Bo and Woody against the Top Ten: RR likely to surpass them both?

Submitted by harmon40 on September 15th, 2009 at 9:35 AM

I was recently looking at Bo's career numbers and just had to marvel anew at his dominance of the B10, and his consistently successful teams.  A few things I noticed about Bo's 20-year tenure at Michigan:

*Bo never lost more than one game in the B10 until his 11th season at Michigan
*Bo only lost multiple games in the B10 four times in 20 seasons
*He finished outside the Top 20 only once
*He finished outside the Top 10 only 4 times
*He finished in the Top 5 seven times
*He finished lower than 2nd place in the B10 only 4 times
*Of course, there is the well known and very rare winning record against Woody Hayes

Here is a question though: does anyone know Bo's record against Top Ten teams? 

I have tried to find this info via Google and have come up empty.  However, I seem to remember that Bo's record against Top Tens was not very good, even apart from his well-known failures in bowl games (5-12 overrall record).  

Searching for Bo's record vs. Top Tens, I stumbled across this article regarding OSU's chronic and long-standing difficulties against Top Tens, going all the way back to Woody:

This made me wonder...given that Bo is part of Woody's coaching tree, is there a reason that both men struggled against the best competition?  Is it possible that both of them were master recruiters who got the best talent, then prepared and drilled relentlessly, then overwhelmed teams with inferior talent by sheer, brute force? 

Hey, no complaints about sheer, brute force here.  This is football, after all.  However, you can't typically go to the Rose Bowl and overwhelm USC with your superior level of talent.  When talent and preparation are equal, creativity, game planning, and adjustments come into play.

If this is true, then perhaps Rich Rod is the perfect man to lead Michigan football over the top, making it into more than a very good and storied program that wins significantly more than it loses.  Maybe it is under a coach like him that Michigan becomes feared again, for this simple reason: over time, the challenge of facing Michigan won't be simply that their players are more talented and better prepared.  It will be that, plus that fact that opposing D coordinators won't have any idea what Michigan is about to do next. 

Imagine facing all that frightening talent, channeled through an unpredictable system with virtually limitless options.  Will the QB run?  Will he throw short?  Will he throw long?  Will he hand it to a slot receiver?  Who do we double cover?  How can I prepare my defense to react effectively to all the deception, counters, reverses, etc.?

This team's offense is frightening right now.  Imagine what it will be when Tate has more experience, when true game-breakers are recruited at RB and WR, and when the system is fully, 100% installed.  Can you imagine it when all the starters on both sides of the ball are juniors and seniors?  

This isn't going to be merely a pretty good team with a storied tradition and cool uniforms.  This is going to be an aggressive threshing machine that rips off people's arms and legs.  People are going to fear Michigan again, not just respect them--all the way down to Columbus, the lair of the Hideous Minions of Evil and their Supreme Commander, The Sweater-Vested One.

As it should be!




September 15th, 2009 at 10:02 AM ^

"This team's offense is frightening right now. Imagine what it will be when Tate has more experience, when true game-breakers are recruited at RB and WR, and when the system is fully, 100% installed. Can you imagine it when all the starters on both sides of the ball are juniors and seniors?"

I think that Tate Forcier is like a tinier version of Tim Tebow. He'll have four national championships, though, so Tebow is never going to be able to talk trash.

J.W. Wells Co.

September 15th, 2009 at 10:28 AM ^

Bo's Record vs. the Top Ten:

TOTAL: 16-18-1

Currently, I believe Michigan is two games below .500 all-time against top-10 teams, so that gives you an idea of how Bo stacked up against the rest of the program's history.

The program is something like 30 games above .500 all-time in games against ranked opponents (but remember that the AP only ranked the top 10 for a long time, and then only the top 20 for a long time).


