Rather than engaging in the bouts of Hokemania running wild all over this site, or joining the numerous posters who seem to have forsaken Michigan for a love of RichRod forever-more (similar to my childhood fandom of "whoever Warren Moon plays for" after playing Tecmo Super Bowl as the Oilers), I decided to examine the rich and voluminous history of Michigan football to find some historical perspective.
While I bought in at the beginning of each of the last three years and convinced myself we were "just around the corner," I was disillusioned each year as the losses mounted and the victories failed to do so. I don't think the wins/losses did RichRod in, though - my sense from talking to other alums (and trying to track my emotional path through all of this) was that the sense of "time for a change" came less from the losses, and more from the MAGNITUDE of the losses. With that in mind, I first sought out a list of all seasons in which Michigan has been outscored by its opponents. There were twelve, which was actually more than I expected to find. The seasons (with coaches in parenthesis) were:
This list tells me a few things. First, having a season in which you were outscored by your opponent does not create a supportable assumption that you are a bad coach; if you remove the coaches on this list, Michigan's national championships decrease from 11 to 2. Second, having such a season does make it likely that you will be removed from your duties of coaching football at Michigan at some point; while Yost largely retired on his own terms, there was a movement to get the old man to move on by the time he stepped down. Wieman was gone after his bad season; while Kipke got a bit more rope because of his two national championships, his fourth led to his ouster as well. Oosterbaan's one season being outscored coincided with his last, and then Bump got a bit more rope...because he was cleaning up Bennie's mess? Either way, two for RichRod in three years didn't indicate a future of much success if you look at the historical numbers.
Next, I sought a way to quantify HOW MANY bad losses there had been; the three at the end of this year definitely wore on me, and so I looked at (a) how many games each head coach had lost by 10+ points each year, and (b) how many they did so on average. The numbers are as follows:
|Coach||10-pt losses||10-pt losses per season|
This chart was pretty striking to me; RichRod had more double-digit losses in three seasons than Lloyd had in his 13 seasons!! Also, while the likelihood of these events increased in the Mo/Lloyd years vis-a-vis Bo, they were still well below the Bump/Bennie/Kipke mark, and not far from Crisler and Yost's marks. Five per year more than doubled Bump Elliott, Michigan's 2nd worst coach (with regard to big losses).
Finally, I noticed that RichRod had 5, 4 and 6 double-digit losses in years 1, 2 and 3, respectively. I sought to put those in historical context; of the 110 seasons examined, there were only seven seasons of at least four double-digit losses in a season:
When viewed through this prism, it's much tougher to make the argument that the team was "competitive" and "just around the corner" the last few years - 2010 featured the 2nd-worst set of losses we've ever seen, eclipsed only by 1962. While improving from 3 to 5 to 7 wins seemed on its face to be "progress," the margins of victory and loss indicated otherwise - Michigan was soundly defeated in more games this year than in 2008. Three of the worst seven seasons (by this measure) don't point in the direction of a guy that should have been kept.
While we don't know what direction the team'll take under HOKEMANIA, we do know, at least, that our new coach has a love and appreciation for the history that is Michigan Football. Here's hoping we get fewer of these seasons and more that finish in Pasadena!
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.
Saturday will mark the 106th meeting between the Big Ten's two dominant programs, and in the 105 previous meetings, there have been 93 occasions where one team's record was better than the other's outside of The Game (twelve times we have been otherwise identical, most recently in 2006).
Overall, the "favorite" (as I'll call them - this means a better record that year outside of The Game, not what a Vegas line or other indicators may have predicted) has won 63% of the games, the underdog 32%, and 5% have been ties. Interestingly, in the twelve games we've been "even odds," Michigan has won 7 to OSU's 3 (with 2 ties), meaning with otherwise equal teams we've gotten the better of tOSU.
In the 43 games where Michigan has had the better record, M is 31-11-1 (72%/26%/2%), a pretty good record of taking care of business. And this is where it gets interesting...
In the 50 games where tOSU has had the better record, the Buckeyes have only won 56% of the matchups, with Michigan winning 38% and 6% ending in ties (28-19-3). The bunch from Columbus have done a much more lackluster job of winning when they should than have the Wolverines in this rivalry.
Even more striking - and this is where I draw my hope for this week from - in the nine games where OSU has been three or more games better than Michigan, the record is OSU 5, Michigan 4 (55% - 44%). The most recent of these was obviously last year, which doesn't lend much hope, but prior to that the most recent three were 1996, 1995, and 1993. In each of those games, OSU entered dominant with a shot at a national title riding on the line, and Michigan rose to the occasion to get the job done. I would submit that this year's OSU team is drastically inferior to each of those teams, and while we're inferior to the mid-90s teams as well, the numbers indicate that the dropoff ratio is similar.
