The Usual

Submitted by Brian on November 29th, 2010 at 12:07 PM

11/27/2010 – Michigan 7, Ohio State 37 – 7-5, 3-5 Big Ten


Detroit News

The Ohio State game has the power to make whatever happens in it seem like Michigan's season in microcosm, and so the overriding theme of the 2010 season is looking up at the scoreboard at halftime to see Michigan on pace for about 500 yards and about twenty points. Michigan had 238 yards and seven points this time around and instead of a competitive game we got the usual.

The last couple weeks the "loss will cause me to" bit has been "repeat I expected 7-5." That kind of mantra to keep your boiling rage under control has been necessary and less than effective as Michigan has fallen behind massively against good opponents and shown little ability to get up, causing the chattering class to rush to their keyboards so they can point out the lack of progress after Saturday. In the Game-as-microcosm sense, it's true. Last year Michigan was an opponent that got Tresselballed to death. This year they weren't good enough to pose the vague threat. They made Tresselball into things like 98 yard touchdown runs (save an iffy holding call after ninety of those yards) and 85 yard kickoff return TDs.

In the larger scheme it's not. In the nonconference Michigan traded Eastern Michigan for UConn, who may have lost to Temple but is also a game away from the Big East title, and traded home for road against Notre Dame. The conference record of the two teams not on their Big Ten schedule (excluding the game between the two) is 4-10. Last year it was 7-7. They got two more wins. Last year their average yardage differential excluding the Baby Seal U game was –57 yards. Even if you hack out this year's most lopsided game against Bowling Green—something that's not fair to the 2010 team because of the schedule upgrade—this year they're +18. That's a huge swing.

And yet. Today even the most insanely patient Michigan fan feels zo unzatisfied.

This is the point where some sort of post from the summer that took a cold-eyed look at what Michigan had and what it would have in 2011 and set a baseline—what's that? It's Some Sort of Post From The Summer's music!

I know it's my role as the crazy fan blogger to demand the head of the coach when he fails to live up to my crazy expectations, but if we're seriously talking about an 8-4 regular season "not being enough" for Rodriguez to get a year four Michigan should have just fired him already. If this ends up being an 8-4 team the Mathlete's luck chart will have Michigan considerably on the happy side of the ledger. …

"This is still Michigan" is demonstrably false. Even in year three this remains a desperately young team with major holes in the secondary and no upperclass quarterbacks. Rodriguez's responsibility for the state of the state of the roster is limited to the absence of Terrelle Pryor, or any marginally acceptable option at quarterback from his first two months on the job, and a couple of would-be-sophomores Rodriguez did not add to the end of his first full recruiting class. You can wave your hands and say "Michigan! Rabble rabble rabble!" all you want but if you dressed these guys up like Generic State University people would expect them to go .500. …

My personal measuring stick for Rodriguez: yardage parity and a winning record. I would be displeased with 7-6 but willing to grit my teeth and give Rodriguez a shot in 2011, when he will return both specialists, every starter on offense save Steve Schilling and all but three starters on defense. That will seem exceptionally kind to many, I know, but literally no coach in the country could take the leftovers after Mallett's transfer and do anything other than flail as Rodriguez has.

2008 was a complete waste. To me, this is year two for Rodriguez, and 2011 is when I expect rubber to meet road.

That was before Troy Woolfolk blew up and Vlad Emilien and Justin Turner lit out. (While not having Emilien around is grating apparently Michigan just came up craps with Turner, who is heavily rumored to be out at West Virginia and headed DII; since this was a guy with an OSU offer it was not apparent this would happen.)

There are arguments that 7-5 is not good enough because this was the most unsatisfying 7-5 possible, and, yes, it was. Michigan's record in close games is 3-0, 4-0 if you want to count the Purdue game (UMass does not register since it featured an unrecovered onside kick). They fell behind massively in every loss and never had a chance to drive for even a tie in the second half of any. I've said before that if Rodriguez is broomed and Harbaugh installed here my reaction will be "meh" quickly followed by "what about Denard?" Because this is Michigan football Rodriguez will take Clemson to the BCS four times, but even that certainty doesn't dull the shine on Harbaugh.

