After the lose to Penn State on Saturday, I had a feeling that I have been through a Michigan season that was very similar to this one before.
It was not long ago that Michigan went through a season of close wins that left you with lasting memories, and close losses where you were left wondering "what if." It was not long ago that we were going through a transition on the defensive side of the football that included inconsistent Safety play. It surely was not too long ago when our best RB was battling injuries all year, and the backs that were used were forced to rush behind an always changing offensive line. My friends, we have been here before, and it was only four years ago in 2005.The Parallels Close Wins and Losses and the Overall Record
In 2005 Michigan had three wins by a FG or less (Penn State, Michigan State, and Iowa.) They also had four regular season (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Ohio State) and one bowl game lose (Nebraska), none of these by more than 7 points. It was a VERY frustrating season. The highlight of all of these being the the last second win against Penn State when Henne found Manningham for the TD to win with only seconds left. Michigan finished the season 7-5, and it could have easily been anywhere from 5-6 to 10-2 or 11-1
This is paralleled by the two already close wins, and the two excruciating losses this year. There are surely more close games to come this year, but it will be tough to top the Forcier pass to win the ND game. When this season finishes we will almost surely be looking at a team with a record anywhere from 7-6 to 9-4, but it could have easily been anywhere from 5-7 to 11-2.
-Note: In 2005 the team was still only playing 11 regular season games so to get to the 12th game you had to make a bowl game. Now, as we all know, we play 12 regular season games and to get a 13th we need a bowl birth.
Injuries in the Backfield
2005 saw the injury to Mike Hart limit him 662 yards on 150 carriers. This was extremely detrimental to the team as Kelvin Grady, Jerome Jackson, and Max Martin all had over 50 carriers on the year. In 2006 Hart returned at full health and his impact was felt.
This year we have seen both Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor battle injuries all year. We have yet to see both of them healthy for the same game. They are a great combo of size and power (Minor) and speed on the edge (Brown). Neither of them is Hart, but the combo could be effective if they ever got on the field at the same time. Next year both will be gone but the depth is there with Michael Shaw ready to pick up the load.Defensive Transition
2005 was Jim Herrmann's last year as the DC, with the transfer of power then going to Ron English. English took advantage the next year of a more experienced defense, and Michigan was one of the best defenses in the country. One of the reasons for this was Jamar Adams solidifying the SS position. The year prior Adams was locked in a rotation at the position with Englemon, Barringer, and Harrison. 2006 saw him start 12 games, and be completely unleashed by Ron English in both the passing game and as a run stopper.
2009 is Greg Robinson's first with the team, and his safety situation is worse that Herrmann's. The Williams, Kovacs, Woolfolk combo has not impressed anybody on a consistent basis. Kovacs was a beast in the State game, but looked really bad against Indiana when forced to contain the option. Woolfolk has been forced over to CB by the lack of production there, and Williams looks lost at least twice a game.Offensive Line Injuries
2005 saw a revolving door at RT and at Center. Jake Long only played 4 games. The next year Long, Kraus, and Bihl all started 13 games while Alex Mitchell and Rueben Riley started 12 games. This solidified the line and led them to being one of the best units in recent memory.
This year David Molk's injury was a killer up front. Moosman has not adjusted well at center, and the line has struggled without Molk's presence. That being said, there is time for this unit to gel if everyone can stay healthy.
Now you may ask why do I bring this up. Well, in 2006 Michigan went on to start 11-0. They had continuity on the offensive line and in the secondary. They were healthy at the RB position, and were more aggressive on defense because they had the right personnel. In 2005 the team learned how to PLAY close games, and it helped them in 2006 when they went on the WIN close games. In my mind I am looking at the rest of this season as a season fro our young players to not only learn the system, but to learn how to play competitive football. So I am preaching patients and optimism, and provide you with a reason to look beyond the fact that this is not the old Michigan offense, but it is a Michigan season that we have seen before.