that (like Alabama this year), you don't need a high powered offense to win championships.
How Good Was the 1997 Offense?
it can win you championships (Auburn 2 yrs ago).
True, but I believe Nick Fairley was as valuable in that National Championship game as Cam Newton was. He absolutely terrorized the o-line.
And Bama benefitted from having Heisman winners/finalists at tailback (Ingram and Richardson). It isn't an either/or scenario. The best team overall is going to win a title, not just the one with the best offense or defense.
Texas came tantalizingly close to beating the Tide with Gil Garrett (sp?) at QB. That Tide team was nowhere near as good (even with Julio Jones, Richardson and Greg "nothing is secret" McElroy) as this year's Tide team. Trent Richardson > Ingram in my book.
Garrett Gilbert is who you're looking for. Texas people are still furious about that game.
I guess that is a fair statement other than the OSU game. We scored 20 and had a punt return and int return for a td. With a 20-0 lead and being tasked with just burning clock and not turning the ball over they did neither in almost blowing that game in the 2nd half.
Is this a joke, average? They had Backus, Hutch, and Jansen up front, Tuman was All -American, and they had both Chris's in the backfield. This offense was way above average.
Hutchinson and Backus were freshmen so they were not the same guys that drove the bus for the 99 and 00 offenses. The 2 Chris's were warriors but they were not top flight running backs. They were Novak and Douglass.
Not saying you're wrong but they were 10th in scoring out of 11 years of Lloyd. If you feel we were 1 of the best offenses in the country during that time period you could make that case. Then you would be saying M. Debord and S. Parrish were geniuses.
as AAMICHFAN said, they executed well, especially in tight situations. I feel like they were very close to be explosive if two things could have happened: Lloyd opening it up a bit and Woodson being a bigger part of it (which I know was not realistic given his D and return duties).
60. 1997 Michigan Record: 12-0 Conference: Big Ten Best Wins: def. Ohio State (10-3) 20-14, def. Washington State (10-2) 21-16 Blemishes: none Point Differential: +208 (322-114) Only Alabama and Notre Dame produce more teams on this list than Michigan ... and yet, only one Michigan team from after 1950 makes an appearance. (The conservative offensive approaches of both Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes clearly did not impress the Est. S&P+ formula.) It is a bit unexpected, then, that the 1997 Wolverines, one of the most expected of recent champions, is the one to make it. In Lloyd Carr's third season running the show in Ann Arbor, Michigan began the season ranked 13th but managed a share of the national title with Nebraska thanks to an efficient offense and an explosive defense. How good was Michigan's defense in 1997? So good that they never gave up more than 16 points to any of the four Top 10 teams they faced. So good that they produced the first defensive Heisman winner since voters started focusing on just one side of the ball. So good that it got them on this list despite an offense that ranked just 26th in Est. S&P+. The Wolverines began the season by crushing No. 8 Colorado, 27-3 (after the game, Colorado coach Rick Neuheisel said "We have to rebuild ourselves emotionally."), spotted Notre Dame a 14-7 halftime lead before coming back to win, and held off No. 15 Iowa in Ann Arbor. In late October, Michigan was ranked fifth in the country, then made their move. They whipped Michigan State thanks to five interceptions (including this one by eventual Heisman winner Charles Woodson), then mauled No. 3 Penn State in Beaver Stadium by a 34-8 margin. Combined with Nebraska's fluky escape at Missouri, Michigan jumped to No. 1 in the AP Poll. They did nothing to earn a downgrade -- they handled No. 23 Wisconsin and No. 4 Ohio State to finish the regular season undefeated, then knocked off Ryan Leaf and No. 8 Washington State by a 21-16 margin to win the AP title.
They seem to suggest that this offense was pretty good, 26th in CFB that year. Not dominant by any stretch but certainly not a liability like some people are claiming.
That's a good article. I can't put 26th into context but they don't seem to think it is good when they use the word "despite". I'd say they thought it was average to bad. 26th can be taken a lot of different ways.
