Finding solace in past turnarounds

Submitted by Erik_in_Dayton on November 30th, 2015 at 8:25 PM

I have nothing new to say about Michigan's loss to OSU on Saturday.  Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometims the bar eats you, as the movie says.  And sometimes the bar shoves your face into the mud and pees on you and tell you it's going to steal your wife and then eats you.

But sometimes you come back quickly.  And that is the point of this post.  Below are three two instances of Michigan being flat-out whooped by a team and then beating that team a season later.  I don't mean to suggest that the circumstances in question are identical to those faced by the current football team with respect to OSU, but hopefully they're close enough that readers feel a little better.

I humbly suggest that those feeling down (everyone, I assume) consider the following:

Turnaround No. 1: On January 1, 1992, Michigan lost 34-14 in the Rose Bowl to Washington, who was then named national champion in the coaches' poll.  In those days, Michigan rarely met a team who was inarguably better than them, but Washington left no doubt who was superior.  Desmond Howard - and this was his Heisman season - had one catch.  Washington outgained Michigan 404-205 (404 yards was a lot in the old days).  Washington's receiver, Mario Bailey, even did this after he scored:


Insult was added to injury. And we were left with an entire offseason to be down about the Huskies' domination.

But a year later, Michigan beat Washington in the Rose Bowl 38-31 despite having lost Howard to the NFL.  That Washington team was not as good as they were the year before, but they were still the Pac 10 champs and the No. 11 team in the country per the AP even after losing to the Wolverines.  Michigan also maybe got a bit better (their final AP ranking would improve from No. 6 in '91 to No. 5 in '92), but there was no major shift in talent for either school. Yet a team that squashed Michigan like a proverbial bug wasn't good enough for a more-seasoned Wolverine squad a season later.


Turnaround No. 2:  On March 7, 2010, Michigan basketball (men's team) played at the Breslin.  They were down 32-14 by the end of the first half and lost 64-48.  Neither Manny Harris nor DeShawn Sims could crack double digits in scoring.  The team shot 35% from the field and was out-rebounded by nine - and none of these statistics capture the hopelessness that I felt during that game.  It was like watching a boa constrictor choke a golden retriever to death.  You'd like the dog to survive, but you know the he's just not built to get out of that sort of thing. 

On January 27, 2011, Michigan headed back to MSU to face All-Big Ten guard Kalin Lucas and the Spartans.  Having lost Harris and Sims, Michigan went into the game knowing they'd have to rely on Darius Morris, freshman Tim Hardaway, Jr., and these guys:

(I don't know why there is no space between the photo and the gif.  I'm no bronxblue with this stuff.)

Likely all but the really young among us remember what happened.  Zack Novak started out hot - he'd hit six threes in the game - and politely suggested that the Wolverines could win the f-ing game if they stayed fired up (see above). Stu Douglass later knocked down a three-pointer to seal the win off a feed from Morris, and the Wolverines prevailed 61-57.  I'm still not sure how Coach Beilein & Co. pulled that off, because it didn't make sense to my non-expert eyes.  And it was all the more fun for being so unexpected.

Conclusion: I was going to do one of these for the '08 and '09 Notre Dame games, where Michigan went from being fairly pathetic in South Bend in '08 to beating the Irish in '09 despite the fact that ND had Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, and Jimmy Clausen (who, say what you will, was a 2nd round pick in the NFL draft).  But everyone gets the idea, and I need to eat dinner. 

Sometimes you seem to be very far away from being able to beat a rival, and sometimes you beat them the next year anyway.  I offer the above to suggest that the Wolverines may not be as far off from beating OSU as it seems right now.  Sometimes minor shifts in talent happen, your team gets a little older, your little-recruited leader has a You shall not pass! moment, and you finally kill the damn bar.






Hotel Putingrad

November 30th, 2015 at 9:54 PM ^

I mean, presumably we'll have figured out a scheme to stop Barrett on the zone read, and maybe we'll crack 100 yards rushing ourselves. Stranger things have happened. But why did you keep using bar for bear? I don't get it.