1969: 2-2
(W: Purdue-9, OSU-1; L: Missouri-9, USC-5)

1972: 1-1
(W: UCLA-6; L: OSU-9)

1973: 0-0-1
(T: OSU-1)

1974: 0-1
(L: OSU-4)

1975: 1-2
(W: Missouri-5; L: OSU-1, Oklahoma-3)

1976: 1-1
(W: OSU-8; L: USC-3)

1977: 2-0
(W: Texas A&M-5, OSU-4)

1978: 0-1
(L: USC-3)

1979: 0-2
(L: Notre Dame-9, OSU-2)

1980: 1-1
(W: OSU-5; L: Notre Dame-8)

1981: 1-0
(W: Notre Dame-1)

1983: 1-2
(W: OSU-10; L: Illinois-9, Auburn-3)

1984: 1-1
(W: MiamiFLA-1; L: BYU-1)

1985: 1-1
(W: Nebraska-8; L: Iowa-1)

1986: 2-1
(W: Iowa-8, OSU-7; L: Arizona State-7)

1988: 1-1
(W: USC-5; L: MiamaFLA-1)

1989: 1-1
(W: Illinois-8; L: Notre Dame-1)


September 15th, 2009 at 12:38 PM ^

These numbers say a lot about the disparity in college football pre-scholarship limitation days. The only ranked Big 10 team Bo would face was OSU. How many ranked Big 10 teams will Rich Rod face this year? Two? Maybe three or four? Tack on ND and a bowl opponent and you're playing five or six ranked opponents in one season.

Just goes to show how the Rich Rod doubters who want to hold him up next to the standard of Bo and decide he'll never measure up have no comprehension of the changing landscape of college football.

J.W. Wells Co.

September 15th, 2009 at 12:52 PM ^

Just to clarify:

Bo's record that I posted above only mentions top 10 teams. Usually there was at least one, usually two, other Big Ten teams on the schedule that were ranked, with Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Illinois all having their heydays once in a while. And in Bo's day it was uncommon not to have a ranked (if not top 10) non-conference regular-season opponent, even before the ND series resumed in 1978.

But maybe you meant that Michigan would likely face two top *10* teams in the Big Ten this year.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:33 PM ^

Hmmm...take out the bowl games and Bo was 14-11-1 against Top Tens, including 3-4-1 against #1's.

The 3-4-1 isn't bad, not against top-ranked teams. When you look at the 4 losses, Michigan didn't get killed in any of those games:

*Ave margin of defeat: 3.75 pts

*Should have won against Miami in '88, they were up 30-14 with 7 minutes left (painful, my senior year)

*Should have won against ND in '89, but they kicked to the Rocket, got burned twice and lost by 5

*'85 Iowa game was a low-scoring defensive battle, 12-10

*No memory of the '75 game with OSU, which they lost 21-14

I know, I know, a loss is a loss, period. My point here is merely that it's not as if Bo was outclassed in those games...if he doesn't kick to Rocket in '89 and if we recover an onside kick in '88, Bo easily could have been 5-2-1 against #1's in non-bowl action, a record that any coach would envy.

Nothing demoralizes like debunking one of your own points...


September 15th, 2009 at 10:20 AM ^

You don't think that we have "true game breakers" at RB and WR? Hemmingway and Stonum were top 100 players, Grady (a noted bust) was a 5 star recruit.

We have 4 and 5 star talent at all the skill positions.

It's been discussed here that Bo's (and then Lloyd's) method of using simple game planning and superior talent won't work anymore. Top programs don't have 120 scholarship athletes, hoarding all of the talent. The playing field has been leveled, and it requires innovative and continuously evolving coaching to win.

I liked the beginning of your post where there was research and you were making an argument. The end was a little too rah rah rah, and you lost your objectivity.

I think RR has the ability to pass them both, but let's remember that 3 weeks ago we would have all been ecstatic at an 8-4 season. Now we're projecting a MNC in 2 years. Let's appreciate what he's done and not get ahead of ourselves.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:51 PM ^

I have been expecting at least 9-3 since the spring game.

Kudos to the OP on this thread. The reason RR was hired was to bring UM into that elite group that beats other top ten teams more than they lose. I loved Bo, but UM has been too predictable since he first took over the team in 1969. With the talent gap referenced by the OP, Bo was able to say "here we come, what are you going to do about it" and waltz through the Big Ten for years.