"So good that it got them on this list despite an offense that ranked just 26th in Est. S&P+
I think you're misunderstanding what they mean. This is a list of the top 100 teams based on point differential versus expected point differential (normalizing for strength of schedule). Most teams on this list have elite offenses and defenses in their given year.
1997 Michigan basically blows up that mould by having an ULTRA dominant defense and a good to very good offense. 26th in S&P+ is probably one of the better outputs from the Lloyd era, just based on his coaching style. We traditionally just ran out the clock or sat on leads late in games, didn't blow up the scoreboard unless we had to and played it very conservative most of the time. 26th suggest that we were in the top 3rd of college football offensively for that year, pretty darn good, just not elite.
expounding upon the Ultra dominant defense: 9.5 PPG, 12.5 ppg vs. top 25, and 10.2 PPG vs. top 10.
You have to remember, that at the time, there wasn't a whole lot of offensive variety in college football. The spread was in its infancy. "Air-Raid" style attacks were in its infancy. I would imagine that offensive efficiency rankings at the time had a far stronger correlation to overall talent than it does now. There weren't 25 MAC/WAC/CUSA teams lighting it up on offense, skewing the rankings.
I have to believe Neuheisel was primarily referring to his quarterback (Detmer?). I remember watching that game, and actually feeling sorry for the kid. He looked like he was terrified to take a 5 step drop, knowing that he was going to get crushed. It's probably the only time I've ever felt bad for an opposing quarterback. I hope I can feel that way again soon.
I became a true fan my freshman year in 98, so I didn't follow the team closely enough to give them a good evaluation. I would like to point out that they did go up against a guantlet of a schedule. Colorado, ND, PSU, OSU, this was when the Big Ten was probably the power conference and had many programs at their defensive peaks. Michigan's coaches clearly ran the offense as a low risk offense, so it may not be fair to evaluate how good they were (see Alabama this year, or Tresselball for recent comparisons).
On the other hand, I know that when they did need a big play they relied heavily on Charles Woodson, which tends to make me believe they didn't have the full complement of playmakers on offense we've seen in other Michigan offenses.
In the end though, what they accomplished means that they were good enough, which probably makes this a somewhat moot point.
Great line, one great receiver, one great tight end, Woodson pitching in, a committee backfield, decent quarterback, and rock-solid execution of an offense geared exactly to their strengths.
It wasn't terribly exciting stuff most of the time, but it worked.
That "O" line was one of the best ever. Hutch, Backus, Jansen, and Adami was the center.
Those guys, with the exception of Adami, were young. Their best years were ahead of them, Hutch and Backus in particular.
The 1997 offense was solid. Talent was there, but besides maybe Tuman, I'd be hard pressed to say that any position group was the best at Michigan in the 1990's. They may have been held back by Lloyd's natural tendencies and the dominance of the defense, but it was far from being spectacular.
They were better than average, but were not flashy or spectacular. Howard was a solid running back and the back ups were strong runners as well. Streets was an NFL caliber receiver and Griese, Shea, and Tuman were also NFL caliber skilled players. Add to that multiple NFL linemen and I can't see how you can call that offense "average." What it was was methodical and lacked the flashy plays.
I think most coaches would like to have an offense that "horrid."
The offensive line was phenomenal. You had three players that spent at least a decade in the NFL in Steve Hutchinson, Jon Jansen and Jeff Backus. You had a center in Zach Adami who was all-conference that year.
You had an all-american TE in Jerame Tuman. He also spent about a decade in the NFL. Aaron Shea would come in as an H-back and she spent about five years in the NFL.
At QB, you had Brian Griese, who was good enough to spend 10 years in the NFL. You also had the option of bringing in two other future NFL QBs in Scott Dreisbach and Tom Brady.
In the backfield, you had Anthony Thomas, Chris Howard and Chris Floyd. They all played at least three years in the NFL.
