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 1:04 PM ^

not sure what he did.  Thought Daryl played his ass off, catching all but one diving catch.  All this on a hurt ankle.  Are we ever going to find out about Will Hagerup.  Clearly he can punt, and kick off the ball close to the end zone.  What did he do? 


November 29th, 2010 at 1:06 PM ^

Is this offense too unreliable?  Expecting tiny players and track athletes to not fumble when hit by big, fast defenders is rather... optimistic.   We now have multiple years of turning the ball over with regularity.  This is NOT a fluke anymore. 

OSU has a 27-year-old ex-professional soccer player as their kicker.  RR didn't make having a reliable kicker a priority.  Instead, he placed his trust in an unproven walk-on kicker.  Would Tressel ever allow that to happen?  That's mismanagment right there.

Mitch Cumstein

November 29th, 2010 at 1:07 PM ^

I don't get this whole "we expected 7-5, and he met it, so he should keep his job for another year" theme.  Also, as Brian mentioned, we got to 7 wins in the ugliest way possible.  I mean, before the season I thought Minnesota would suck.  Turns out they met my expectations.  As a result, Brewster got fired, rightly so.  Just b/c two years of RR forced us into low expectations for Michigan football doesn't mean that achieving an expected record should make retaining him automatic.  By this logic, he should make sure our problems are well known before next season so that we don't expect more than 7-8 wins again.  This way he will meet expectations and keep his job.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:35 PM ^

I think you're misunderstanding the sentiment.   My personal take before the season was not a vegas style statement that  "I expect 7 wins," but rather the conditional  "I expect at least 7 wins next year or RR gets canned."  

And now that my expectations have been met, I will expect more next year, namely >9 wins.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:32 PM ^

I'm surprised by the number of MGO points you have, because you don't seem to have read this post or the hundreds of others it's built upon. It's sot simply, "we expected 7-5, so we can't fire him." It's what were REASONABLE expectations given as much information as possible (thank you infernets) going into the season. Even then, it's not "so we should keep him." The expectations are just the start of it. It continues with, knowing he's messed up in several talked-to-death categories, it's a matter of weighing results versus reasonable expectations AND considering who would be the best coach moving forward. As Brian has said, he's for keeping him with the knowledge that some of the problems are his fault, but not all of them, coupled with what he has done right with the offense and the recycling of shit that would happen if you hired ANYBODY new at this point.

The reasoned response to this argument, also examined over and over, is that you UNDERSTAND all those factors, but still believe his errors are too egregious for him to stay and you're willing to roll the dice on brining a new guy in despite the fact the offense should take another giant leap forward next year. But you already said you don't understand, that, so ....


November 29th, 2010 at 2:48 PM ^

I can understand the "is the expectation of 7-5 reasonable" argument. It hurts to think about how far we have fallen. But, to agree with that side of the argument means that you are looking at the situation through the "Dammit we're Michigan" lense. Which is to say, you are completely out of touch with reality. We haven't been "Michigan" for a while, and it didn't start on RR's watch. Yes, the teams we have lost to and the way we have lost and the defense and the special teams....AHH it's frustrating as hell. But really-damn near everyone said "7-5" is the most likely scenario for this team. Why did they say that? Was it because RR is a bad coach? Im sure I don't have to answer that. It was likely because of all of the things we saw on the field this year. Which was most probably attributed to our youth, depth and inexperience, all of which improve next year.  For me, this is where the above argument falls apart. Since 7-5 was the expectation AND Brandon most definitely knew this was the likely outcome, he must have at least tacitly found this outcome to be satisfactory. You don't get to be in his station on life, a very successful businessman, without being able to forecast. Since I assume that he, like everybody else, saw 7-5 as the likely outcome and he allowed RR to continue on, I can then only conclude that either a.) 7-5 is acceptable given the information available before the season or b.) DB decided that he would gamble on a much better outcome.  If not either of these, why would he wait until this year? Why waste another year? He could have just as easily started the rebuilding process this season as opposed to next. Throw in the shitty luck, and lets face it when T-wolf and JT went down we were in big time trouble-not to mention Gibbons being a huge bust really handcuffed us, and I think we were probably pretty lucky to get to 7-5.

I just really am optimistic about the future of this team. Avery and Vinopal give me hope. Kovacks continues to play good football. Demens will be a beast. Martin will be back. RVB will be back. Floyd will be back. T-wolf will be back. Our whole offensive line will be back - schilling. Odoms will be back.  There are bonafide leaders on this team and you can tell they love playing for each other and for RRod. This thing could very easily take off with a few good bounces and it would most definitely take some big steps back with the firing of RR. We've already gained a little momentum in the recruiting game. We seem to have a pretty good base to build on and we've got one more shot to add some positivity and momentum for next year. Go Blue.

Mitch Cumstein

November 29th, 2010 at 3:27 PM ^

If not either of these, why would he wait until this year? Why waste another year? He could have just as easily started the rebuilding process this season as opposed to next.

If I'm not mistaken, Brandon didn't become full reign of AD until September. No matter how much you don't want a coach, you can't fire him in September. I just don't think that was ever an option.