November 30th, 2015 at 10:35 PM ^

Last year we lost to Notre Dame 31 - 0.  One of the darkest days in my 40+ years following Michigan. Far worse than this recent loss to OSU. Why? Because there was little reason to hope for much beyond beating cupcakes.

2015 brings Harbaugh, steady improvement in many facets of the team, and a sense of hope in the future. 

The Ohio State team that showed up last Saturday would have beaten anybody ... Oklahoma, Clemson, Alabama, and certainly Michigan State. They were fired up and seeking blood. We had the misfortune of being next on the schedule.

Lots of roster gaps to fill. But Harbaugh will grind at it until we are back competitive with anyone in the Big Ten. 


look up see blue

December 1st, 2015 at 2:05 PM ^

We never looked competitive in that ND game. On Saturday, it was 14-10 at the half with things going south because our D got gassed in the 2nd half. We got away with it against Indiana because their defense is awful. OSU might be the best team in the country when firing on all cylinders and sadly that's the team that showed up on Saturday. 


November 30th, 2015 at 11:43 PM ^

I thought about those Rose Bowls this weekend also. A couple other games that come to mind are the 45-7 loss to Tennessee after the 2001 season (followed by a win over Florida in the next year's bowl game) and the 34-9 home loss to Iowa in 2002 (followed by a close, fourth quarter loss at Iowa the next season and wins against Iowa in 2004 and 2005).

Couzen Rick's

December 1st, 2015 at 1:30 AM ^

As a lifelong fan who started my fandom as Tressel started his tenure, I've experienced exactly 2 victories over Ohio St, and none since I joined the University as a student.  With family in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton AND Toledo I really, really need to experience some wins. If only so my cousins stop singing the Buckeye Battle Cry.

Other Andrew

December 1st, 2015 at 6:02 AM ^

Basketball turnaround may be worhthy to reference from a feelings standpoint, but let's keep it focused on football. Citing a Michigan Rose Bowl year as the "pre" period doesn't help us too much. That's not where we've been. So let's talk about football programs who were also in the wilderness before someone who could truly stabalize the program.

Here are some additional data points:

Florida Galen Hall

  • 1986 - 6-5
  • 1987 - 6-6
  • 1988 - 7-5
  • 1989 - 7-5

Florida Steve Spurrier

  • 1990 - 9-2
  • 1991 - 10-2
  • 1992 - 9-4
  • 1993 - 11-2

Oklahoma John Blake

  • 1996 - 3-8
  • 1997 - 4-8
  • 1998 - 5-6

Oklahoma Bob Stoops

  • 1999 - 7-5
  • 2000 - 13-0
  • 2001 - 11-2
  • 2002 - 12-2

USC Paul Hackett

  • 1998 - 8-5
  • 1999 - 6-6
  • 2000 - 5-7
  • 2001 - 6-6

USC Pete Carroll

  • 2001 - 6-6
  • 2002 - 11-2
  • 2003 - 12-1
  • 2004 - 13-0

Florida Ron Zook

  • 2002 - 8-5
  • 2003 - 8-5
  • 2004 - 7-5

Florida Urban Meyer

  • 2005 - 9-3
  • 2006 - 13-1
  • 2007 - 9-4
  • 2008 - 13-1

Alabama Mike Shula

  • 2003 - 4-9
  • 2004 - 6-6
  • 2005 - 10-2
  • 2006 - 6-7

Alabama Nick Saban

  • 2007 - 7-6
  • 2008 - 12-2
  • 2009 - 14-0
  • 2010 - 10-3

Michigan Brady Hoke

  • 2011 - 11-2
  • 2012 - 8-5
  • 2013 - 7-6
  • 2014 - 5-7

Michigan Jim Harbaugh

  • 2015 - 9-3*

The gigantic caveat is that these are the success stories. In all cases National Championships were achieved during the years listed above or very soon after. We should keep in mind that Ron Zook also took over for someone else and you see his performance above. But based on the evidence in his career we have reason to believe he belongs with this group rather than with the Zooks until proven otherwise.