But it's pretty hard for me to go back to what I thought before the season, see what it is, see what we got, and think Rodriguez didn't put himself in position for Put Up Or Shut Up 2011. Barely.

Non-Bullets of Something Or Other

Well, that was horrible. Awful refereeing plagued that game. There were the two inexplicable OSU personal fouls after TDs—the first I thought was for the dive but that was a legit dive with two guys coming at him—the iffy penalty on the 98-yarder, a terrible holding call on Steve Schilling, and a non-review of what seemed clearly like a non-interception followed immediately by a review of an OSU non-fumble that screwed Michigan both incompetent and competent.

Also, Michigan got called for "encroachment" before the snap, on offense. Can that even happen? WTF?

Well, that was horrible. Darryl Stonum emo 2010:


Well, that was horrible. Mmmm Seth Brokhuizen rugby punt. Kicker Nick Sheridan? Kicker Nick Sheridan. Not his fault he's seeing the field. Save us Justin Meram. Anyone.

Well, that was horrible. Michigan got what seemed like its first procedure penalties of the year from someone other than Taylor Lewan when Je'Ron Stokes and Jeremy Jackson picked up five-yard penalties. Jackson's wiped out a 30-yard gain and led to Michigan's only three and out of the first half.

Well, that was horrible. At least we won the "don't look retarded" game. 2-0, baby!

Well, that was horrible. Further adventures in hating Michigan fans:


Anyone from the student body is invited to say something to Koger's face, by the way. He apologized, but probably shouldn't have.

Well, that was horrible. God… Roy Roundtree… not all of those were easy, but… arrrrrrgh.

BONUS psychoanalysis note: since everyone does it I might as well offer a protip so the evaluations are less annoying. If you're going to respond to something I say by discovering the way in which my brain is broken, you should say "excessively skeptical of using emotion in decisions and too fond of numbers."

Wind-down, offseason, bowl, etc. note: I am burned out. I'm not making any promises about UFRing this game. I might, I might not. This week is going to be relatively light and then we'll start talking about bowl stuff and whatnot, with an eye towards what will or will not happen with Rodriguez. I'll have something up this afternoon about what I've got, which isn't definitive at all but exists.



November 29th, 2010 at 1:45 PM ^

I'm just saying if they really weren't that good to begin with, and our coach's talent evaluation is to be believed over the rankings, you can have multiple blue-chippers washing out.
<br>You name a couple D-linemen and ONE linebacker, all of which may be true. But that's not even a starting lineup no more a roster with depth. As for the secondary...what have you seen that says any of them have shown talent, so far? They don't have to be Woodson freshmen (who actually struggled for a half a season)...but who's having a Hall freshman year? You can see guys who struggle because of youth, but they give you flashes of potential. You're seeing flashes I don't. YMMV.
<br>I'm sure OSU defenders weren't what they are now when they were freshmen. But how many of those guys (or OSU's current freshmen who aren't playing) do you think Tressel would trade for one of our guys? Do you think he'd swap his last two defensive classes (or total) for ours? Age is one think. But talent is another.


November 29th, 2010 at 2:33 PM ^

You can't call out freshmen CBs for their poor level of play, since they are not supposed to be playing.

There are precisely zero freshmen CBs or safeties starting in the top 9 teams in the latest BCS poll (I only went to 9 teams in my analysis). There are precisely 2 starting true sophomore in that group of teams, here's a taste:

  • Auburn (3 Sr, 1 Jr)
  • Oregon (1 Sr, 2 Jr, 1 RS So)
  • TCU (4 Sr, 1 Jr - 4-2-5)
  • Stanford (1 Sr, 3 Jr)
  • Wiscy (2 Sr, 2 Jr)
  • Ohio St. (3 Sr., 1 So)
  • Michigan St. (2 Sr., 1 Jr, 1 So)
  • Arkansas (2 Sr, 1 Jr, 1 So)
  • Oklahoma (2 Sr, 1 Jr, 1 So)

So stop with the on field performance argument. It's moot. Our D was going to be epic levels of terrible no matter who was the coach. There is no comparable for this D. BCS teams simply don't line up this level of experience in their secondary/defense. Ever. Charles Woodson was surrounded by upperclassmen. Oh, and he's arguably the greatest CB to ever play college football.

