Expectations and Emotionally Satisfying Wins

Submitted by Kevin Holtsberry on January 3rd, 2018 at 1:07 PM

As we continue to work through another ugly ending of the season for Michigan football, I thought I would explore an area I think contributes to the anger, disappointment and even ennui for fans.  Trying to find reasonable expectations and the impact of emotional wins.

The expectations game has been debated to death on the site, so I am not going to rehash that in detail.  Instead, I wanted to explore how emotionally satisfying wins help temper expectations and how Michigan's lack of such wins is in a significant way driving so much of the unhappiness.

My argument is basically that winning rivalry games and other high-profile games builds a reserve of goodwill that can be drawn on in tough times thus balancing out some of the fan dissatisfaction as a program has its natural ups and downs.

For example, Ohio State has had some inexplicable losses (Iowa 2017, Michigan State 2015) and some bad ones (Clemson 2016), but they have a National Championship, have dominated Michigan, and have 8 total losses in Urban Meyer's tenure. Michigan State had a disastrous year in 2016, but beat Michigan and Penn State and won their bowl game handily.  This overshadows losses to ND, Northwestern and an embarrassing loss to Ohio State.  Penn State had heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Michigan State but won 11 games and ended with a win.

We do need to take a few minutes to discuss the expectations that should set the context for our discussion. If you thought Harbaugh was going to step in and bring Michigan to the level of Urban Meyer or Nick Saban in three years, I can't help you.  A cursory glance at the record of the schools for the last ten years would disabuse you of this notion.  Ohio State has been playing in title games and winning conference championships.  In contrast, even before RichRod and Hoke, Michigan lost 3-5 games with regularity.

Since 2000 Ohio State has averaged 2.27 losses a year while Michigan has averaged 4.22. So that should temper expectations.  Ohio State has consistently been better than Michigan for a couple of decades and the last five have been dominant. Urban Meyer has never lost more than 2 games at OSU.

And the program that Harbaugh inherited was not exactly trending upward.  RichRod had three consecutive losing seasons.  Hoke started great (11-2), had a season remarkably like this year (8-5 with a bowl loss to SC), before two losing seasons.  The two coaches prior to Harbaugh were a combined 41-35. 

And going back to Lloyd Carr things were not at Meyer or Saban levels.  Carr’s tenure at Michigan averages out to roughly 9-3. Obviously, the 1997 season stands out as the high point and the ending of the 2006 season as the start of the slide to mediocrity and below.  Heck, Bo’s record is basically 9-2 with a losing record (5-12) in bowl games and no national titles.

This background indicates that in his first three years Harbaugh has brought Michigan back to what it was in the 90s and early 2000s.  I would argue what he hasn’t achieved is some emotionally satisfying wins that would make this accomplishment FEEL better to Michigan fans.  This recap of recent history may seem redundant for fans but bear with me.

2015

Harbaugh’s first season started out with a tough but in many ways understandable loss to Utah but then won five games by a combined score of 160-14.  The next game, however, was the heartbreaking and maddening loss to Michigan State.  The Wolverines won the next four games including a goal line stand to win against Minnesota, an OT win against Indiana, and a sold 28-16 win against Penn State in Happy Valley.  After a blowout loss to Ohio State in the Big House, Michigan thumped Florida 41-7 in the Gator Bowl.

Despite the pattern of painful losses to rivals, Harbaugh first season brought some emotional satisfaction. Ten wins and a blowout bowl win felt like a great start.  Plus, the wins against Minnesota and Indiana provided some excitement and confidence that Michigan could win conference games on the road.

2016

Michigan reeled off 9 straight wins in 2016 and other than the comeback against Colorado and a three missed field goals game against Wisconsin, none of them were particularly close.  You know the story from there.  Painful loss on the road to Iowa, snow game escape against Indiana, and then heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Florida State.

