It's unfortunate that we all had to tolerate a difficult loss Saturday on national tv against a significant rival. It seems, however, that some are taking it harder than others with the poor overall performance apparently signifying huge deficits in team effort, coaching ability (offense + defense), defensive scheme (okay, maybe...or maybe it's the players) and recruiting. That is far from an entirely comprehensive list as it seemed there were various unrelated complaints as well as irrational coaching comparisons (here's looking at you Bill Stewart and Paul Johnson). I would say enough with the ACC comparisons but I'm sure I'm biased.
Of course, it's mere weeks since we had beaten Notre Dame and were undefeated. Tate was the toast of the town (and the nation to some degree) apparently almost a Heisman Candidate. Denard was then a nice change of pace (although he wasn't allowed to throw back then) and people made posts that spoke about 9-3 being reasonably possible. Posts were made with the phrases "dare I say" and "New Year's day bowl game" in the same damn sentence. Indeed, on Friday there were posts predicting blowouts for Michigan. I guess if you type it enough then hope becomes reality?
So here we are following a loss to a highly rated and credible Penn State team. This follows much closer losses to the litte brother and at Iowa. Thematically, I see turnovers (5 vs. Iowa; 4 vs. PSU) and inconsistent play as the culprits. That and a serious inability to get the defense off the field. But really, are these issues including the defensive lapses coaching incompetency or is the cause of this wildly inconsistent play the fact that +/- 70 pecent of the players are freshmen and sophomores who lack the maturity, physical/mental toughness and deep season experience needed to win consistently at this level. The fact is this team has proven they can compete with good to very good teams (ND, little brother, Iowa) but they are very young and will have huge variance in performance. It seems the hot early start and ND win got the hopes a bit crazily high; regrettably, the fall back to earth (and reasonable 7-5 predictions) is painful and eliciting a lot of debateably considered analysis.
This leads me to consider the concept of "rational thought" and whether or not it can truly coexist with the "loyal Michigan fanbase". If fan is short for "fanatic" and someone who is marked by an extreme and unreasoning enthusiasm then we're not off to much of a good start. I will apologize to the ivory tower crowd on my take on philosophical matters (I'm a therapist) but I will go with the modern view on rationalism meaning here a reliance on reason as the best guide for belief or action. I wonder if, in the heat of the game and for about the next 36 hours, "rational thought" is suspended. When we win it's 9-3, OSU dominantion, wine and Rose Bowls and when we lose apparently Paul Johnson, Brian Kelly or hell most anyone else coaching should have been hired.
I'm nobody's apologist but perhaps some rational thought looks at the young players we have, an incoming top 10-15 class, an expectation of freshman/sophomore variance (Tate's a freshman and while Denard has perfected running the throwing is not so much), improvement in defensive performance statistically (hell it couldn't have been worse), Barwis, and it being GERG's first year (the guy is not a defensive Messiah...) and you can reasonably expect some improvement over the rest of the year with decreased performance variance next year (meaning here more wins). Variance does not equal regression people.
Michigan is not about to lose all our remaining games...but we sure as hell were not winning 10 after the ND game either. Perhaps rational thought can win out but I'm not holding out too much hope.
Best wishes to all of you.