If you want to bitch about RR, bitch about the mistakes he made that led to this roster situation. But stop making judgements about the freshmen who are forced to be on the field way before they reasonably should be even sniffing the field. It's not fair to them,


November 29th, 2010 at 2:57 PM ^

quit using logic and stats to come up with an excuses.


actually, i'm hoping one of the incoming frosh wins a CB job.  that would mean he's better than the current frosh...and we could move woolfolk to FS.

i also hope we use primarily a 4-2-5 to take advantage of the personnel strengths of this team.  i don't like the prospects of finding 3 good LBs out of our bunch for next year (not to mention their backups).


November 29th, 2010 at 4:21 PM ^

But I double dog dare you to find a team in the history of ever that was championship caliber and started more than one freshman in the secondary.

And you have a Leon Hall level recruit on the team right now. He's a freshmen named Cullen Christian. Both Leon and Cullen were 4 stars by Rivals. Cullen was the 8th ranked CB, Leon was the 10th ranked CB. They are the same recruit.

And if Cullen (or one of the other freshmen) were surrounded by upper classmen, I'm sure they'd look a heck of a lot better.

Leave the freshmen alone. Feel free to pick on RR all you want, he's a man, he's 40.


November 29th, 2010 at 3:15 PM ^

First of all, I named more than one LB, since MRob or Cam Gordon (or both) will be a linebacker as soon as next year. 

Secondly, I didn't name any DT's because we only really play one DT and both guys who man that spot are upperclassmen.  This is actually how it's supposed to be. 

If you don't see any promise in the CB's, that's fine.  I've seen good play from Avery and Talbott this year, albeit sprinkled in among average and below average play.  Guess what, they're young.  Do you know how good Troy Woolfolk was as a freshman?  Neither do I.  Maybe Courtney Avery isn't Leon Hall or Charles Woodson, but he might be Troy Woolfolk or better, and I'm OK with that.  Same goes for Talbott or Cullen Christian. 


November 29th, 2010 at 3:39 PM ^

Troy Woolfolk was a good CB and safety as a junior, so I'm making an educated guess.  I don't know if he would have been All-Big Ten, but I bet he is next fall.  And I bet guys like Martin and Roh are as well, maybe even Demens. 

My point is you can't say things like "our guys aren't that good as true freshmen so they won't be good ever" because it's silly and makes you look unsmart. 


November 29th, 2010 at 12:42 PM ^

While what you say is true, we also flipped MSU to home and got waxed instead of OT, and before you scream "they were 11-1!!!", flipped Iowa home too and took a close game to a not close game with Iowa being a much worse team than last year. (A win vs. Illinois switched home too, but at least that went from blowout to win). And apparently changing game locales turns OSU into 2008 proportions (I'm surprised there's no comment on 7 points by the overwhelming strength of the team in the game that is the measuring stick). In your psychoanalysis line, I think you're going from the guy who always used rational stats to override people's out of control emotions, to now having your emotions of being right all long clouding the evidence that's amassing before you.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:09 PM ^

Good point.  It's hard for me to say with any certainty that, as an entire team, we're better this year.  The biggest improvement is clearly in the offense, which went from Tate running for his life behind a bad offensive line and alternating great plays with head-shaking ones, to one that consistently churned out yards, but struggled scoring points against good defenses.  The best part about our 2010 offense is that for the most part it doesn't rely on making something out of nothing and turning broken plays into big gains the way last year's offense did. 

On the other hand, our defense reached a completely new and unimagineable level of suck, and we couldn't kick a field goal if our lives depended on it.  All in all, it's hard to say whether we've improved or just treaded water.


November 29th, 2010 at 12:44 PM ^

Don't we have to also account for Purdue being awful, Iowa looking fairly poor, Penn State having a walkon and injury problems on D, Notre Dame losing their QB, and the Big East being, well, horrid?