At WR, you had Russell Shaw and Tai Streets (who played five years in the NFL). You also would occasionally see Charles Woodson at WR.
That's a pretty remarkable amount of talent on one side of the ball. Had they been required to score 35 points a game, they certainly could have done so.
That offensive line was very young Hutch and Backus were freshmen. They were not dominant yet.
Check the stats. Tuman and Streets had less than 30 catches a piece. Streets was hurt for part of the year. There was a reason they had to bring in Woodson.
I guess the finger points directly at Debord.
You can look at this 2 ways. They were one of the lowest scoring teams of Lloyds career. Either they didn't score because they didn't have to or how did they not score with such a dominant defense setting them up for easy scores time and again?
OSU had a great defense that year, but we were overmatched in the biggest game of the year. It looked like LSU going up against Alabama.
The interesting game that year was Iowa. We were terrible in the 1st half and forced with opening it up in the 2nd half the offense did perform.
I wouldn't use the ohio game to say the offense was good. I seem to remember 20 points, of which 13 were all woodson, and 7 were Jackson throwing the ball directly to andre weathers.
Yeah, look at that lineup. They all really sucked, didn't they?
I definitely remember them managing games well: running a lot, not turning the ball over, eating time of possession some. They may not have been spectacular, but I seem to remember them not putting that awesome D in too many terrible situations. I also remember feeling supremely confident whenever that D came on the field ("Are we going to score on D this time? When's the turnover coming?", etc.). Good times.
Lloyd never used his weapons unless he had to. With the 1997 defense, he almost never had to. He mostly asked one thing of that year's offense: Don't screw it up. That isn't a recipe for putting up gawdy stats.
Edit: To add to my point, Brian Griese was not the most talented quarterback on the team that year. The reason he was the starter, in my opinion, is that Lloyd trusted him most to not screw it up. He was consistent and smart, so he didn't make many mistakes.
This is correct. And like it or not, the philososphy of letting a great defense win for you, while asking your offense to just not screw it up, still works in college football today. It may not be as much fun for fans* as running up and down the field on offense, but with a defense as good as that one was, it is a sound strategy.
*I found watching the 2010 Michigan offense as much fun as any unit ever. However, I found watching the less interesting 2011 Michigan offense playing a with a good defense win a lot of games much more fun.
When the season started, the schedule was rated as toughest in the nation. ND was trending down. Baylor was bad. Colorado was average. The only other conference team to win a bowl game was Purdue and we didn't play them. So the schedule was set up perfectly for a dominating defense and a senior QB who can manage games and play within himself.
Michigan's offense was this:
1. Run the ball with the Chris Howard, Clarence Williams and Anthony Thomas
2. Play action QB waggle to the tight end.
3. Throw mid-to long-range a few times to keep the offense honest.
I think it's fair to say there have been more talented offenses at Michigan, especially at the skill positions. But the defense and the schedule was able to take the pressure off the O, minus the Iowa comeback.
With Woodson, pretty good. Without Woodson, eeeeeeh.... Look at the 1996 offense to get an idea. No Biakabutuka. A-train was just a frosh and wasn't trusted in key situtations yet. But you did have a senior QB and upperclass backfield. The offense was efficient, especially in the redzone. One reason ppl say it was good but reined in is you know, because Lloyd. Also, Tai Streets and Tuman lit it up a bit in the rosebowl when we changed gameplan a bit. You'd be right to say the defense carried the offense. They got the ball back quickly, and often in good field position. The only game where the offense really looked great was against Penn State and you'll note that both woodson and A-train had good games then (it was late in the season and A-train was getting more carries because howard lacked speed and williams lacked...everything but speed...) Most of the season Streets hadn't really shown much except that he wasn't yet up to the Mercury Hayes, Amani Toomer level. Our best passing play that year was the bootleg to Tuman.
You could point to Iowa if you wanted to make a case for how good the offense was, but that was a strange game with nearly everything going wrong that could go wrong, and somehow we managed to put 21 points up in the second half for the comeback.