This is where the emotional damage was done.  A few plays, and one atrocious call, away from a playoff appearance and a great season; potentially one for the ages.  So much promise and potential and yet fans came away with nothing but heartbreak.

The ending was particularly rough not just because it robbed Michigan of a great season, but it erased satisfying wins against not only Colorado and Wisconsin, but also Michigan State and Penn State.  Win one of those three losses and the season feels very different.  To use a cliché, fans were deprived of the type of closure or ending that can make a season feel satisfying even if disappointing.  The end colors the whole season.

2017

This year was the year of youth, particularly on defense.  But an opening win against what was thought to be a solid Florida team seem to portend good things.  The offense struggled but the defense was playing at last year levels despite losing a ton of talent and that was exciting.  A comeback win against Purdue on the road with John O’Korn at QB had fans thinking that the injury to Wilton Speight would not doom the season.

A sloppy loss in a second half monsoon to Michigan State at home drove home the indication that QB and OL play would remain an issue for Michigan; a turnover fest would spell doom.  The feeling of being snake bitten against Michigan State also continued.  The team managed to sneak past Indiana but then were blown out in the second half by a Penn State team who seemed to have it all figured out. 

Michigan went on to thump Rutgers, Minnesota, and Maryland with a suddenly quite good running game.  And it seemed as if Brandon Peters might be the QB that Michigan so desperately needed.  But a concussion against Wisconsin ended that possibility and the end of season losses followed.  This included a torturous loss to Ohio State at home that included a 14-0 lead at one point.  But the lack of a competent QB, O’Korn had lost whatever competence he once possessed, doomed the Wolverines to yet another loss in The Game.

So even before the bowl game, Michigan fans were struggling to make sense of the team and season. On the one hand, the defense seemed to be beating expectations given their youth and the running game come alive.  The offensive play calling against Ohio State was brilliant even if the QB couldn’t hit an open receiver with the game on the line.  On the other hand, the OL couldn’t protect the QB and seemed to find any stunt an unsolvable mystery.  The WRs were young and failing to help the QB when given the chance.

What the bowl game represented was a chance to reset the expectations and reach a plateau on which to build.  South Carolina was a bad team, worse than their 8-4 record.  This was a chance to prove that Michigan could beat a team with a winning record.  The Big Ten was undefeated in bowl games and had a chance to really stick it to the arrogant SEC.  Michigan was favored to win and most felt comfortable then would do so handily.

When you combine the incredible frustration built up in 2016 from being a few plays, and an atrocious call, from greatness with the continuing losses to our rivals in painful fashion (and the media drumbeat on this point), this was a pool of gasoline waiting for a match.

The last quarter and a half against South Carolina provided not a spark but a flamethrower. 

In the first half Michigan had the ball on the South Carolina 17, 8, and 27 and came away with filed goals each time.  SC had a muffed punt and a fumble but were only down 9-3.  Michigan looked poised to put the game away in the second half, however.  After a 7 play 72-yard TD drive and a SC interception Michigan was driving for a score to put the game out of reach.  Karan Higdon fumbled at the 4, seemed to recover it, only to have the defensive lineman rip it away.  The defense held but a chance to deliver the knockout punch slipped by.  Up 23-3 midway through the 3rd quarter would have been a great place to be.

The mistakes from there just multiplied.  SC drove for a TD aided by a stupid personal foul penalty.  Then facing 3rd and 1 at their own 23, Michigan ran the by now infamous play where TE Sean McKeon was lined up as a FB and promptly fumbled the handoff. The very next play was a SC TD and the collapse was on.

  • SC overcame a 3rd and 18 and then hit on a 53-yard bomb for their third straight possession with a TD. 
  • Trailing for the first time Michigan drove to the five only to have Brandon Peters throw an interception in the endzone. 
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones muffs a punt. 
  • The defense holds SC to a FG despite having the ball on the 14. Peters throws four straight incompletions and Michigan turns the ball over on downs. 
  • Again, defense holds, and SC misses a FG.  2nd and 2 at the 39 and Peters inexplicably slides instead of running for the first down.  Two plays later, interception to end the game.