Losing Woolfolk was devastating, but our schedule looks alot tougher on paper than I think it actually was.  Yes Sparty was probably a little better than expected, but ND, UCONN, PSU, Iowa, and Purdue were probably all a little worse. 


Then again, I openly admit I"m probably biased and want Harbaugh, probably equally because of what Rich has done here and because of what Harbaugh has done at Stanford.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:31 PM ^

The Big East has become complete garbage.  It's becoming pretty apparent that we look much more like a solid Big East team, like WVU, than a good Big Ten team.  I think there is something to Rich playing a weaker schedule in order to get to the BCS games he got to. 


It could very well be like a Boise State type of thing.  We all know Boise can win against a good team when there is time to prepare, but winning against those good teams week in and week out is different,   It's starting to look like WVU with White and Slaton did more of the former than the latter.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:51 PM ^

No reason Harbaugh would immediately switch to a different system; some adapt to their players. Rich is probably not going to Minnesota, but even if he did, the players wouldn't be able to transfer to another Big Ten school unless they want to all pay their own way. And they wouldn't all leave, and those that did probably wouldn't follow Rich. There's nothing to say another coach couldn't keep some or all of them. Not everyone leaves every time there's a coaching change.
<br>There are reasons why a change might be bad. But you don't have to make shit up to find them.


November 29th, 2010 at 6:10 PM ^

happen here because players (1) didn't feel the system was right for them, (2) have no alligence to the new guy because they came here to play for someone else (3) for what ever reason. 

I think that Denard is ideal for this offense and he knows it.  In another year he will be even better.  If I were him, I would want to play in a spread.

You are right, not everyone leaves when there is a coaching change.  As whith the Carr/RR change, some of them stay and become problems because they don't buy into the new guy and it takes 1 or 2 years to flush them out of the system.

I think that we would be so much farther ahead to give RR his 4 or 5 seasons to show what he can do with all of his guys and with juniors and seniors.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:55 PM ^

I don't really understand the notion that Denard and Devin (or Tate who was recruited by Harbaugh) will transfer.  Harbaugh would be the best thing to happen to Denard.  He would never have had a chance to try QB under Harbaugh, but now he could get that chance.  If Denard wants to play QB in the NFL, Harbaugh is much more likely to make that happen than Rich Rod.  Devin is much more like Andrew Luck than Denard Robinson.  He won't leave.


I don 't really see the transition to prostyle as being nearly as bad as going to the spread.  I fail to see how having a QB who can run is a detriment to the prostyle offense.  In fact, Harbaugh runs the read option with Andrew Luck.  The wideouts and OL will be fine in a prostyle offense.  I think alot of the people who are "worried about the transition" are either shellshocked into believing that every transition must be like Rich's horrible one or are worried that we could lose out on someone as talented and likable as Denard, though as I said, I actually don't think he'd leave.


Also, I seriously doubt, after his record in the Big Ten, that Minnesota would even look at Rich Rod.  I


November 29th, 2010 at 2:23 PM ^

UMASS >> baby Seal U (tho that shouldn't really matter too much)

ND on road, new coach, frosh 5-star QB = ND at home, experienced Qb but LOL FRONTBUTT COACH who can't put a decent defense together (In fact, ND ended up with a better record this year despite losing Crist to injury, one could argue they were better!)

BGSU > Eastern (not by much tho)

UCONN > Western (not by much tho, Western too was overhyped last year, but in general Big East even this year > MAC opponent)

Indiana on road > Indiana at home (IU would have ended up better had they not had key injuries...)

Iowa at home this year <= Iowa on road last year (Iowa is considerably less lucky, but about the same team talent-wise, tho having it at home this year should have helped but it didnt)

MSU this year >> MSU last year

PSU this year << PSU last year (tho a night game at Happy valley may have been enough to overcome this decided dropoff...certianly looked like PSU was hyped up on their crowd and UM was affected by it)

Purdue this year << Purdue last year

Illinois this year > Illinois last year (let's not kid ourselves here, Illinois was craptastic last year and a better team overall this year despite losing Juice Williams at QB)

OSU this year > OSU last year

Wisky this year >> Wisky last year

I think taken altogether, the only win which was easier compared to last year was Purdue...but everything else was either comparable or harder. You could argue some measure of luck attributed to UM getting to 7 instead of 5, but I think overall the schedule was tougher. By how much, we can certainly debate. 