This, combined with playing back in the Big House, gives me hope for Saturday. Let's get this scarlet&grey monkey off our backs and begin to turn the tide, Go Blue!
(records below have Michigan v. OSU impact removed)
|Year||M Record||OSU Record||Differential||Winner|
|1947||9 - 0||2 - 5 - 1||+ 6||Michigan|
|1897||5 - 1||1 - 6 - 1||+ 4.5||Michigan|
|1943||7 - 1||3 - 5||+ 4||Michigan|
|1901||10 - 0||5 - 2 - 1||+ 3.5||Michigan|
|1904||9 - 0||6 - 4||+ 3.5||Michigan|
|1923||7 - 0||3 - 3 - 1||+ 3.5||Michigan|
|1988||8 - 2 - 1||4 - 5 - 1||+ 3.5||Michigan|
|1931||8 - 0 - 1||5 - 3||+ 3||Ohio State|
|1971||10 - 1||6 - 3||+ 3||Michigan|
|1999||9 - 2||6 - 5||+ 3||Michigan|
|1902||10 - 0||6 - 1 - 2||+ 2.5||Michigan|
|1922||5 - 0 - 1||3 - 3||+ 2.5||Michigan|
|1903||10 - 0 - 1||8 - 2||+ 2||Michigan|
|1940||6 - 1||4 - 3||+ 2||Michigan|
|1948||8 - 0||6 - 2||+ 2||Michigan|
|1972||10 - 0||8 - 2||+ 2||Ohio State|
|1992||9 - 0 - 2||8 - 3||+ 2||Tie|
|2001||8 - 3||6 - 5||+ 2||Ohio State|
|1905||11 - 1||8 - 1 - 2||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1918||4 - 0||3 - 2||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1921||5 - 0 - 1||4 - 2||+ 1.5||Ohio State|
|1924||5 - 2||2 - 2 - 3||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1925||6 - 1||4 - 2 - 1||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1929||5 - 2 - 1||3 - 3 - 1||+ 1.5||Ohio State|
|1930||7 - 0 - 1||5 - 1 - 1||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1932||7 - 0||4 - 0 - 3||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1974||10 - 0||9 - 2||+ 1.5||Ohio State|
|1978||9 - 2||7 - 3 - 1||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1987||8 - 3||5 - 3 - 1||+ 1.5||Ohio State|
|1997||11 - 0||10 - 2||+ 1.5||Michigan|
|1927||5 - 2||4 - 3||+ 1||Michigan|
|1938||5 - 1 - 1||4 - 2 - 1||+ 1||Michigan|
|1955||7 - 1||6 - 2||+ 1||Ohio State|
|1970||9 - 0||8 - 1||+ 1||Ohio State|
|1981||9 - 2||8 - 3||+ 1||Ohio State|
|1989||9 - 2||8 - 3||+ 1||Michigan|
|1991||9 - 2||8 - 3||+ 1||Michigan|
|1946||5 - 2 - 1||4 - 2 - 2||+ 0.5||Michigan|
|1964||8 - 1||7 - 1||+ 0.5||Michigan|
|1966||5 - 4||4 - 4||+ 0.5||Michigan|
|1985||9 - 1 - 1||9 - 2||+ 0.5||Michigan|
|1990||8 - 3||7 - 3 - 1||+ 0.5||Michigan|
|1994||8 - 3||8 - 4||+ 0.5||Ohio State|
|1911||4 - 1 - 2||5 - 2 - 2||0||Michigan|
|1933||7 - 0||7 - 0||0||Michigan|
|1941||6 - 1||6 - 1||0||Tie|
|1952||5 - 3||5 - 3||0||Ohio State|
|1956||6 - 2||6 - 2||0||Michigan|
|1973||10 - 0||10 - 0||0||Tie|
|1977||9 - 2||9 - 2||0||Michigan|
|1980||9 - 2||9 - 2||0||Michigan|
|1982||8 - 3||8 - 3||0||Ohio State|
|1986||10 - 2||10 - 2||0||Michigan|
|2000||8 - 3||8 - 3||0||Michigan|
|2006||11 - 1||11 - 1||0||Ohio State|
|1908||4 - 2 - 1||6 - 3||- 0.5||Michigan|
|1909||5 - 1||7 - 2||- 0.5||Michigan|
|1912||4 - 2||5 - 2||- 0.5||Michigan|
|1944||8 - 1||8 - 0||- 0.5||Ohio State|
|1959||3 - 5||3 - 4 - 1||- 0.5||Michigan|
|1963||3 - 3 - 2||4 - 3 - 1||- 0.5||Ohio State|
|1976||9 - 2||9 - 1 - 1||- 0.5||Michigan|
|1998||10 - 2||10 - 1||- 0.5||Ohio State|
|1900||7 - 2||8 - 1||- 1||Tie|
|1926||6 - 1||7 - 0||- 1||Michigan|
|1928||3 - 3 - 1||4 - 2 - 1||- 1||Ohio State|
|1937||4 - 3||5 - 2||- 1||Ohio State|
|1939||5 - 2||6 - 1||- 1||Michigan|
|1942||7 - 2||8 - 1||- 1||Ohio State|