November 29th, 2010 at 2:25 PM ^

On one level I'm sympathetic to this argument, our low expectations are an indictment of Rodriguez. It is strange, though, that prior to the season it was also a point that almost no one on the board was willing to concede. In other words, the majority of the board wasn't just predicting 7-5, they were content with it. Fast forward to today and it seems like most users could talk themselves into either keeping or firing the coach. If that's the right takeaway then we shouldn't have felt very different before the season. The psychology of a fan is strange indeed.

If we recognize the dissonance there I think it helps in evaluating whether to keep Rodriguez. If we keep him around, where do we see ourselves in a year, and separately, where do we want our program to be? With our more favorable schedule next year and the likely improvements in the offense (marginal) and defense (significant; hopefully to just kind of bad) 9 or even 10 wins seem likely. And isn't that pretty damn close where we want the program to be in an average year? If this is the expectation it would be unnecessarily retributive to let him go now. If I were Brandon I'd lean heavily towards keeping him.


November 29th, 2010 at 4:02 PM ^

Maybe I misread most of your posts but I always had you pegged as an anti-RR person. I like your post here as it makes a lot of sense. 

Over the course of the year I have went from being an adamant RR supporter to being ok if JH is brought in. I will not be upset if RR is kept but I am not going to argue with anyone who thinks he should be gone. Watching the OSU game and knowing we had 0 percent chance of winning was the lowest moment in my UofM fandom. 

I just want the program to be respectable again. If thats with RR than great, I think he is a great guy with great character. If its with JH great, he maybe more of a douche but I can handle that. 

Just please God let our football become something we can brag about again!


November 29th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

I suspect Roundtree has a broken finger or two. That's often the case when a receiver goes from sure-handed to butterfingers over the course of a week or two. OTOH, some guys really hate the cold...

Wolverine In Exile

November 29th, 2010 at 1:08 PM ^

at this point, I'm angry but resentful I was right about my preseason pick of 7-5 with a bowl win. I've tried to step back from the alcohol induced yelling on Saturday and look at this rationally:

- we lost to historically good (for their schools) Michigan St & Wisconsin teams

- we lost to Iowa and Penn St in games that were really toss-ups. Iowa @ home is probably more damaging than a night game at Penn St

- we did beat a (at this point) BCS team (UConn), but only 3 out of 8 games against bowl eligible teams

- all this was accomplished with 1 out of 5 projected secondary starters available, and our best defensive player (Mike Martin) being out for essentially 4-5 games, and a true sophomore at QB who was considered a long term project at best weeks before the season started

So what to make? If you want to damn RR, damn him for the Penn st game. If you want to praise RR, praise him for the Top 10 offense he built with a 1st year starting QB and only 1 senior on the OL. If you, as I will, still think there's enough to give him one more chance with full knowledge of his failures to this point in developing defensive depth and the inattention to special teams detail, let him coach in 2011, where's a strong possibility the incremental improvements we've seen allow for a continued improvement in the W/L record, buoyed mostly by a prolific offense. I'm willing to step up to the bar, get a strong shot of whiskey, and step out onto the street for a gun battle in 2011.

Communist Football

November 29th, 2010 at 1:36 PM ^

I hope that RR gets another year and he manages to go 9-3.  It will be hardly automatic with the 2011 schedule--ND, MSU, NW, Iowa, Illinois could all be considered toss-up games, and that's before you get to Nebraska and Ohio State--but 9-3 (in the regular season) would mean we're back to our 20-year (pre-RR) average in terms of losses per season.

The defensive staff needs to be completely overhauled, however, and I'm with Brian and everyone else who says that DB should insist on that.  I'm sure DB has seen what Ron Zook has managed to do with a new staff.


November 29th, 2010 at 2:02 PM ^

I agree that 9-3 in the regular season has to be the minimum for a "put up" year, yet  I also agree with msoccer10 above in regards to the defensive staff. If RR really thinks he has the best chance of getting 9 or more wins with his current staff, so be it. It's his ass on the line, he should get to make the call.

Wolverine In Exile

November 29th, 2010 at 2:57 PM ^

Yes, I will agree that in 2011, ND, MSU, NW, Iowa, and Illinois would all be considered toss-up games-- and that's the point. If Rodriguez is worthy, he'll pass the challenge and most if not all of those toss-ups will go in our favor, i.e. progress is being made. If he can't make the difference up in the toss-up games next year to put out a 9 or 10 win team after all's said and done, then yes, he's proven he's not fit to be Michigan's coach.


November 29th, 2010 at 2:04 PM ^

Great point about Denard. Our fan base, and the MSM even more so, seems to forget what a remarkable story Denard is. He was as much a QB last year as I was (and am). Only much, much, much faster. And with dreads.

What the staff has done with him is beyond remarkable and is deserving of more credit IMO.

Does he still make 19 year old gaffs? Yes, he makes a few too many of them. But what a revelation.

Our man broke the NCAA single season rushing record for a QB and put up over 100+ yards rushing in the 1st half vs. tOSU. tOSU had given up 100 yards rushing in a game only 3 times all year. That's retarded/denarded...

