Consistency. It may the most talked about word in Michigan football right now. It's what Coach Hoke says is holding us back. It's what Coach Nussmeier says is holding us back. It's what the players say is holding us back.
They're not wrong. While many here on the board (myself included) may have underrated both Notre Dame and Utah, it's clear that we also overrated Michigan. Once again, we find our offense is unable to do anything against a good-but-not-great opponent.
In 2014, Michigan is currently ranked #94 in scoring offense. This figure is glaring not only in its ineptitude, but also because we have already faced the two worst defenses we'll see all season in App. State and Miami (NTM). We are 97th in TFLs allowed. We are #128--dead last--in turnover margin. Yes, Notre Dame and Utah are pretty good, but App. State and Miami (NTM) are terrible.
There is a glaringly bright side: Michigan's defense is #8 in the country. It appears that while our CBs aren't the lockdown, interception-machines we hoped for, they are at least adequate and are paired with a run defense that is absurdly good. Lewis and Peppers look to be capabe and constantly improving. That said, in the red zone against Notre Dame, Utah, and even ASU and NTM, TDs came far too easily. It's a very, very good defense. Good enough to win a B1G championship. It's not yet an elite defense that can cover for its offense's sins.
What's so awful about this state of affairs is that we were just here.
In 2010, Michigan finished the season ranked 107th in the country in scoring defense. We were 93rd in sacks and #109 in turnover margin. The level of incompetence of that defense is an almost perfect match for the 2014 offense. While we could argue all day about whether or not the 2010 offense was as good as our 2014 defense is, the point is that both units were very good, but not elite enough to paper over the struggles of their counterparts.
The opposite comparisons don't stop there. Rich Rod was famous for his stubborn adherence to a set of defensive principles that didn't seem to fit his players or his matchups. Brady Hoke continues to run under-center play action passes despite his O-line's inability to block the plays, even against high-pressure, blitzing opponents like Utah. Rich Rod was a revolutionary, schematic genius on offense, Hoke is a players' coach that understands old-school, championship defense. Rich Rod was almost buttery soft--crying in press conferences and summoning Josh Groban as a motivational tool; Hoke is all about MANBALL and "physicalness" or "physicality" or whatever. Rich Rod seemed oblivious to Michigan's past, Hoke seems firmly cemented to the 1990s in virtually every way. Rich Rod's teams improved a bit each year, Hoke's seem to take a step back each season.
I could go on, but the point is clear: Hoke, in coaching terms, is almost the perfect opposite of Rich Rodriguez.
I have not given up hope that this offense can turn it around and be good enough to allow this defense the chance to win a B1G Championship. I will root as hard as I can for Michigan on every down of every game we have left on the schedule. But I feel like I've seen this movie before--or rather, I've seen the opposite of this movie before--and it's hard not to feel like I already know the ending.
The only question that remains is one of consistency: will Dave Brandon judge Brady Hoke's incomptence the same way he judged Rich Rod's? Because if this season finishes it appears it is destined to do, the only logical conclusion is another "process" from the AD...or perhaps another "process" for an AD.