|1949||6 - 2||7 - 1 - 1||- 1||Tie|
|1950||5 - 3 - 1||6 - 2||- 1||Michigan|
|1953||5 - 3||6 - 2||- 1||Michigan|
|1960||5 - 3||6 - 2||- 1||Ohio State|
|1968||8 - 1||9 - 0||- 1||Ohio State|
|1975||8 - 1 - 2||10 - 1||- 1||Ohio State|
|1983||8 - 3||9 - 2||- 1||Michigan|
|2007||9 - 3||10 - 2||- 1||Ohio State|
|1907||4 - 1||7 - 1 - 1||- 1.5||Michigan|
|1910||3 - 0 - 2||6 - 0 - 3||- 1.5||Tie|
|1920||4 - 2||6 - 1||- 1.5||Ohio State|
|1945||6 - 3||7 - 1||- 1.5||Michigan|
|1961||6 - 2||7 - 0 - 1||- 1.5||Ohio State|
|1967||4 - 5||5 - 3||- 1.5||Ohio State|
|1919||3 - 3||5 - 1||- 2||Ohio State|
|1935||4 - 3||6 - 1||- 2||Ohio State|
|1951||3 - 5||4 - 2 - 2||- 2||Michigan|
|1957||5 - 2 - 1||8 - 1||- 2||Ohio State|
|1969||7 - 3||8 - 0||- 2||Michigan|
|1979||8 - 3||10 - 1||- 2||Ohio State|
|1984||6 - 5||8 - 3||- 2||Ohio State|
|2003||9 - 3||11 - 1||- 2||Michigan|
|2004||9 - 2||7 - 4||- 2||Ohio State|
|2005||7 - 4||9 - 2||- 2||Ohio State|
|1954||6 - 2||9 - 0||- 2.5||Ohio State|
|1965||4 - 5||6 - 2||- 2.5||Ohio State|
|2002||10 - 2||13 - 0||- 2.5||Ohio State|
|1906||3 - 1||8 - 0||- 3||Michigan|
|1936||1 - 6||4 - 3||- 3||Ohio State|
|1962||2 - 6||5 - 3||- 3||Ohio State|
|1995||8 - 4||11 - 1||- 3||Michigan|
|1958||2 - 5 - 1||5 - 1 - 2||- 3.5||Ohio State|
|1993||7 - 4||10 - 0 - 1||- 3.5||Michigan|
|1996||7 - 4||11 - 0||- 4||Michigan|
|2009||5 - 6||9 - 2||- 4||??????|
|1934||1 - 6||6 - 1||- 5||Ohio State|
|2008||3 - 8||9 - 3||- 5.5||Ohio State
Whether you think it likely or not based on this team's performance to date that we will lose at Camp Randall to Wisconsin and back home to OSU to finish 5-7 (after the last two weeks, it's hard to see any other outcome as more likely), this analysis ASSUMES THOSE LOSSES. I'm not pulling for those losses, but these stats/data points are designed to give color to where we'd be IF that comes.
Since 1900 (but not including this year), 47 coaches have begun their tenure with Big Ten teams with two losing seasons. Of those 47 coaches:
*5 (10.6%) have won even a single Big Ten title;
*5 (10.6%) have finished their tenure with even a winning record;
*2 (4.3%) have won at least one Big Ten title AND finished with a winning record; and
*0 have won national titles.
In chronological order, these coaches are:
-James M. "Jimmy" Phelan, Purdue (1922-1929) (32-22, no titles)
-Robert A. "Bob" Higgins, Penn State (1930-1948) (91-57-11, no titles, although PSU was playing a JV schedule at the time)
-John Pont, Indiana (1965-1972) (31-51, one Big Ten title)
-Hayden Fry, Iowa (1979-1998) (143-89, three Big Ten titles)
-Gary Barnett, Northwestern (1992-1998) (36-44-1, two Big Ten titles)
-Ron Turner, Illinois (1997-2004) (35-57, one Big Ten title)
-Glen Mason, Minnesota (1997-2006) (64-57, no titles)
-Kirk Ferentz, Iowa (1999-2008) (70-53, two Big Ten titles
17% of coaches who have begun with back-to-back losing seasons have attained EITHER a winning record in their tenure OR a conference championship. This data, to me, begs the following question: why does conventional wisdom still err toward giving these coaches more time? It appears to me that in a large number of cases, this poor of a start has doomed a coach more than it's been a precursor to a successful turnaround.