Feel free to dispute any of my above comparisons.


November 29th, 2010 at 2:42 PM ^

Though the ND game was clearly won by us when they had to put in their backups and they immediately threw a pick.  I think the Iowa game was alot easier than last year because of the switch in venue and the time of game.  I also don't think that MSU last year is that much more difficult than this year.  Remember we had them at home and we also returned alot too.


The game that made me switch from ardent Rich Rod supporter to pro Harbaugh was the PSU game.  You have to include the fact that we were coming off of a bye week and they were starting a walkon. 


November 29th, 2010 at 4:10 PM ^

I agree the ND game was won when Crist went out...but I wouldn't necessarily think UM loses even if Crist played the whole game. They might have been slightly easier to beat for that reason, I suppose, and that could be changed on my list to a "<=" 

However I still think Iowa wasn't a lot easier.. Should have been somewhat easier this year being at home, yes, but ultimately this year they were a good team with bad luck, whereas last year they were a good team with good luck. That bad luck *almost* manifested itself against UM, if not for a missed tackle or two in the 4th quarter. So the difference between losing to them by 10 or by 2 isn't that big, IMO, considering UM was expected to lose to them anyway.

PSU -we were coming off a bye but the Big 10 conference has a losing record for teams coming off the bye, so I wouldn't read too much into that. McGlovin is clearly a decent QB - walkon or not. Not trying to make excuses, UM should have still beaten PSU...but I think environment played a major major role in that game, it clearly affected the offense early and I think it gave a shaky PSU offense momentum that the D could never  recover from (*sigh*)

I don't mind people who want Harbaugh in, as long as you're aware that nothing's guaranteed going that route. I feel kinda like Brian this point I wouldn't be upset if Harbaugh was brought in, but at the same time I think RR (tentatively) deserves another year, all thing's considered. 


November 29th, 2010 at 11:22 PM ^

However, I think that Harbaugh offers us a better future going forward.  He seems like our version of Steve Spurrier.  He completely loves Michigan and understands everything there is about its history.  He hates our rivals the way I do and most people here do.


I don't think Harbaugh guarantees us MNC's or Big Ten Titles.  However, I do think that he's much more flexible than Rich is.  I think Rich is very much a system guy while Harbaugh seems like he'd be able to work with what we have, work on fundamentals and execution, and build on what he has. 


Like I said, I was an ardent Rich Rod supporter, but the PSU game turned me.  I remember thinking that the game was a perfect chance to show that he has the ablity to beat a solid Big Ten team and he got worked over.  It wasn't the defense that turned me off as much as the offenses inability to score on an average Big Ten team when we needed it.  The WIsconsin and OSU games only validated that belief for me. 



November 29th, 2010 at 12:45 PM ^

Re: officiating.  To correct the 2 calls that came after OSU touchdowns--they were not "personal fouls," they were "unsportsmanlike conduct."  PF involves contact or attempted contact with an opposing player, UC involves words or gestures only.  The importance of the distinction is that a player is ejected after 2 personal fouls, but may continue playing after any number of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.  The penalties were called because the OSU players made an "O" sign to the crowd, and refs seem to be instructed that any unusual hand gesture should draw a penalty flag.

Regarding the encroachment penalty against Michigan--yes, it is called "encroachment" if an offensive player other than the center is in or beyond the neutral zone when the center has his hands on the ball.  The referee screwed up the signal, though--he was supposed to use the spinning-hands "illegal procedure" signal, not the hands-on-hips "offside" signal.  Little-known fact:  "encroachment" can only be called on the offense, and "offside" can only be called on the defense (or a team kicking off), but they are essentially the same thing.


November 29th, 2010 at 3:14 PM ^

The Big Ten calls the unsportsmanlike conduct stuff much tighter than most other conferences.  It's one of those things not explicitly stated in the rule book--nothing says "no unusual hand signs"--but every conference has different officiating cultures, and this is how the Big Ten always calls games.

