The Unfortunate Pivot Point

Submitted by M Ascending on January 9th, 2018 at 7:59 AM

Now that the season is officially over I sat down this morning to review and ruminate over the first three years of the Harbaugh regime.  After twisting things around various ways in my head, I came upon what I call the Unfortunate Pivot Point.  The Pivot Point may seem obvious to many, but just how significant it is has been was not so self-evident.

In his first two seasons, leading up to last year's Iowa game, Harbaugh's record was 19-3, in contention for the CFP, with a 3 and 3 record against OSU, MSU, and PSU -- that record should have been 4 and 2, but for the FUBAR punt against Staee -- and a dominating bowl win over Florida.

Beginning with last year's Iowa game, Michigan's record is 9 and 8 -- repeat 9 AND 8 -- including 0 and 4 against the big three rivals, and two bowl game losses.  This is incredible to me.  Did anyone think it imaginable that in his third year at the helm Harbaugh would post numbers like this?  

This is not intended as a direct criticism of Harbaugh.  But I am looking for thoughts to explain what has happened since the Pivot Point game?  Could Speight's injury against Iowa be the main or sole reason we have been so bad since that game?  Yes, we all know about the struggles at QB and OL.  But, how can a team with one of the top three defenses in the country be so damn mediocre for that long a stretch?  It just seems that something snapped after the Iowa game and I'm not sure what it was.  Thoughts and comments are welcome.




January 9th, 2018 at 2:02 PM ^

QB inexperience???  Speight was the returning starter.  JOK started what - close to 20 games at Houston.

Oline - rarely if ever are you going to return all 5 starters.  You're almost always going to be replacing some starters with guys who have little experience.


Pepto Bismol

January 9th, 2018 at 1:38 PM ^

2016 was better than 2015 statistically. That's what I said, and that's what it was.

I didn't say it was a "step forward".  I didn't say it was a gigantic improvement.  I didn't say it was positively or negatively impacted by strength of schedule.  It wasn't even the crux of my post, which you have admitted you agree with.  You have latched on to a relatively trivial point in relation to the greater theme, but a point that I've already proven correct nonetheless, even by way of S&P+ which you apparently don't even understand.

I don't really know why you're still going after it, but you're wrong here. Maybe take a personal day. Regroup. Go get laid or something.




Pepto Bismol

January 9th, 2018 at 11:48 AM ^

Cody White is a generic 3-star Freshman WR from Walled Lake who caught 35 passes for 490 yards and 4 TDs.  Each of those numbers would have led Michigan.  More catches and TDs than McKeon.  More yards than Perry.  And he was a distant 3rd on MSU.

Do you think White just has some inate ability to "get open" that our truckload of 4 & 5-star receivers just don't have?

How about Danny Davis of Wisconsin?  A true Freshman in a run-heavy offense.  He had 3 TDs in the bowl game alone, which would have tied for the season lead at Michigan, and his 418 yards receiving dwarfs any of our receivers output.  Does he just know how to "get open"?

Where can we find some of these "get open" guys?  Should we ask Jedd Fisch?  He at least knows what they look like.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:11 AM ^

The 2017 team, which had almost entirely new starters and was one of the youngest in the country with major issues at RT and QB exacerbated by injury, wasn't as good as the 2016 team, which played better than and by all rights beat Ohio State and then was a special teams missed tackle away from beating FSU minus our best 2 players. What you did is circled two samples and removed their context in order to suggest a conclusion other than the consensus hypothesis.

Throwing out most of our data to suggest a mystically simple answer is the opposite of empiricism and well beneath the level of intellectual rigor expected from somebody posting on this board as long as you have. I will leave your thread up unless you get negged to oblivion for it but I'm frankly incredibly disappointed this weak shit would come from somebody who's been around here this long.