I am in the camp that the offense was average at best. The defense absolutely bailed the offense out a number of times. For example the offense all but gave the ND game away. Yet the defense stuffed ND despite them seeming to play the entire 2nd half in UM territory. I also recall Griese did not have a very good half against Iowa. And of course there were the mistakes against OSU.
When your best offensive player is a defensive player, that is not saying much for the offense. Down the stretch Woodson was by far our most dominant player on offense.
They were efficient when they needed to be. And, if I remember correctly they took care of the football. There was major concerns about the offense going into the season which was reflected in their poor preseason ranking, but they suprised alot of people with how good they were at times. Woodson lining up at receiver added a nice dimension.
Definitely agree with the OP. 1997/1998 was my senior year, and I can tell you that the students were much more excited for the defense to take the field. And, we knew it at the time and used to talk about it. It was strange, but we just kind of waited for the offense to finish up so the fun could begin.
The 1997 team scored at least 20 points in every game that year. That's something that the 2011 team can't say. There were also very few games where Michigan had to throw the ball in the fourth quarter (Iowa, Washington St.), and the offense executed perfectly in those situations. The Iowa game is actually a great example of the offense winning a game that, in most years, Michigan would have lost.
Someone sure is getting good use out of the "Overrated" vote this morning.
The offence was good enough to win 12 ganmes and a NC!
I disagree that the Iowa game was a great comeback. We absolutely lucked out in that the Iowa defenisve player commited pass interference on a five yard route on 3rd and I believe 15. If we had to punt, our offense was ill equiped to drive the field in 2 minutes. To go undefeated you have to be good and lucky. Against Iowa we were lucky. UM turned the ball over 3 times and gave up multiple big plays on defense. It is not like we lit the 4th quarter up. It was pretty much the defense stoning Iowa for the entire 2nd half. With the exception of the last drive I doubt they had three first downs?
Not that I am bagging on the offense. I thought Carr did a great job realizing what he had and getting the most out of it. The team reminded me of the Parcell's coached Giants teams of the late 80ties. The forumla was control the clock, minimie mistakes, and a dominant defense to bail you out of trouble.
Felt like iowa usually does That game was honestly not as memorable though and im gonna go with an ok offense with an amazing defense. It wasnt a great offense by any means, but good teams find a way. Tim dwight.. White lightnin. Havent heard that name in forever. Damn im getting old.
I agree with you about the pass interference on Tai Streets. However, Iowa was kind of lucky themselves. 17 of their 24 points were scored thanks to special teams disasters on our part. Their second touchdown was thanks to a Griese interception that was returned to the 1 yard line. Their third touchdown was Tim Dwight's punt return for a score where the ref missed a block in the back. Their field goal was set up thanks to Dwight returning a kickoff 60 something yards to our 25 yard line.
We outgained Iowa in total offense 390 yards to 186. Griese's interceptions made that game closer than what it should have really been.
The offence was good enough to win 12 ganmes and a NC!
It think Michigan perfected 5 plays that year, mostly out of an offset I-formation:
1. The QB waggle play with Griese to TE Tuman about eleventy billion times that year.
2. A middle post pass to Charles Woodson for a big gain or 6
3. FB Chris Floyd on a 36 tackle trap
4. TB Chris Howard 41 outside pitch
5. Screen pass to Aaron Shea in the right flat.
Sometimes Marcus Knight made a nice snare here or there, and there were some nice screen passes to TB Chris Howard, but that's pretty much it.
Most opponents knew all this was coming. I mean, how could they not? In terms of offensive tactics, every Michigan game was a carbon copy of the previous one. Despite this, Michigan made a lot of defenses looks surprised.
I agree that the offense was good enough to get the job done. That is obvious by the results. The 97 defense affected the strategy of the offense for the most part. However, I don't think the offense was as good as some seem to think. It was an average offense for most of the year. Had the offense been above average, a few of the wins that year would have been blowouts based on how the defense played. Instead, they were tight, 97 Michigan Defense style wins.