You can certainly point to other examples of non-Big Ten teams such as Notre Dame being surprised by a flag following a hand-signal celebration of a touchdown.


November 29th, 2010 at 3:09 PM ^

my understanding is that encroachment is when you "touch" an opposing player across the LOS before the snap.

and WRs often look down the LOS and get concurrence from the ref for a legal stance before the snap.  the ref was way out of line on that one.  i've never seen that call.  ever.


November 29th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

No, I have never seen that call either, but it is right there in the rule book--Rule 2-18-1:

"After the ball is ready for play, encroachment occurs when an offensive player is in or beyond the neutral zone after the snapper touches or simulates (hand[s] at or below his knees) touching the ball before thre snap (Exception:  When the ball is put in play, the snapper is not encroaching when he is in the neutral zone)."

The ref screwed up the signal--he should have used the illegal procedure signal--but the call is right there in the book.


November 29th, 2010 at 12:46 PM ^

1.  The fact that we have not won against a ranked opponent is ridiculous.  You must win games like this in the big ten.  Wins over Indiana, Purdue and Illinois are good but those teams are perennial bottom half teams.  Michigan is better than that.  

2.  I realize we have a lot of youth on defense, but I have to believe that RR has done the unit a great disservice.  He clearly was not engaged enough with the D in the last three years and we're paying for it.  It has to get better.  I expected a loss given the play of that unit, but not a whipping.  At a minimum, the ENTIRE defensive coaching staff has to be replaced.  David Brandon must insist on this.  Further, he must insist that the new hires be cleared through him.  His way or we pay the buyout and it's the highway for RR.  The episode during the Penn State game when RR had to step in front of Greg Robinson in the huddle to fire up the defense sealed that deal for me.

3.  While I think momentum and rhythm play into any offensive gameplan,  I've heard RR rely on that far too much as an excuse over the course of his tenure.  The penalties that cause a loss of momentum are stupid.  I'm tired of hearing about that crap. That comes down to discipline and coaching.  It's a big concern (at least for me.).

4.  Along those same lines, the best teams fight through momentum shifts and penalties.  Michigan hasn't done that.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:15 PM ^

I could be wrong but Wisconsin comeback win, were they ranked? Uconn should of been ranked they won the Big L(east) Which TCU will now have a crack at winning for years.  Your second point I don't quite get. You agree on youth.  So if Michigan only lost by ten you would of been understandable for the defense?  They played there asses off, the 1st quarter hands down I think best all season.  Michigan gets 10 points on the first two drives, it could of been a different game.  Execution does play a role, you control the tempo of the game.  Michigan couldn't get that going.  Penalties and drops accumulated for that.  Never saw quit in the team.  I enjoyed seeing the shoving and jossling between the players.  Means this years team of soph, juniors are going to be successful next time around! Keep the faith Go Blue.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:44 PM ^

Wisconsin in the first year and Notre Dame in the second were of RR's tenure we both ranked.  however these were basically preseason rankings and in both cases the teams finished unranked and with shitty records (7-6 for Wisc and 6-6 for ND since they refused a bowl).  UConnw as hovering at 26 or 27 preseason.  However preseason rankings mean shit.

We've never beaten anyone who finished the season ranked.


November 29th, 2010 at 3:18 PM ^

c'mon.  RR HAD to focus on the O when he arrived.  new scheme, young players; new QB each year, etc.  that's what he's best at.  that's why the O improved as quickly as it did, even with all these young players.  it was clearly the best "bang for your buck" decision at the time.

he's had to hope the D coaches could get the best out of its players.  obviously that didn't happen, but overriding that is the youth of the D. 

if you're willing to fire RR over his D coaching decisions, i can't argue with that.  those were his responsibility.  but i'm willing to give him one more year.  that way, the youth issue should be mitigated.


November 29th, 2010 at 4:40 PM ^

The D was also supposed to be the strength of the team when he arrived.  My guess is that RR felt that he could afford to focus almost exclusively on the O, which was going to require a lot of work to rebuild, while the D took care of itself.