M Ascending

January 9th, 2018 at 8:22 AM ^

No.  What I did was look at a game in which the team collapsed against a supposedly much weaker opponent and our starting QB went down with injury.  Then I simply noted the team's record before and after that event, and wondered IF that game signaled some change in the team's psyche.  Maybe yes; maybe no.  But, I did not suggest "a mystically simple answer."  I asked for others' opinions on the point.  It's a legitimate question, and to threaten to pull the thread just because you don't think my point is valid is utterly ridiculous.  You can tell me why you think I'm wrong, as many people are doing; but this board should be a marketplace of ideas -- and I posted mine respectfully.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:36 AM ^

Change in the team's psyche?  Half the dudes who seriously played in 2016 aren't even on the team anymore.  There doesn't always have to be a narrative.  The ball didn't bounce our way in the big moments in the tough games during that stretch.  It happens, man.


January 9th, 2018 at 9:29 AM ^

I agree the 16 and 17 teams are different cases, but my concern probably reflects more directly on the coaching staff.....  The inability to close out games.  The same talent plays in all 4 quarters.  Top teams have that killer instinct about them.  This has to change quickly before it becomes the signature of the program.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:38 AM ^

Considering that the majority of the starters this season didn't play in that Iowa game last year, I'd say it has zero to do with changing the team's psyche.

I do think you are expressing a shift in the collective psyche of the fanbase and trying to ascribe it to the team proper, which I don't think is reasonable.


January 9th, 2018 at 12:30 PM ^

We also played two top ten teams to finish out the 2016 season. Shocking that we didn't do as well against top ten teams as we did against Rutgers and Maryland. After the FSU game, this was almost a completely different team, so I'm not sure what value there is in comparing. 


January 9th, 2018 at 9:41 AM ^

no way this OP should be taken down.  For the most part, although there was a little bit of a crack in the shield after the Outback Bowl, the only acceptable narrative on this Board is "youth, injuries, Hoke, and poor offensive play."  If you look beyond that or attempt any form of analysis that does not begin and end with this fan speak, you are tagged as some form of conspiracy theorist. 

Truth is, we played inexplicably poorly that night against Iowa against a far inferior team and it came out of the blue.  I don't know if that was a "pivot point," however.  If, and I reiterate if, Harbaugh had the life sucked out of him, either temporarily or otherwise, I think it was likely the OSU game two weeks later that did it.  That was a huge game, one of the biggest regular season games I can remember in the history of college football, and the game was taken from the team by a combination of officiating and devastating errors.  I also think Harbaugh was more than a little dumfounded that his position as to the officiating was universally (outside of this fan base) regarded as whining by a lot of people who watched the game and should have agreed with him.

The team did not play with the same focus or effort against FSU.  It is understandable, and yes, we were down Peppers and Butt, but at least one of the FSU touchdowns and the kick return late in the fourth were effort and focus related when effort and focus had become the hallmarks of Harbaugh coached teams that we had come to know for the better part of two years.

Was there a pivot point?  I don't know.  Perhaps the job of building Michigan into a contender is even harder than Harbaugh anticipated.  Perhaps he has been coaching/recruiting/promoting etc. at a rate that is simply unsustainable.  Perhaps he does not allow his offensive coordinators to function as autonomously at they need to.  Perhaps they simply are not good college coordinators.  Do we have too many coordinators?  Perhaps the team is tiring late in the season due to the work ethic required all season long, if the marathon practices are accurate.  Is the offense too complicated?  Do we have the horses to run an offense that largely depends on every player winning their individual battle?  Will we have them?

All of these things are interesting to consider.  I think a lot of questions will be answered next year.  Did we simply have a bad season, plagued by injuries?  That is very possible.  Is there something more significant and systemic at play.  It remains to be seen.  If anything, we know that next year is going to be a very interesting year.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:59 AM ^…

"It's natural for your human brain to try to replace randomness with patterns that don't exist, and favor whichever pattern best serves your interests. If you haven't learned to keep those instincts in check this deep into adulthood, don't be surprised when your contributions to the marketplace of ideas are treated like they don't have any value."