The litany is familiar: five(!) turnovers, 23 unanswered points, results in a blown 19-3 lead midway through the third quarter. An embarrassing loss. The only Big Ten team to lose a bowl game (to an SEC team).

I recap all of this, not because you are not aware of what happened but to try to capture the emotional rollercoaster and how it likely destroyed any semblance of balance and rationality many Michigan fans had.

In 2016 Michigan fans were deprived of the opportunity to prove they could be great.  Instead, a season on the precipice of greatness was cruelly snatched away by the thinnest of margins and by a fate that seems intent on punishing Michigan repeatedly.

Having digested this pain, well mostly, Michigan fans simply wanted to believe that a very young team was still competent enough to win games they were supposed to win.  After coming tantalizing close against quality opponents, they wanted to beat a winning team, hold up their part of the Big Ten reputation and slap down the SEC.

Instead, they got an epic collapse.  Players they had hoped were coming into their own in the 13th game of the season made critical mistakes.  Players they thought were the future, looked unable to handle the spotlight.  And the coaches seemed unable to stop the bleeding or find a way to win.

You can say that Michigan’s history of failing to hold a lead in important games is not relevant to whether Harbaugh knows how to coach or the talent level on the 2018 team.  You can say this year was roughly what was expected.  But the history is there emotionally, and it FEELS important.  Monday made it feel like that history was destiny, that Michigan would forever be the underachieving team. Without a great season to fall back on the future feels like a continuation of heartbreaking losses and mediocrity.

So where do we go from here?  I think you must acknowledge this history and understand that it warps expectations and exaggerates the emotions.  Living in Columbus, I know what winning once in 15 years against OSU feels like.  You can’t have a hyped, media dominating, coach who gets paid ungodly sums, and a coaching staff who are also paid among the highest in the country, and not have expectations grow. And you can’t just wave away the emotions and baggage.

But you also need to realize that Harbaugh is digging out of a hole in terms of recruiting and winning.  And he is doing this at a time when Ohio State is one of the best programs in the country, when Penn State is recruiting at a high level and Michigan State has a coach whose life goal is to beat Michigan even if that is all he accomplishes.  This is an uphill climb. 

It is also important to note, that Michigan isn’t trying to get BACK to the level of Meyer or Saban or Dabo.  It was never at that level.  Those programs have five years of top five recruiting classes under their belt.  They have climbed to the highest level and stayed there. Michigan is trying to build a foundation from which they can reach that level.

That said, 2018 has the feel of a turning point.  Michigan will need to find a way to give fans some significant wins so that they can feel like all the money and hype means something. Another season of losses to rivals and missing the conference championship game will drive the angry voices to newfound heights. 

The good, and bad, news is that Michigan will have plenty of opportunities to get big wins.  As everyone is aware, the schedule is not easy.  Games against Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State on the road and visits from Wisconsin and Penn State.  10 wins, including wins against ND, MSU and/or OSU, would be quite an accomplishment.  It would also give fans enough satisfaction to look to 2019 with excitement. A 4 or 5 loss season would seem to put even Harbaugh on the hot seat.

Comments

jdemille9

January 3rd, 2018 at 1:48 PM ^

Well put. A lot of "fans" are failing to realize that just because we're Michigan does not mean we'll automatically be on the same level as OSU, Bama and Clemson. OSU was churning full speed (with the one blip year) before Meyer arrived. Dabo took until year 4 before he won 10 games, and has parlayed that into an incredible run since (7 straight 10-win seasons). 

Very interesting on the Carr and Bo tenures and average records. I think overachieving in 2015/16 really set up this year to be a disappointment. No one expected back to back 10-win seasons and then to expect a team that basically lost everyone to come back with mostly young and inexperienced guys and go out and win 11+ was a bit of a stretch. Yes, the defense reloaded but part of that is better coaching staff on that side of the ball and better talent/depth left behind by Hoke compared to the offense.