So where does this year's turnaround stand compared to those above? Looking at the change in first year win % from worst to best:

  • Carroll - 0%
  • Saban - 8%
  • Stoops - 13%
  • Meyer - 17%
  • Spurrier - 23%
  • Harbaugh - 33%*

Now, it is likely that Hoke's last team underperformed, but even if we kindly grant them one additional win, Harbaugh would still top the list at 25%.

We have every reason to be excited about the future, especially if the recruiting season ends up with the anticipated positive momentum. Assuming this is one of those turnarounds, there seem sto be evidence that Michigan is ahead of schedule.

*Pending bowl game result

Everyone Murders

December 1st, 2015 at 9:23 AM ^

You raise a fair caveat that these are the success stories, but I think it's reasonable to focus on those.  In all but one instance, a "blah/whodat?" coach was replaced by a proven-commodity P5 coach expected to bring momentum.  Sometimes coming back from failed ventures in the NFL (hi Pete, Steve [by way of Duke] and Nick!), sometimes coming from lesser programs (hi Urban).  Stoops was a DC at Florida, so he's an outlier here.

Harbaugh is unique in that he had great success in both college and the pros.  (Recall that Carroll's success in the NFL came in his second go-round and third team, after he burned the rule book at USC and got out of town before the sanctions came to roost.)   With his recruiting ability and record of turnarounds, it's entirely reasonable to be optimistic for more success against rivals as soon as next year.  First, Cook will be out at MSU and OSU loses a heap of talent.*  Second, Harbaugh won't have to MacGyver his way through a season with a grad transfer quarterback.**

Good comment, Other Andrew, and nice post OP.  9-3 and on the way up?  Sounds good to me.

*Of course, OSU will just go into the storeroom and restock.  But there are not too many Joey Bosas on the shelf there, or anywhere.

**No slight against Rudock here - he did very well under the circumstances, and met the most important measure for me:  he got better every week.


December 1st, 2015 at 1:57 PM ^

Not sure why so many people look at his NFL tenure before USC as a failure.  In his 3 years as a head coach at New England, he went 27-21 with two playoff appearances and an AFC East Division title.  The catch is he followed Bill Parcells who had just taken the Patriots to the Super Bowl.


December 1st, 2015 at 10:39 AM ^

This should have been the diary. Very nice work. Gives me great hope. I trust in Harbaugh. I do worry that Hoke's atrocious player development and uneven recruiting will really hamstring our efforts at compiling a complete team for several years, but I am happy and excited nonetheless.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad


December 1st, 2015 at 2:29 PM ^

I was curious about the result immediately following blowout losses under Jim Harbaugh's leadership, so let's take a dive.

University of San Diego, 2004 (1st year)

  • Lost vs. Pennsylvania 61-18 (43 points); then lost vs. Princeton 24-17 (7 points)

No blowout losses as HC of San Diego in 2005 and 2006.

Stanford University, 2007 (1st year)

  • Lost vs. UCLA 45-17 (28 points); then won vs. San Jose State 37-0 (37 points)
  • Lost vs. Oregon 55-31 (24 points); then lost vs. Arizona State 41-3 (38 points)
  • Lost at Oregon Satte 6-23 (17 points); then lost vs. Washington 27-9 (18 points)

Stanford University, 2008 (2nd year)

  • Lost at Arizona State 41-17 (24 points); then lost at TCU 31-14 (17 points)
  • Lost vs. USC 45-23 (22 points); then lost at Cal 37-16 (21 points)

No blowout losses Stanford 2009.

