I am not a coach, just an avid fan. If you don't want to read a long winded evaluation of our season by a lamen, please just skip it and don't bother slamming me
I think many people get on here and make extreme statements like "we will win 10 national championships in the next few years" or "Rodriguez is terrible and we would have won 9 or 10 games with Les Miles".
Of course, there are a number of people who try to be reasonable. I will try to make my case for what has been good or bad this year.
I think a 6-6 year would have been a good year. By that I mean, the team would be outperforming reasonable expectations based on all the factors going into the season. Those factors are the same ones Brian laid out for us in the summer. If you have followed college football closely and this blog before the season, you know how hard it would be to get a team as inexperienced as this one and make it a big time winner.
Let's look at our schedule.
Utah-a possible BCS buster with a running senior QB. They should beat us on paper. The only reason they didn't get more press preseason is that they were supposed to lose to us in their first game and that would have killed their BCS hopes. I don't think they are a great team and if we lined the same teams up against them next year, i think we would win. But not this year with only one returning starter on offense. (I don't count Butler)
Miami-we should never lose to a MAC team. Just my opinion but the recruiting difference is so vast. The only time it should maybe happen is when we are having a really down year and its the best MAC team in the conference with a bunch of seniors.
Notre Dame-They are a young team with an overated coach, but they still have a bunch of sophomores with more experience than us who were part of a great recruiting class. We played in South Bend. I thought they should beat us on paper.
Wisconsin-should have killed us on paper. Of course, they ended up being worse than we thought, but still, they have a better team than us this year.
Illinois- they are better than us this year. Juice Williams alone put this game in their favor. (I did however incorrectly pick an upset here in my preseason predictions)
Toledo- see above about MAC teams.
Penn State- We knew they'd have a decent team this year. No way we should beat them on paper.
MSU- On paper we're closer to these guys but its a rivalry we've been winning a lot. We needed a great comback last year. MSU was due and they have a pretty good runner in Ringer. MSU should win this.
Purdue- Sadly, we are close to this team on paper but by now inexperience isn't as much of a factor as the year goes on. I thought we should win this.
Minnesota- I didn't predict the turn around for them, but we should beat them. We just have more talent.
Northwestern- Tough one to predict preseason because they played us tough last year. However, its at home and we have had a season to work out the kinks. I think this is a game we should win.
OSU-Preseason these guys destroy us on paper.
Looking at that, it seemed like, imho, if we played at our players potential:
wins- Miami, Toledo, Purdue, Minnesota, Northwestern.
Loses-Utah, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois, MSU, PSU, OSU
I hoped we'd win in an upset and not get upset ourselves making a "good" season 6-6.
Now the reality.
Early in the year, things went approximately how I expected. Our offense was more inept than I had imagined and the defense not quite as good as I had hoped, but there were moments and our offense looked like it had potential if you squinted just right.
But we beat Miami like we were supposed to and even got our upset against Wisconsin. We had a two point conversion to tie Utah and outplayed Notre Dame in every department except turnovers and points. We went up by 14 over Illinois and all sorts of unrealistic ideas floated through my head. Then Juice sliced us up and we were at 2-2.
Then, Toledo happened. I blame a lot of the game on Threet being out in the second half, but I think our team should have won anyway. I don't blame our coaches as much as the players. The scheme wasn't enough of an issue that I can ignore the lack of playmaking.
MSU- Our D and our offense let us down this game. We scored 21 points but had a lot of three and outs. Either way, MSU was just a better team than us this year, imo.
Purdue- First major complaint against Rodriguez starts here. I think the 3-3-5 was a mistake. As Brian and a lot of other people on this site have stated, we need our best 4 players on the field. Also, putting Harrson or Cissoko at db/linebacker puts another better defender out there instead of Thompson. I think Rodriguez took a chance and was wrong.
Minnesota- good game for us but don't forget we had a really hard time getting in the end zone and Sheridan got lucky on a couple passes.
Northwestern- Really depressing. Also, typical for the season.
Our defense hasn't improved throughout the year the way you would hope. D played well for most of the game but gave up touchdowns on three long passes. They also gave up a lot of short passes in the second half. Our secondary is a huge disappointment and I do blame our coaches for not getting them to play better as the year went on.
Our offense looked terrible. Against NW we had our worst offensive performance since Toledo. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was the Threet-Sheridan tango. Maybe it was missing Minor. Whatever it was, the offense took a step back and its too late in the year to completely blame it on inexperience. There is some lack of talent this year compared to years past, but we still have more than NW. Imho, Rodriguez has to share blame for NW.
Our special teams has also been the same all year. Half it is great, the other disaster. We scored on a punt block, but gave them great field position on the Odoms blunder and missed a field goal.
So, how much of this season can we blame on Rodriguez? Not much, but some. I think our players significantly underperformed in a few games. Our defensive and special teams coaching are a bigger issue right now I think. Our season has gone a lot worse than I thought possible. At the beggining of the season, I would not have been surprised with a 4-8 finish, but that really was my absolute bottom.
In the end, beating OSU will be the only thing to redeem this season. Otherwise, it will be a long cold winter waiting for our team to start playing to its potential again, and hopefully, exceeding it.