11/1/2008 – Michigan 42, Purdue 48 – 2-7, 1-4 Big Ten
As you might have noticed from such posts as "Brian goes to Auburn-LSU," I have an Auburn friend in town. You also might have noticed that Auburn sucks exactly as much as Michigan does this season. In general, this is some small comfort to both of us.
However, this friendship has caused me to pay more attention to Auburn's fortunes, such as they are, and write things about Auburn's botched hiring of spread guru Tony Franklin, and this is where the uncomfortable comparisons start.
If you missed the story, a précis: Auburn fires offensive coordinator Al Borges in December last year, replacing him with Troy State OC Tony Franklin. Franklin's newly implemented "Spread Eagle" racks up 423 yards against Clemson in a Peach Bowl victory. Auburn had eight days to practice it. Clemson was the #6 defense in the country. Woo!
Expectations are high coming in to 2008, whereupon Auburn implodes spectacularly, has an internal hissy fit, and fires Franklin midseason. A couple weeks before the firing Tommy Tuberville starts saying things that make it clear he's not really on board with this spread noise; Smart Football notes that whatever Franklin is running at Auburn isn't the Tony Franklin System(tm).
Underperforming unit, head coach focused on the other side of the ball but with a tendency towards one particular system the coordinator does not run, midseason philosophy shift… it's hard to avoid the parallels between Auburn adopting a shotgun formation and then running tank-sized power back Ben Tate on ill-fated zone stretches and Michigan's bizarre decision to adopt a 3-3-5 stack that, as far as I know, Shafer has never run before. Michigan proceeded to give up 48 points and 559 yards to a 2-6 team starting its third-string quarterback. Said quarterback was a running back three weeks ago.
This is where fail picture goes.
We have two unpleasant choices here: Shafer elects to pull Will Johnson, one of his better starters, for a freshman Boubacar Cissoko and having the move backfire spectacularly, or Rich Rodriguez dictates that change from above. I prefer Door #1 because then the 3-3-5 against Purdue is just an idea that really didn't work, not a sign of internal strife. Internal strife is bad.
So now everyone's guns are trained on Scott Shafer, coordinator of the Worst Defense In Michigan History and designated scapegoat for all (well, half) of Michigan's ills. Arguments will rage between the Fire Him Now and the Probably Fire Him Next Year camps, and interwebs blood will be spilled and people will be virtually roasted alive and it's going to be very dramatic on the message boards and so forth and so on.
Already the inbox is filled with emails asking whether Shafer needs to go. My answer is "probably not," but just like the guy who was asking whether Stevie Brown is shaving points I can no longer say so for certain.
- Hey, at least MINOR RAGE was back in good effect; on one of his touchdowns he ran through a couple tacklers like a giant parade balloon version of Mike Hart. I don't think anyone was surprised when he left the game injured; the only surprise is he didn't have to have a limb amputated and actually returned.
- The other standout was Martavious Odoms, obviously, who was the king of variance on special teams: touchdown, ridiculous punt muff providing someone else a touchdown, etc. I'm pretty sure Purdue's kick coverage team was horrible, but any progress from the return units is welcome, and several times Michigan was one guy away from busting a touchdown.
- As the year progresses I am increasingly skeptical Threet is a long term solution. I don't know if the elbow injuries had anything to do with it, but he refused to keep the ball on the zone read despite Purdue selling out to stop the running back. (If you go back to the liveblog you will see several "keep the #*$@ing ball, Threet!" requests from yrs truly.)
His accuracy was also spotty, especially on screens and the like, and if that doesn't improve I don't see how he can maintain a long-term grip on the starting job. For his sake I hope the elbow injuries are a major drag on his performance; otherwise it's Forcier/Beaver time in 2009.
- They futzed around with the offensive line some but eventually went back to their normal starting configuration, I think. Molk definitely got back in there, and I believe Ferrara got booted. I'll check the film on UFR.
- Did Michigan really burn Justin Feagin's redshirt on some kick coverage? WTF?