (6'2, 240) was manning the middle - a quality player who apparently dislocated his wrist and is out.. Jared Norris is a decent OLB on 1 side and less experience at the other OLB.
Secondary - Safeties are good and experienced. FS Eric Rowe was a first team freshmen All American in 2011, and started every game last year. SS Brian Blechen was a freshmen All American in 2010 who RS last year due to injury. Corners are first year starters.
Thoughts - Braden and/or Cole better eat their Wheaties. Expect guard and/or TE help on Orchard all game. That of course means everyone else has to win 1 v 1 but their DTs dont seem like world beaters... but obviously wont be Miami OH or App State types. The back 7 took a hit with the loss of their MLB. Safeties seem the strength of the back 7, so attack the edges - obviously Funchess would be nice to do to that. But low INT Devin showing up would be nice. If I was OC for a day maybe I create a rolling pocket for 6-8 plays this game - always rolling away from Orchard.
Not sure how the run game will stack up vs Utah. They had a good run defense last year (20th in country) but lost a good amount of experience in the front 7. They have given up a lot of first downs and decent yardage (300+) to baby seals but hard to tell what is happening in those games just from box scores due to backups being in and giving up yardage in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
This feels on paper like a defense we can score quite a bit on if we can slow down Orchard and grrrr... execute.
relies not on altitude
Utes are no Sherpas
Michigan three point attempts
Floppy haired white boys
likely to feel right at home
we need this one bad