I understand that the change from Lloyd's offense to RichRod's is massive, there are plenty of explanations for the bad record, etc., etc., but just LOOK at that list. At this point, based on well over 1,000 seasons of Big Ten Football that have been played, history would indicate that the absolute BEST we could hope for would be three Big Ten titles in a 20 year span from a guy who got run out of town for losing (Fry). Ferentz may end up better than that, but I will also note another common theme - these coaches all came into situations in which the team was a losing team BEFORE they came. Michigan 2007 won the Capital One Bowl.
When RichRod was hired, if you'd been told the ceiling is a Big Ten Title once every five years, that a national title was out of the question, and that there's closer to a 90% chance that he wouldn't finish with a winning record or ever win a Big Ten Title at Michigan, would you back the hire?
My point isn't that we're screwed - it's that we're in truly uncharted territory if we're to stay optimistic here. Getting to where Michigan expects to be from where we're at right now just doesn't happen - once a coach starts this way, it changes the ceiling. Until this season Michigan and Ohio State were the only two schools to never have a coach begin his tenure with back-to-back losing seasons (PSU and MSU have each had it happen just once); here's hoping we stay on that list, and avoid adding to the already voluminous pile of "firsts" or "sinces" we've been attaining this year and last.
Go Blue, Beat Wisconsin and OSU!
|First Two||Total #||Total||Total||Total||Conf.|
|Indiana||Harlan O. "Pat" Page||1926-30||5||14||24||3||0|
|Indiana||Earle C. "Billy" Hayes||1931-32||3||6||14||4||0|
|Indiana||Clyde B. Smith||1948-49||4||8||27||1||0|
|Indiana||Bernie A. Crimmins||1952-53||5||13||32||0||0|
|Michigan State||Frank "Muddy" Waters||1980-81||3||10||23||0||0|
|Northwestern||Charles E. Hammett||1910-11||3||6||10||2||0|
|Northwestern||Fred J. Murphy||1914-15||5||16||16||1||0|
|Northwestern||Elmer W. McDevitt||1920-21||2||4||10||0||0|
|Penn State||Robert A. "Bob" Higgins||1930-31||19||91||57||11||0|
|Purdue||M. Frank "Bill" Horr||1910-11||3||8||11||1||0|
|Purdue||Cleo A. O'Donnell||1916-17||2||5||8||1||0|
|Purdue||James M. "Jimmy" Phelan||1922-23||8||35||22||5||0|
A Michigan football historical parallel I found interesting:
Fielding H. Yost died in 1946. The 1947 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 1947, Fritz Crisler handed the reigns to 42-year-old Benny Oosterbaan, who Crisler described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Oosterbaan proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by retiring Ron Kramer's #87 while he was still on the team. While Crisler had never had a season worse than 7-3 or finished worse than tied for 4th in the Big Ten, Oosterbaan had two losing seasons in his 11 years at the helm, as well as 6th and 8th place finishes to cap his tenure before handing off to Bump Elliott.
Glenn E. Schembechler died in 2006. The 2007 Michigan team won a New Year's Day bowl. After 2007, Lloyd Carr handed the reigns to 44-year-old Rich Rodriguez, who many described as "the best offensive mind in college football." Rodriguez proceeded to thumb his nose at Michigan tradition by ending the tradition of having season-long captains. While Carr had never had a season worse than 7-5 or finished worse than tied for 5th in the Big Ten, Rodriguez set the Michigan record for losses in his first season and then ...
Obviously the comparison is ridiculous (Oosterbaan did win a national title and 3 Big Ten titles; Crisler was the outside hire and Oosterbaan was a Michigan guy, whereas Lloyd was inside and RichRod was not), but here's hoping we're not heading for the 1950s and 1960s of Michigan Football (which included a span of 17 years with one Big Ten title from 1952-1968). I guess the bright side is that even if we are, history would indicate that this won't last forever, and that the next Bo is coming around...in 2028 or so?
First "Game" vs. Buckeyes:
Fielding H. Yost, 1901: W, 21-0
George Little, 1924: W, 16-6
Tad Wieman, 1927: W, 21-0
Harry Kipke, 1929: L, 0-7
Fritz Crisler, 1938: W, 18-0
Bennie Oosterbaan, 1948: W, 13-3
Bump Elliott, 1959: W, 23-14
Bo Schembechler, 1969: W, 24-12
Gary Moeller, 1990: W, 16-13
Lloyd Carr, 1995: W, 31-23
Rich Rodriguez, 2008: ________
Go Blue, Beat OSU!