I never understood how teams did not see the PA TE Waggle coming!!! We seemed to run it every third play from what I remember.
I loved that team, and they will always be my favorite team for what they accomplished and how they did it with defense. But I don't think the offense was that great, just solid.
I think part of the difficulty in judging the '97 offense is, that was a very up-and-down unit. Consider: the '97 offense dominated against Colorado, Penn State, and a couple of cupcake teams (Baylor and IU). But the '97 offense struggled against ND (socring just 21 points and committing numerous turnovers), Ohio (scoring only 7 points and failing to put away the game late despite multiple opportunities), MSU (scoring just 23 points despite 6 takeaways), and even a couple inferior opponents, like Northwestern (a sloppy 23 points) and Minnesota (just 24 points against an awful team (3-9 finish, 1-7 Big Ten). Then there were games like Iowa and WSU, where the offense was terrible early but came on strong at the end to win.
There is no question that team had loads of offensive talent--especially on the offensive line and in the backfield. But the only real good wide receiver on that team was Streets, who played through injuries for most of the year, and Woodson, who was a primarily defensive player. Chris Howard, the opening day tailback, was also hurt late in the season. It was not an offense that struck fear into the hearts of its opponents. It is difficult to criticize that team when they went 12-0, but keep in mind that the offense almost gave away two games (ND and Iowa), and in several others the offense was just kinda there while the defense destroyed the opponents.
The offense was competent, the defense was excellent, and one of the most spectacular seasons a defensive player has ever had elevated the whole thing to an undefeated season and a MNC. And we dodged a couple of early bullets.
Meh. They were a liability in a few games (ND, MSU, OSU) and they had some very forgettable games against teams like Iowa (good yardage but 3 turnovers), Minnesota, and Nortwestern. They had good games against Indiana, Colorado, and Wisky and excellent games against Baylor and Penn State. They were mediocre as hell in the Rose Bowl too until the fourth quarter.
It's funny how having a superb defense changes your perspective on the offense. When you don't need to score more than 20 points to win a game, you can punt 7 times and not feel bad about the offense. But when you are the 2010 Michigan team and you have to drive 88 yards for a touchdown every single time that you have the ball, every failure is magnified.
I think horrid is a little too harsh of a word.
If you want an example of a dominant defense carrying a horrid offense to a national title, I think 2002 Ohio State is a better example. In their toughest games, they beat Michigan 14-9, Illinois 23-16 in overtime, Purdue 10-6, Penn State 13-7, Wisconsin 19-14, Northwestern 24-16 and Cincinnati 23-19.
Our 97 offense was a little better. The Notre Dame game, we couldn't go 3 plays without fumbling. The MSU game was due to insanely conservative playcalling. For instance, after Woodson's Superman interception, Carr called 3 straight plays up the middle for 6 yards and then we missed a field goal. I can only think of a handful of times where Griese threw the ball at all. The Ohio State game was very much like Alabama/LSU's regular season game this year. Dominating defenses minus the points scored because of turnovers. I do remember being surprised that Washington State's defense held us to 21 points in the Rose Bowl, however.
Repeated use of words like "horrid" and "sucked" make a point that was just untrue. The offense in '97 wasn't either. The offense in '08? THAT was horrid. Was it maybe an average offense, and not a truly great, or even very good one? Quite possibly. But you can't frame the argument as stating that something was that bad, and when people say it wasn't, have them try and prove it was one of the all time greats. No one claimed that. It was a good, conservative offense that played to the strengths of the team, and that offense.
The Michigan State game was the perfect example. Not too long into the game, you knew MSU had exactly 0 chance of scoring without trickeration (they scored on a fake FG), and we weren't falling for that twice. They could have played 40 more quarters, and they weren't scoring. A lot of the games were like that. They had some not so great games, like ND, but they also had ones like Wisconsin where when they needed to, they scored. I wouldn't confuse it with '99 or '00 Michigan, but it wasn't a disaster.