Stanford University, 2010 (4th year)

  • Lost at Oregon 52-31 (21 points); then won vs. USC 37-35 (2 points)

No blowout losses San Francisco 49ers 2011

San Francisco 49ers, 2012 (2nd year)

  • Lost vs. New York Giants 24-3 (21 points); then won vs. Seattle Seahawks 13-6 (7 points)
  • Lost at Seattle Seahawks 42-13 (29 points); then won vs. Arizona Cardinals 27-13 (14 points)

San Francisco 49ers, 2013 (3rd year)

  • Lost at Seattle Seahawks 29-3 (26 points); then lost vs. Indianapolis Colts 27-7 (20 points)

San Francisco 49ers, 2014 (4th year)

  • Lost at Denver Broncos 42-17 (25 points); then lost vs. St. Louis rams 13-10 (3 points)

University of Michigan, 2015 (1st year)

  • Lost vs. Ohio State 42-17 (29 points); then ???


  • I defined blowout as 17+ point loss; or 3 scores
  • Harbaugh has coached a total of 167 games and been blown out 17 times (10.2% of his games)
  • Average blowout is by 24.88 points
  • Following a blowout loss, Harbaugh is 4-7
  • Harbaugh averages 1.5 blowouts per year, severely skewed by 2007 Stanford
  • In 12 years of head coaching, Harbaugh has been blown out in 8 of them (66.7%) compared to not being blown out at all in 4 (33.3%)
  • 5 out of his 17 blowouts are from his 2007 Stanford team (29.4% of them)


  • Throw out 1st year at each destination
  • Don't aggregate NFL

Just an interesting tidbit.



December 2nd, 2015 at 12:16 PM ^

I think what most people are concerned by is not how will we do in the bowl game, but rather how will we do against OSU next year? Thanks for finding the blowouts. Now let's take a look at how Harbaugh's teams did against the same team they were blown out by at the following meeting:

University of San Diego:

Lost to Penn in 2004, did not play in 2005



2007 vs UCLA: lost 17-45, 2008 @ UCLA: lost 20-23

2007 vs Oregon: lost 55-31, 2008 @ Oregon: lost 28-35

2007 @ Oregon State: lost 6-23, 2008 vs Oregon State: won 36-28

2008 @ Arizona State: lost 17-41, 2009 vs Arizona State: won 33-14

2008 vs USC: lost 23-45, 2009 @ USC: won 55-21

2010: lost @ Oregon 31-52, moved to NFL before playing them again



2012 vs Giants: lost 3-26; did not play in 2013

2014: lost @ Broncos 17-42, moved to Michigan before playing them again

Seahawks games (since they play at least twice a year, I figured I'd just list them all):

10/18/2012 vs Seahawks: won 13-6

12/23/2012 @ Seahawks: lost 13-42

9/22/2013 @ Seahawks: lost 3-29

12/8/2013 vs Seahawks: won 19-17

1/19/2014 (NFC championship) @ Seahawks: lost 17-23

11/27/2014 vs Seahawks: lost 3-19

12/14/2014 @ Seahawks: lost 7-17


Of these, the most interesting to me are the 2008 losses @ Stanford to ASU and USC. I think we have to throw out 2007 Stanford because clearly 2015 Michigan is much better than 2007 Stanford: it's not surprising that they lost two in a row to UCLA and Oregon. However, it is impressive that a team that went 5-7 in 2008 was able to recover from getting blown out by ASU and USC to beat them handily the following year. Especially USC since they were on the road in 2009 and USC was ranked #11 at the time. That is certainly the closest parallel we have to our situation with OSU.

As for the Seahawks: they split contests in 2012 and 2013 with the home team winning all the games, though the Seahawks won theirs by larger margins. Then in 2014 the team as a whole took a step backwards; we all know the saga. I'm not sure what to do with this or how it applies to the college game.




December 1st, 2015 at 11:49 PM ^

When Michigan loses big in year N, they win in year N+1.  Nobody can argue with your reasoning, especially with the research you presented that backs it up.  Using two data points seems like overkill, though.