If Harbaugh had gone 8-5 in year 1 then back to back 10-win seasons no one would be complaining. But the reality is he did a lot with a group that only won 12 games the two years prior. Yes, this year was disappointing but 28-11 (9-3 on avg) over the past three years is a major improvement on the 20-18 (7-6 avg) of the three years prior to him arriving.

Yes, there are complaints to be made about the lack of 'progress' of the offense but Harbaugh has a track record in both college and the NFL, so guys like Cris Carter and whoever else can call him overrated and a bust here but after just three years he has done probably more than most pundits expected him to, despite not winning the Big Ten yet.

2013/14 recruiting classes left us with basically nothing this year, and 2015 was a late class given the timing of his hire. To win 28 games in three years with leftovers from a busted regime and just two full recruiting classes is impressive. No, it's not the 12-0 or more we would like, but like you said, maybe those expectations are a bit high at the moment. 

Future is bright for sure. Go Blue!

Kevin Holtsberry

January 4th, 2018 at 9:38 AM ^

Bo was 11-9-1 vs OSU while Carr was 6-7.  Bo and Woody were evenly matched in The Ten Year War and that is what really made The Game.  Michigan dominated during the John Cooper years.  Carr won five of his first six but then lost four of the next five and the only Michigan win since was the Fickle year. Obviously, not being able to beat Ohio State last year was a huge opportunity missed to change the narrative (as the kids say these days).

State is different in some ways because Michigan State dominated in the 50s and 60s but once Bo came Michigan dominated until 2008. The State dominance started with Carr's retirement.  and yes, Harbaugh's snake bitten record against MSU is part of the story.

MGoStrength

January 4th, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

I don't know about the beginning of Bo's tenure.  That's so long ago and the landscape of college football and recruiting was so different I'm not sure it's super relevant.  But, I know if you look back at the beginning of Lloyd's tenure he inherited a much better team than Harbaugh did.  Moeller before Carr had never won fewer than 8 games in the prevous 5 years.  I'd guess he also probably never had a recruiting class outside of the top 15.  Harbaugh on the other hand inherited a team that had not won 8 games the past two years in a row and the last recruiting class before he got there was #18, then he was hired late in the year and that class was #40.  That's a 2 year gap in talent he had to overcome that Carr didn't have to worry about.

befuggled

January 5th, 2018 at 9:49 PM ^

They'd gone 8-2 the year before (with a blowout loss to Ohio State, though). The program had been up and down before that though; 9-1 and a Rose Bowl win in 1964 followed by 4-6, 6-4 and 4-6 seasons.

One thing to keep in mind is that Bo's recruits didn't start seeing the field until 1970. They couldn't play even in blowouts because freshman couldn't play then; the NCAA didn't allow freshman to play football until 1972.

ST3

January 3rd, 2018 at 3:44 PM ^

He had two losing seasons. We went 7-6 in his third and last season. It felt like a losing season, but the team did have a winning record. The trajectory was positive and with a little support from the AD and an actual DC he might have succeeded here. Alas, 'twas not to be.

74polSKA

January 3rd, 2018 at 3:55 PM ^

Meyer got a bit of a head start at OSU. Don't forget that the NCAA allowed him to bring his coaching staff just to recruit while Fickel finished the season as head coach. OSU should have faced at least a slight downturn in recruiting. Instead, Meyer and his new staff had a full two months to focus just on recruiting.

wfzimmerman

January 8th, 2018 at 1:42 PM ^

Correction: Meyer had 14 months to focus on recruiting. He was the lead analyst for NCAA football that year and  he used the air time to do a lot of subtle negative recruiting. I well remember him none-too-subtly wondering whether Denard Robinson was best served at Michigan.

tybert

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:25 PM ^

Dicktonio's face if we played a 1997 vintage performance at MSU next year and pasted them. The post game handshake and comments would be like an early Christmas gift!