As the information age and scholarship limits changed the landscape, it became more and more difficult to steamroll opponents. Now, unpredictable playcalling is required if a team wants to be truly elite. RR is doing just that.

RR will take UM to heights they haven't seen since the 1940's.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:59 PM ^

that's exactly what I meant. I'm not an X's and O's guy, but even last year when the offense wasn't working I could see that his system was going to be fun to watch when properly staffed.

I love all the misdirection, deception, frightening speed, etc. How would you like to be a D coordinator and be trying to prepare for Michigan right now? It seems to me that that would be a very stressful job.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:54 PM ^

not yet the Percy Harvin-type "holy-crap-how-on-earth-are-we-going-to-stop-that-guy" kind of fear-inducing monsters who inhabit the nightmares of opposing D coordinators. Assuming Denard stays at QB, that is.

Maybe Stonum's been said that he has disappointed to date, but that return--wow.

I think Brian has mentioned that there is still a stud RB in FL that we are hoping for...

Sorry about the rah-rah. But...isn't it OK to lose objectivity when talking about the HME?


September 17th, 2009 at 11:51 AM ^

1. I see what you're saying about having shifty, 6 foot nothing, Percy Harvins around. I was just thinking about other game breakers that we've had in other variations (see anyone sporting a 1 jersey).

One could also argue that Breaston would have flourished in this offense. There is a line where we just delve into semantics, I'm not sure where it is, but at this point I'm assuming it's somewhere behind me.

2. And I wasn't trying to dock you on the rah-rah. I normally see diaries falling into 2 categories: researched and not.

The researched ones are almost always interesting and bring up good points for discussion. The diaries not researched are pretty much opinion pieces. These are usually hit or miss, with large variations on either side of the spectrum. I guess I was just surprised with where you ended the diary based on how it started.

I do appreciate you taking the time to put this together, and it has obviously sparked some discussion that has brought up some other good points and information.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:08 AM ^

I'm not sure that a .545 record (not counting ties) against top ten teams is as bad a thing as that article you linked to seems to believe. [Great photo of Hayes there.] You'd really need to compare that against other programs. Playing top ten teams is by definition tough, especially later in the season when the rankings are earned and not based on little or nothing. Hitting .600 is extremely rare, I'll bet.

One thing that needs to be stated is what rankings are being used: those from the end of the season or at the time of the game?

J.W. Wells Co.

September 15th, 2009 at 11:16 AM ^

I believe that MICHIGAN is 63-65 all-time against the top 10 (also with some ties), worse than Woody's record. That's including Bo's 16-18-1 and Lloyd's ridiculous run of 9 straight wins at the beginning of his career.

So if a program as storied as Michigan's is just under .500 against the top 10 and is the all-time leader in win percentage at .740, I would think hitting .600 against the top 10 would be absolutely phenomenal.

All of the great coaches in the present day have had their share of losses in big games. A program can hit a few big wins in a row, but that can't be sustained for any substantial period of time, especially now.

These days, the top 10 teams are still really tough, but with scholarship reductions and better parity, the non-top-10 games on the schedule are much tougher and can wear down a team throughout the season and make beating top-10 opponents even more difficult.


September 15th, 2009 at 12:56 PM ^

Let's pretend for a moment that the rankings actually identify the ten best teams in the country. Then pretty much any game is at best a tossup and .500 is very good, because you yourself are not always going to be in the top ten when you play them. So that Columbus Dispatch writer's lament is even more moronic than it appeared to be at first glance, because Hayes' .500 record after 1969 is probably also quite decent.

I started writing my original comment before you had posted Bo's record, but his .471 is not bad especially when one factors in the Pac 8/10's partial home field advantage in the Rose Bowl for any of the California teams.


September 15th, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

those Rose Bowls are *away* games, with 75-80% of the attendees cheering for the Pac-Ten. So you're playing a top ten opponent in front of a hostile crowd. Anything over 50% is an accomplishment.

I always thought this was Bo's reason for concentrating on the Big Ten Championship at the primary goal; and treating the Bowl trip as the rewrd for the players.