Fuzzy Dunlop

November 29th, 2010 at 2:47 PM ^

To say that we lost "toss-ups" against Penn State and Iowa (in games in which we did not have a single second-half drive with an opportunity to tie or go ahead), while ignoring that we won actual toss-ups against Illinois, Illinois and Notre Dame, as well as games against UMass and Purdue that were at least as close as the PSU and Iowa losses, paints an overly rosy picture of our season.

Simple fact is, we could not have been more fortunate in close games this year, and cannot complaint about bad breaks.  7-5 could easily have been 5-7 (or worse), and Rodriguez would have been gone already.  8-4, on the other hand, was a long way away.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:18 PM ^

Brian although I understand your position in ragards to 2011 I also have been an advocate for RR.  I also predicted 7-5 or 8-4.  However looking at the fracture in the Michigan family, for reasons both RR's and beyond RR's control I prefer that Brandon reach out and quietly investagates Harbaugh and pulls the trigger if he has RR's replacement in place.  Otherwise RR 2011 I agree.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:54 PM ^

I expect that there will still be a fracture as many here have already voiced their disdain for JH.  That is a point that program detractors always seem to miss.  If their guy gets hired, don't they know that there will still be a group of UM fans that hate the new guy and want him fired.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:59 PM ^

And in 35 yrs as an M fan, I've never seen the M family anywhere near so fractured. I'm probably a lot more simple-minded than DB, but I only see two possibilities: get Harbaugh if he'll come or give RichRod a do-or-die year. That's a real SOB of a call, too.

Is Michigan the kind of place that gives the coach the hook that quickly? There are rational reasons to think we're in position to take a decent step forward next season. Are we too chickenshit to see if RR can deliver the payoff season?

OTOH, Saturday was about as embarrassing as it gets, or at least has yet gotten -- can that happen, and not be even remotely fluky, and the current regime continue? Not too many times that can happen while we still have the cachet to have it happen on coast-to-coast TV. Harbaugh sure seems like he has the big It. He clearly makes his players better. Coaches them up. The timing might be awkward, M's and Harbaugh's schedules are a year forward or a year backward out of sync, but he might be about to get locked up for the foreseeable future, if not at Stanford then in the NFL.

The only rational thing is to accept DB's call on it, at least for 2011.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

My opinoin, for what that's worth, is to keep Rodriguez and let him make the decision on what staff changes, if any, to make. Its his ass and he knows next year is his last chance. If he feels he can make it happen with Robinson, let him live with his decisions. I think it is a big mistake to take power and responsibility from the coach.

This year went pretty much the way I expected after we lost Woolfolk, Turner and Emelien. I knew the end would be painful because I didn't think there was any chance we beat Wisconsin or OSU even before those guys left. Ending on two losses was always going to suck. I am not really that worried about the defense. It will improve just by getting older.

The things that are the most worrisome to me are the turnovers and penalties and generally stupid plays that our team is making that coaching could theoretically fix. I don't know if that is a fundamental flaw in Rodriguez. If so, he won't survive regardless of how good his offense can be.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:26 PM ^

before we all start making the blames as to who failed and to what degree, let's take a long look at ourselves first.  we all have heard 'when you point a finger of blame, there are 3 fingers pointing back at yourself'.  so when i say 'let's take a long look at ourselves', i mean so by means of drinking heavily.

Tha Quiet Storm

November 29th, 2010 at 1:28 PM ^

1 - Sagesse getting double-teamed on the backside of a running play against PSU and getting called for defensive holding.

2 - Stokes getting called for encroachment before the ball was even snapped.

I lean towards #1 because of its sheer ridiculousness and the fact that the Stokes penalty probably would've been called after the snap anyway.


November 29th, 2010 at 1:33 PM ^

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.

I get that OSU is OSU and the rival and everything, but, picking on Tressel is a waste of time.


Jim Tressel is one of the best coaches in the country and, after it's all said and done, may be the best ever at OSU.  He is 105-22 in Columbus.  In ten seasons he has dipped below 10 wins twice going 7-5 and 8-4.  6 straight conference titles, 1 national championship (5 overall career), won 11 or more games 6 times, and beaten Michigan 8 of the last 9 years.
News flash: "Tresselball" = championships and relevance, not only in the Big 10, but, nationally as well.  Something that Michigan hasn't sniffed in 3 years and counting.
There are not many teams in the country that can stack up against OSU on the field or on the sideline coaching, and UM is definitely not one of them right now.  The gap between UM and OSU started widening at the end of Carr's tenure and has continued under Rodriguez.  M used to be a top tier program and measured against OSU to determine the best of a good conference.  Now, it's not even close and we've been usurped by Iowa and MSU of all programs. Pathetic. RR, keep RR?  Doesn't matter.  'Meh' is the right response, Brian.  Either way, UM is a long way away from OSU, a long way from where UM used to be and a long way from where everyone would like them to be.  "The Usual" nationally televised bitchslap from the Buckeyes is a problem, but, not one that can be addressed right away.  We have to get back into the fight with Iowa and MSU first.
Oh gawd...hang on...I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.