True then and still true today.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:12 AM ^

There's lies, damn lies, and splitting Harbaugh's record at the Iowa game.

This season was tough. But it isn't a pivot point of the program. We literally were expected to win 8 games. And that was with a returning starter at QB. 

We can compare to Georgia all we want, but since we won't bend our moral compass that way, we won't get some of those players. And that's ok. Harbaugh will do it the right way.



January 9th, 2018 at 8:15 AM ^

We weren't bad since 2016 Iowa. 

We were bad in THAT game.

We were good against Ohio St. who played good as well.

We were good against Florida St. who played good as well.


All three of those games came down to the last second...Also, who gives a shit about non-playoff, non-Rose Bowl, bowl games? The good thing is we got the extra practice time. 


January 9th, 2018 at 8:52 AM ^

Maybe I worded it wrong, but the results of an outback bowl have no bearing on my view of this team. An exhibition ,1 month removed from the actual football season is meaningless both in terms of that season, and the following one. Nothing on the line, no B1G title. No championship. Why does it matter in context?

Of course the players care. Things like draft stock, last game with your brothers representing your team, your school. Last competitive football game for 9 months! Those things matter, and I'm always grateful to watch those seniors for the last time.

Go watch the last 2 minutes of the Florida State game last year. Speight (who you all loathe) led us back from a 20-6 deficit, only for the special teams to let up a stupid, awkward, mis-tackle induced kick return inside Michigan territory. Then FSU scores a TD over Jourdan Lewis of all people, who for the first time in 2 years was blanketing a WR and didn't have the chance to make a play on the ball. Just to make things wonkier, Michigan blocks the EP and returns it to the house to make it a 1 point game with 36 seconds left. We fell short in a weird, classic of a game between two blue blood, Top 10ish programs. Why does that reflect so poorly on the 2016 team, or Harbaugh? 



January 9th, 2018 at 9:30 AM ^

  1. Don't lump me in with this group who "loathes" Speight. I really like Wilton Speight, wish him nothing but the best, wish he could have been a star at Michigan, and feel bad that he was in the unfortunate position of being the QB behind our bad OLine.
  2. I'm not bashing on Harbaugh. I am 100% on board with Seth's position that this team was who we thought they were -- a 9-3/8-4 team that is super young and lacks elite talent on the OLine. 
  3. I watched the FSU game. It was highly entertaining, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and wish we would have won. A team with Jabrill Peppers and Jake Butt not going out in uncerimonious fashion probably turns the tide in that game. 
  4. Saying that a bowl game has no bearing on anything... call me old fashioned but I just don't agree with that position. I support players who want to sit out to protect their draft status. I respect players who don't do that. But I think that the opportunity to wear your schools colors is enough reason to run out there and play as hard as possible, to cheer for your team as much as possible, regardless of whether or not the outcome means you get to move on to the next stage (a CFP playoff birth, or your conference championship, respectively). You play to win the game. 
  5. I don't mean this to necessarily be an attack against you. Like I said, I agreed with the first part of your post. I just really don't like the whole "CFP/Rose Bowl or nothing matters" mentality. Every game is an opportunity to get better and if that's what we care about most, getting better, then we should look for every opportunity to do so and not marginalize the game's signifiance b/c it's not the outcome we wanted at the beginning of the year.



January 9th, 2018 at 10:48 AM ^

B1G conference game against Rutgers is more important than the Orange Bowl against Florida St, and that is a fact. But losing that game or this past one to South Carolina is some referendum on the direction of the program? 

It's not that I am marginalizing the game because we lost. It's that most fans put way too much stock into bowl wins/losses. Without true stakes on the line, things like Florida's NFL caliber secondary wilts under basic double moves from Rudock/Chesson. The only reason I care that we lost that game to S. Carolina is that this board and the fan base has been insufferably negative since. And tbh, the Rose Bowl doesn't mean jack when it isn't a playoff game either. I just lumped it in cause that's sacrilegious to say. 