That GUY must get his butt kicked by JH!

tybert

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:15 PM ^

Look at PSU last year, after losing to UM 49-10, they had to rally at home to beat Minny in OT. The same day we beat UW 14-7 and looked like B1G favorites.

Then - the white out night, blocked FG returned for a TD, etc. and they coast through the rest of the season until losing an epic RB to USC.

Franklin was being talked about as a guy in his last season or maybe getting one more season - he had no signature wins, etc. UNTIL ONE BLOCKED KICK.

I have every reason to believe we HAVE IT IN US to SOME DAY have this moment - which would only make this season seem like a "turning point" in much the same way a bad '79 season or awful '84 season for Bo led to a great next season

tybert

January 3rd, 2018 at 4:23 PM ^

I was there. We led early and seemed in control of the game and crowd, up 10-0 and focring Iowa to punt. Then the punter drops it inside the 3. The usual blown assignment on the O Line and a safety - followed by an Iowa TD drive - game is 10-8 and the season never recovered. We played tenative the rest of the game.

It's those kind of toughness moments that I believe JH will be able to mold in these guys - I have a feeling Chase, Gary, etc. will NOT allow the D to wilt at key moments like we did on the crushing TD drive at UW, etc. 

On offense, we have to get the muscle on the O line to force our will on teams. UW sure did that to us late in the game this year.

I don't doubt that JH will finally get us to 11+ wins here. It's the frustration of seeing us come up short too often lately that gnaws at a lot of us.

I also don't expect a lot of NCs from JH - hey, even if we get Bo vintage 85-89 with RB trips, winning bowl record, wins over rivals, etc. that will be enough for me!

tybert

January 3rd, 2018 at 6:18 PM ^

I recall the hope for UM hoops after season 2 - we broke the NCAA Tourney drought and even won a game. Next season was a HUGE disappointment.

Then in season 4 - after a 10-2 start against cream puffs - we went 1-7 (1-6 in B1G) with rumors that Beilein was coaching for his job - at least he might get one more season.

Then...we go to MSU and shocked them and go on a roll (8-3 in regular season) - beat MSU again. Then Trye Burke arrives and we have three excellent seasons in a row.

Other than one 16-16 season when Lavert goy hurt and we had a lot of holes to fill - it's been 6 of 7 seasons in NCAAs - including three runs into Sweet 16 (with one ending in the title game).

Point is - do we believe JH can turn it around like JB did? 

I don't know WHEN but don't doubt it WILL happen.  

 

greatlakestate

January 3rd, 2018 at 6:42 PM ^

Harbaugh is a good coach, but he's not a magician.  Those calling for his head are risking the future of the football program.  We don't want to become known as the program where coaching careers come to die.  

He'll get it done, it's just going to take longer than any of us wanted (including first and foremost Harbaugh himself.)

greatlakestate

January 3rd, 2018 at 6:36 PM ^

I've been thinking this very thing for a while.  Harbaugh got us back to winning the games we should win (Rutgers/Maryland) and I think we very quickly forgot how bad losing to those teams felt.  We've had some very solid wins but  we've lacked any underdog or last minute "magic" wins.  In fact, we've been the victim of several of those (MSU 15, Iowa and OSU 16)  

I was one of those people who didn't temper their expectations-- I knew what the pundits said but I was hoping they were wrong-- but that's on me.

MonkeyMan

January 3rd, 2018 at 11:49 PM ^

This is a good diary. I live in C-bus also and follow the daily news on the Bucks. 

You are very right about the lack of quality "feel good" wins. There is even MORE to this. The wins MSU and SC got must feel even better knowing they defeated a UM team with players ranked higher by recruiters (David and Goliath FEELS really good to David).

Also, HOW you lose is important. UM just seems to fade as the game goes on and never has that exciting "come from behind" effort that other teams have.

