So everybody thinks this team has progressed in Year 2, right?
Well, in my own inimitable way, I' going to poke a few holes in that theory.
First, the record last year at this point was 2-8; this year it's 5-5. So, at face value, that's a three-game improvement.
But let's dissect it a bit more. Now, I know offensively, there has been some improvement. I admit that can't be argued against too heavily (but I'll try). This really won't be a statistical look at things, more of a "Big Picture" look--I'll leave the numbers to the stats guys, and I invite them in.
Let's take a look at comparable games first.
Two MAC schools. Last year, they were Miami and Toledo. This year, WMU and WMU. I'll concede that this is where the improvement is most glaring. UM thrashed their two MAC opponents this year by a combined score of 76-24. So the Big Picture says we at least showed MAC schools are mere fodder for Rich Rodriguez now. Last year, of course, saw a tepid 16-6 win over Miami and the disastrous 13-10 loss to Toledo.
Now, let's look at Notre Dame,Purdue, PSU, Illinois, and Michigan State (Not necessarily in that order).
Against MSU, UM was tied last year 21-21 going into the 4th quarter. This year, the score going into the 4th was 13-6 (their favor), and they opened the 4th with a TD to go up 20-6. Until that point, they had pretty much controlled the game and UM didn't respond until there were about 6 minutes left--and we forced OT. But they won, and their team this year is far worse than last year--but last year was at UM, this year on the road, so that game is a wash--NO PROGRESS.
Penn State: Last year, against a much better PSU team (by all accounts here, too), UM led at halftime IN Happy Valley. This year in Ann Arbor, we scored first--and then they dominated the rest of the game, winning by 25--last year they wound up winning by 29. NO PROGRESS.
Purdue: Last year on their home turf, they stunned UM with a last-second trick play to win 48-42. This year they overcame a 24-10 halftime deficit to win by two in Ann Arbor, 38-36. Last year's offense scored 35 (Ododms had a punt return for TD); this year's offense scored 36. The defense stunk both games up. NO PROGRESS
Illinois: Last year in Ann Arbor, we had a lead (at the half IIRC); this year in Champaign-Urbana, we had a halftime lead--in both games they came out and destroyed us in the second half. Last year's team was better than this year; this year's Illinois team was an absolute abomination heading into the game. NO PROGRESS
Notre Dame: I'm luke warm on the progress. Last year's team was killed by turnovers, expecially by our special teams, which led to 14 points for them. This year our special teams resulted in 10 points for us, and we won a last-second thriller. Last year's defense gave up 28 points; this year's gave up 34. Last year's defense was, as mentioned, forced to defend a short field of less than 20 yards twice in the first quarter due to muffed kick returns and another short field after an offensive turnover. This year's defense was just torched all game long. But, we won, soooo--I'll grant PROGRESS here.
So the remaining games to dissect are Indiana, Iowa, and Delaware State (this year) Vs Northworstern, Wisconsin, and Utah.
Utah: Last year, a pretty solid showing against a team that went undefeated and roughed up Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Not bad. This year, Delaware State, a non BCS team that is terrible even by non BCS standards. And even though last year's team might have only beat Delaware State 42-6 instead of 63-6, NO PROGRESS.
Indiana (Northworstern): Well, last year's loss to NU was by a score of 21-14, and this year UM beat Indiana with a last-second comeback 36-33 in Ann Arbor. However, Indiana is 4-6 (1-5), and last year, Northworstern went to a bowl game. NO PROGRESS
Iowa (Wisconsin): Well, last year's team beat Wisconsin (a bowl team) with a stirring comeback. This year's team hung in there admirably against an Iowa team that is 9-1. Last year's Wisconsin game was in Ann Arbor; this year UM was on the road, at night, and it was a pretty electric atmosphere there. Lat year, WIN; this year LOSS; Iowa has not earned a ton of respect (and had virtually none from UM fans heading in--many here said UM would win and the Hawks were over rated). Due to the win last year--NO PROGRESS.
So overall, I see little to no progress. Expecially with the collapse over the last three games, which has seen UM outscored in the second half by a combined score of 75-12. And sorry, but two of those embarrassments were to teams UM should have, and needed to, beat. Not getting it done against teams you should be better than (and have more talent than), when you NEED TO, is a major no-no for a coach at Michigan, and one who has such a stellar reputation with seemingly most Michigan fans.
Rodriguez and his staff are tossing a huge bucket of pig blood on the fur coat that was UM football before he took over.