September 15th, 2009 at 7:41 PM ^ would be good to know who the Top Ten all-time coaches are vs. Top Tens and how Bo's winning percentage compares with theirs.

Where does one go to find that kind of information?


September 15th, 2009 at 11:22 AM ^

I wouldn't nominate Rodriguez for sainthood just yet. I was as excited by Saturday's victory as anyone, but a narrow victory against a suspect Notre Dame team does not set a trend.

J.W. Wells Co.

September 15th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

Let's not underrate ND this year. Jimmah played great, they have NFL talent at wideout (probably the best two receivers M will see all year), an offensive line that pretty much made Graham a non-factor, and a running back who looks like he may have broken out in that game. The only thing suspect about that team was its defense against a pretty flashy and unpredictable offense, and that defense shut out Nevada the week before. They're a solid 9-win team at least. If the bounces go for them, they could beat Southern Cal and make it 11 wins.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:47 AM ^

The Irish came into this game ranked 18th (AP) and 20th (USA Today/Coaches), reflecting doubt that they can consistently perform up to the level that one would expect from the talent they have. I agree they have the upside potential of 9 or more wins, and if they actually get there it will make Michigan's achievement all the more impressive. Then again, they also have the potential to under-perform, as they've been doing most seasons since Lou Holtz left. That's all I really mean by calling them "suspect."


September 15th, 2009 at 12:44 PM ^

He's never done it and they're at 7 straight losses. The Michigan game is making a comeback now that it is played every year [I personally suspect this is part of a secret plan to open resistant ND alumni up to the idea of a move into the Big Ten in 2016], and last week's epic will intensify that, but USC is still, for now, the sweetest win for alumni. You just can't lose to them every single year and expect to keep your job.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:47 AM ^

I'd just like to point out Rich did coach before this and last year. He did well, doing many of the things mentioned except for the giant talent. Lots of come from behind bowl victories against higher ranked, more talented teams. There is a precedent for Rod being a good coach and doing the sorts of competitive-edge granting things mentioned here.


September 15th, 2009 at 2:08 PM ^

I think the point of the article is to get ahead of ourselves. Since we have seen what our team is capable of NOW, we can start speculating about how good things can be in the future. If we can only look back and at the present, what fun is that? Really what's the point? The limitless possibilities of the unknown future is what makes follwing a team most enjoyable. Great article. Go Blue!


September 15th, 2009 at 9:10 PM ^

Makes sense. Ties pull you up if you're below .500 and down if you're above .500 (at .500 they have no effect). But they need to be a large percentage of your total to have much of an effect. Bo with only one out of 35 still comes out at .471, and Woody drops a couple of thousandths with three out of 47.


September 15th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

RichRod's offense is suppose to thrive with a talent disadvantage as evidence by him taking WVU (West Virginia????) and turned it into a powerhouse. Imagine what he can do with people wanting to come to the school.

The King of Belch

September 15th, 2009 at 9:21 PM ^

A GREAT source of info is Also, as a lot of you know, a press guide from previous seasons has the score or every game ever played. is great to pick up things like wins/losses all time; wins/losses for whatever time period you want, and records vs any team.

I suggest stassen for anyone who is researching a post that would detail records, percentages and stuff.

I don't think they have records vs ranked teams, though.


September 15th, 2009 at 11:26 PM ^

Woody had a great line: "To hell with exciting. I'd rather be drab as hell and win."

He beat Top 10 teams often enough that he won 2 of his 4 national championships (his 1970 team was voted co-champion with Texas) despite 1-loss seasons. That was back in the day when 10 games in a season was a lot. Nine was more the norm.

And, it was a good thing he won as often as he did. Legend has it that he conducted locker room interviews in the nude after a loss or tie. Wow.


September 16th, 2009 at 1:48 AM ^

Brian did a post on this a couple years ago comparing Lloyd's record with a handful of current coaches against competition in the top 25 and is an interesting read. It doesn't have older coaches like Bo and Woody but gives you a reference to say that a couple games under 0.500 is pretty good against top 10 competition.…