Playing sloppy with lots of turnovers and penalties also makes a loss FEEL worse. We are the team that makes the other team's fans proud of their team- we make their highlight reels. 

A lot of UM fans on this board saw serious problems with the direction of the program and were banned to Bolivia. 

MadMatt

January 4th, 2018 at 9:04 AM ^

But, DAMN, reading through it all over again just "revictimized" me.

What I find distressing is that we now have the third coaching regime with season(s) where they were inexplicably terrible at the very things they are supposed to be what they do well.

Richrod's offense was supposed to light up the scoreboard and bring the B1G into the 21st Century. Instead his offense excelled at moving the ball between the 20s, but couldn't score on good B1G defenses. Then after being fired and spotting Michigan one season when he was out of coaching, he still guided his new team to the Pac-12 Championship game, while Michigan hasn't had a sniff of one.

Hoke was supposed to bring back power running football, and "toughness." He did have his first season of magical unicorns farting rainbows. After that, his offenses demonstrated persistent inability to run the ball, despite persistent attempts to do so. And the only way toughness showed up was our offensive skilled position players' ability to sustain punishment from illegal hits while the coaching staff didn't notice, or apologised to the cheap shot artists for bringing a motivational totem into the opponents' stadium.

Harbaugh, thank God, had two good seasons of his offense doing well in areas of emphasis. This last one, boy howdy! Harbaugh is "the QB whisperer." Yet, all three of his QBs regressed over the season; the two best performances were back-up QBs coming in for injured starters, and the two worst were after extra prep time from a bye week, or bowl prep. First team snaps in practice seemed to be inversely related to in game performance. Harbaugh's Stanford offenses led us to believe we'd see brainy and brawney OL, TE and FB players succeed running multiple, NFL blocking schemes for big chunks. This season we saw experienced players befuddled by simple defensive line schemes, without improving over the season. Both Michigan fans and opposing defensive players commented on how predictable Michigan's offensive play calling was. Predictable and poorly executed is not much of a threat.

I'm still 100% Harbaugh will fix this, and if he can't, no one can. (However, the probability of the latter is going up.) But, geez this season stomped on every last one of my PTSD affected nerves. I have faith in the process, but my faith is a lot more nearsighted than last August.

MGoStrength

January 4th, 2018 at 2:35 PM ^

We would all trade a few of our wins over the Indiana's, Minnesota's, and Purdue's of the conference for a few against OSU and MSU and that would make everyone feel better.  And, to be honest, I think it's really about OSU.  I think we all beleive we are better than MSU and that those losses are a weird combination of bad luck, injuries, weather, etc. and it's just a matter of time.  We already out-recruit them, we beat them in '16, and the fluke in '15 was very odd.  But, OSU seems to have the feel of "will we ever beat them again?". 

 

I think a win against OSU would go a long way.  We all know this.  Harbaugh knows this.  Meyer knows this.  And, it just hasn't happened yet.  There are a bunch of reasons it's harder to beat them as an underdog.  One, they are a rival which ensures they give us their best effort.  Two, we can't sneak up on them or play them in a trap game or after a big game the previous week or if they have a big game the next week.  Iowa can sneak up on them.  MSU can play them the week before of after another big game when they have a let down.  But, playing your rival the last game of the year ensures they are ready and motivated and 100% focused on you.  It also makes it more likely the more talented wins and unfortunately they have been the more talented for a while.  I think we'll have a decent shot next year, similar to '16, but it won't be easy.  We're gonna have to get over that hump with some big plays at key times.

JTGoBlue

January 5th, 2018 at 7:59 AM ^

ND on the road at night will be 50/50. After that, this team should have a great chance to go into Columbus with 1 or 2 losses and play for the Big East title.

Michigan will crush MSU in East Lansing.