"It was a good, conservative offense that played to the strengths of the team, and that offense."
Exactly. That is the bottom line. And even with that mindset, the offense could still pleasently surprise you at times. Judgment Day in Happy Valley goes without saying. And Griese throwing those touchdown bombs in the Rose Bowl, I remember turning to my dad and saying, "I didn't know our offense could do that."
I remember that offense well. Granted, Griese threw bombs to Tai Streets against Wash St -- but otherwise it was pretty much a field position, grind it out Offense. Offense line was solid, the skill players descent (ie Howard).
What everybody remembers about 97 was that you couldn't wait for that Defense to take the field, to f*ck the other team up real nice, and to score defensive touchdowns.
They always seemed to convert a 3rd down when needed. Great offensive line, and reliable play-makers
The National Championship year was my senior year, so I have some decent perspective on how the offense was perceived at the time.
Obviously, we all thought that we had the best defense in the country (and we did, by far). We also had some great special teams that year, and not just Woodson.
As to the offense, I would say that they were a 6 of 10, putting them at just above average for a BCL-level (yes, pre-BCS, but you know what I mean) team. That offense was still better than 75% of the teams playing in D1 in 1997. They were just not flashy. More often than not, they picked up big 3rd downs, and they didn't really stall out for more than 1 quarter of any game. At the time, I never really remember being frustrated by them, and I was fairly confident in their abilities to score when needed.
So, above average to good, but not great.
This was an offense that could move the ball just enough to pin teams back where they had little hope of scoring on our dominant defense.
This was an offense that could score just enough so other teams couldn't keep up against our dominant defense.
This was an offense that didn't make mistakes, but could capitalize on the mistakes of our opponents.
They were good enough, but make no mistake: we won the national championship because of our defense, first and foremost.
No doubt that the D carried this team but Griese threw 6 picks all season to 18 TDs. His decision making ability was so good he got drafted in the third round.
C. Howard, C. Williams, A-Train and C. Floyd also game ample options to run the ball and kept our running game fresh behind a stellar offensive line.
A heathly dose of C. Woodson on offense never hurt either...
That year's offense was perfect for the style Carr wanted to run - it was all about keeping the game short by running the ball (Anthony Thomas was a freshman) behind a dominant line (Hutchinson, Jansen, and Backus) and short passing (Jerame Tuman was a huge safety net for Griese) and letting the defense keep teams off the field (that rushing defense was amazing, and Woodson shut down half the field). Their big weakness was at receiver, where Streets and Knight were fine but nothing special.
So no, the offense wasn't great, but the numbers did it a bit of disservice. It didn't need to score much to stay in games, and Carr was definitely not going to air it out if he didn't need to.
The problem with comparing the '97 offense with Carr's other offenses is that it didn't need to score as many points as those teams did. All of his other offenses ultimately did not score enough to win every game. The '97 offense did, and usually it scored enough to win comfortably. If we had found ourselves in a bunch of shootout games, we would have put up more numbers, but there was usually not much need.
Take the Minnesota game from that year. We beat a bad (3-9) Gopher team 24-3. Could we have scored more? Probably, but in the fourth quarter there was no urgency to do so. We could sit on the ball and bleed the clock. A lot of games that year were like that. When you outscore your opposition by 17 points per game, you're getting it done on both sides of the ball.
Woodson. If that team had Butch Wolfolk or Ty Wheatley at running back with a Derick Alexander or Desmond Howard at receiver, the offensive play calling probably would have been more aggressive leading to more points. Let the stallions run. The line was very good, the QB played smart and had just enough arm to get the job done, but their best playmaker was on the defense. Chris Howard would break off a good run and always get caught from behind. They played as a team and got it done during crunch time. The end result worked for me even if they were a top RB or wide out away from greatness.
Tai Streets was a playmaker, but he played with broken/dislocated fingers during the regular season that limited him. In the Rose Bowl he was healthy and hauled in the two bombs.