January 9th, 2018 at 8:16 AM ^

The pivot point is the game against SC. Win that game set yourself up strong for a tough upcoming schedule. By the bowl game no one is young and inexperienced anymore. So instead we have an epic melt down (epic back to back game meltdowns) in a game that should have easily been won. I don't see Jim firing his o-staff and Enos is a meh hire. This schedule is miserable next year, 8-4 is likely and everyone saying playoffs... Playoffs???!!! I want to be optimistic but I'm a realist sorry.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:32 AM ^

IF Shea is granted immediate eligibility. Our entire offense, minus Cole and Kugler, is returning. Ruiz played well this year and should be a good center next year. We have many tackles to choose from to replace Cole. What our team needed to be successful was a big-time QB. We got that with the Patterson transfer. We had a playoff-caliber defense this year, and everyone returns minus Hurst and McCray, who was sometimes a liability on passing downs. Solomon, Mone, Lo-Marsh, and Dwumfour should all make an impact next year, based on what we’ve heard from the coaches. Next year we have a championship-caliber team. I’ve got us handily beating Notre Dame next year and riding that victory to an 11-1 season.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:59 AM ^

You had me except the part about Michigan having many tackles to replace Cole.  If Michigan has one major concern going into 2018, it's OL production at the tackles.  If Grant Newsome returns and is Grant Newsome again, we can dial down the concerns on this a bit, but it's probably THE question mark that will make or break Michigan in the upcoming season.

This plus our recruiting at the position hasn't gone well thusfar for this recruiting cycle, so I do worry about whether the pipeline is getting stocked to support sustained excellence into the future.

Much has been made about Bama and Georgia showcasing all the underclassmen talent in the Championship last night, but both teams were also pretty veteran in the trenches.  Alabama's dominance over the last decade is rooted in offensive and defensive lines loaded with NFL talent.  That was the foundation of Michigan's success for decades before the past decade of ineptitude.  It's no accident that strength of this team right now is a defense that is solid on the defensive front with talent and depth (the one thing we can thank Brady Hoke for).  Harbaugh and Co. have their work cut out for them to rebuild the offensive line ranks to the same level as what we have on the defensive side.

If / when they do, Michigan will be just fine and we'll be amazed as how good whoever is under center suddenly looks.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:25 AM ^

I have lived through Carr taking NFL loaded top 5 teams and finishing with 3 to 5 losses.  I lived through the  RR and Hoke years full losing. This past year simply doesn't bother me that much.  10-3, 10-3, 8-5 just doesn't worry me.  Especially considering that Michigan was not expected to compete for anything this year anyway. Way too much was lost last year. Next year I expect more.

814 East U

January 9th, 2018 at 8:23 AM ^

Michigan has been a mid tier BIG program for over a decade. I really hope this South Carolina game is a new turning point where we finally get our shit together.

Harbaugh has been very good. Not great. He can do better and I think he will. If he can't, we can always start #GRUMORS.


January 9th, 2018 at 8:23 AM ^

Our woes begin and end with us being a young team and our offensive coaches not being imaginative in play calling.

If we as fans were to break down play calling like opposing coaching staffs do, we would easily see that the play calling was predictable.

If you want to operate like that, "you know what we're doing, you just have to stop it", the team has to be elite. We simply weren't!


January 9th, 2018 at 8:27 AM ^

Are you kidding me??? You are not criticizing Harbaugh, yet ask if anyone imagined it would be so bad? At least own the fact that you're criticizing him. And what exactly is your theory on this "pivot game"? In order for your theory to be true, something had to have changed suddenly (and then not changed back). So . . . what is it??? Did they switch from Gatorade to Powerade for the Iowa game? Swap out their surface tablets for iPads? Maybe that's the game Jay Harbaugh started constructing the offensive game plans.