JTGoBlue

January 5th, 2018 at 10:11 AM ^

Of all the losses, this one was the worst. PSU and Wisconsin on the road, especially with the injury to Peters are easier to take. OSU game was a really good performance and a couple of competent QB plays away from victory. Bowl game was a shit show, but again...multiple injuries and weirdness. If we beat MSU this year, the narratives are much different. Again, does not mean anything from a program progression standpoint, but a real kick in the nuts.

BlueHills

January 5th, 2018 at 1:19 PM ^

The #1 QB was injured and not up to 100% for last year’s OSU game; this year’s squad played with the QB who was third-string until 2/3 or so of the season was complete. That’s going to hurt progress on an inexperienced team (and yes, OSU was lucky that they won a NC will their 3rd string guy, doesn’t happen often).

There were lots of inexperienced players, who made inexperienced player mistakes that needn’t be enumerated.

Despite these problems, the team did reasonably well. The O-line was the most significant problem this year, and that needs to be fixed. Harbaugh sees the problem as well as we do, so he’ll do that. Michigan will be fine next year.

Harbaugh is a great football coach. 8-5 with this team is in the ballpark of what people thought it was going to be at the beginning of the season.

Yes, it’d be nice if Michigan had one unexpected, killer game against OSU. We’ve beaten MSU and PSU, don’t forget. We came within a hair against FSU next year. Let the process happen and trust it.

likerice

January 6th, 2018 at 12:19 PM ^

They have had some "big" wins under Harbaugh; it was only last year that they beat Wisconsin, MSU, and Penn State. Yet after losing all the rivalry games this season and the bowl game collapse, the holes at critical positions (QB, offensive tackle), I don't feel much optimism that things will look better in 2018.

JBLPSYCHED

January 7th, 2018 at 8:15 AM ^

...and that is our NEED for next season to be a BREAKTHROUGH. Define it however you will, e.g. beating ND/MSU/OSU, making the B1G championship game, or even making the CFP, but we are all waiting for manifest destiny. The painful disappointments, lack of comback/magical wins, upexpected road victories against supposedly superior teams, etc. have taken a major toll as described in OP's analysis. We've collectively paid our dues, endured the pain, waitied our turn, and now it's time for catharsis in the form of a Harbaugh-led resurgence. Or so we expect. Like most others here, I am optimistic. I have faith in Harbaugh despite how terrible--and terribly coached--we looked during this past season. Unfortunately I also fear that our expectations and NEED for '18 to be a breakthrough might could be a setup for 'ultimate' failure. CFP is a uniquely wonderful sport because of the constant change in players and to a lesser degree coaches. It requires patience and as pointed out by OP, "...build(ing) a foundation from which to reach (the next) level." We're probably on our way to succeeding but on the other hand that's what Lewis and Clark thought after their 2000+ mile and months' long journey up the river finally yielded the salty smell of the sea...only to reveal the Sawtooth mountains between them and the Pacific. Let's be hopeful but realistic and Go Blue!

Oldadguy

January 7th, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

The other thing to add is the change in offensive philosophy in hiring rich rod. Going from pro style to spread was a dramatic change in recruiting philosophy in particular smaller, faster o lineman. That side of the roster was completely turned over in time for him to be fired. Hoke then had to turn the roster back to a pro set but recruited that side of the ball with extremely mixed results e.g. QB. Now Jim has to address that side of the roster and it’s going to take more than a few recruiting cycles to a) get the roster balanced b) get the personnel JH wants e.g. QB. I think it’s reasonable to assess the team at the end of the ‘19 season.

jbohl

January 9th, 2018 at 7:29 AM ^

reality bites.  M games are still great fun. i'll enjoy them as best i can and try not to look too far ahead or curse too far behind.

Rabbit21

January 12th, 2018 at 2:40 PM ^

The problem is, this team is guaranteed to crumble under pressure.  What I think is driving fans nuts is there is NO faith that the team will rise to match the moment.  Until something happens to change that, progress cannot be expected.