It's Not As Bad As It Looks

Submitted by DJEasy12 on November 25th, 2018 at 2:55 AM

Mods, feel free to delete if this should be in the Snowflakes threads.

As awful as that ass whipping was, I don't think it's a sign of major structural deficiencies within the program. It looks like the team as currently constructed has three issues:

1) The DTs are bad. Losing Mo Hurst absolutely killed us in this game. The bucknuts doubled Gary or Chase and then had their guard and center single block the DTs. And they absolutely handled us. So the line was giving us no rush, and then our blitzes were either negated via quick passes or <cringe> successfully picked up. Don Brown's defense is heavily dependent on pressure, and we got nothing. 

2) The passing game is poorly designed. We have few plays in the short/intermediate area that actually scheme a guy open. Or if we do, it's obvious and the defense adjusts to it. We exclusively rely on our guys to win their routes, and we rarely use misdirection to force safeties and/or LBs to make difficult choices. It's too bad, because both the OSU LBs and safeties have shown all year that they suck at making difficult choices. One of our TDs was when we stacked our TEs, ran crossing routes with them, and then sent Chris Evans on a wheel route which was wide open. Next time we ran it, Higdon got smacked. No adjustment at all to punish the overreaction to it <shrug>. And I won't even get into how we criminally misuse our RBs in the passing game.

3) We don't have a gamebreaker. We currently do not have a guy on offense that is a threat to take it to the house at all times a la Rondale Moore, Anthony McFarland, and Paris Campbell. A guy like that can make up for numerous inefficiencies elsewhere. 

The good news - Problems 1 and 3 seem to be well on the way to being solved. Another year of seasoning for Dwumfour, Kemp, and Jeter, along with the return of Aubrey Solomon and additions of Chris Hinton and Mazi Smith, should solve our DT issues. Additionally, we are recruiting guys like Giles Jackson who have that ability to take a 5-yard out route 80 yards to the house. In fact, we're recruiting a bunch of slot ninjas who turn short routes into solid gains. So you can see where the offense is going.

And here's the bad news - I think the best way to fix Problem 2 is to tell Pep Hamilton to kick rocks and bring in a more dynamic, innovative passing coordinator. In fact, I'd be thrilled if we could get Jedd back in place of Pep. Problem is that I don't know that Harbaugh would go that route. The play designs are just not smooth right now; every time Shea goes back to pass, it's a fucking adventure. That being said, we also dealt with a new QB, an improving but imperfect OL, and youngish WRs. It may be better to give these kids offensive consistency. 

Silver lining - Even if nothing in the passing game changes, we should be in much better shape due to Problem 1 getting fixed, and the OL taking the next big step forward. Another year under Warinner plus Jalen Mayfield stepping up and becoming the next stud OT at Michigan. By their own admission, Warinner and Harbaugh limited the information load to the young linemen. They should now be able to download more information and do a lot better, especially with pass protection. One way to spice up basic routes is to make them option routes. We already know Pep loves these, and, when executed properly, they are damn near impossible to stop consistently. The rub is that it requires both QB and WR to read the defense the same way and be on the same page. When that doesn't happen, you have John O'Korn's game ending pick against the bucks in 2017. I don't think we really ran many option routes this year; we had a first-year QB (in the system) and underclass receivers. Next year, all the receivers will be upperclassmen, and Shea would be in Year 2 (or Dylan in Year 3). So option routes should be feasible. This all to say that if we don't replace Pep, we really should still be much more explosive on offense given the other changes. I really believe that the whole "body blow" strategy was due to Jim's lack of confidence in the consistency of a new QB with underclass receivers. A fully operational Harbaughfence can smack you in any possible way - see Stanford 2011. You're going to load the box?? Andrew Luck will drop dimes to the TEs and Doug Baldwin. You're going to protect against the pass now? Here, eat this ogre formation and watch Tyler Gaffney run it down your throat. It's run-heavy and relies on toughness, but it's more than happy to light you up in the air to get you to back off the box. 

In short, we are not as far as it we may think right now. There is certainly wood to be chopped, but it's not insurmountable. 



November 26th, 2018 at 10:21 AM ^

Disagree.  This one was bigger than 2016 in terms of ramifications.  2016 we were dogs and JH did not have all of his pieces, and certainly no mobile 5 start QB to work with.  So when we lost, we could still point to the future.

This year JH was fully loaded with all of his weapons and as loaded a defense as you can ever hope for in college at all three levels, and this was the end result.

It's over.  It's resoundingly clear Meyer's approach to X's and O's is superior to Harbaugh's.  Harbaugh is still the better man and he may walk into seasons where the pieces work out, but what Saturday made clear is JH is an excellent college football coach, but will not be a Saban whose approach to a program moves a college football program to the top of the mountain.  JH is going to need help and luck to do so.

I don't give up on him because he has the competitive fire and humility and he may find a way, but whatever that way is, it is not clear, and certainly not something I would put faith into.

My only silver lining is that every time we have had an elite team - 2006, 2016, 2018 - the Game has motherfucking been AT Columbus.  For once I'd like us to be loaded and have the Game be at home.  Just seems like our team is mediocre whenever the game is at home.


November 25th, 2018 at 3:07 AM ^

I disagree with the part about our DLine improving bc the guys we have coming back will be a year older and we have freshmen coming in. We lose Gary and Winovich -- the two best players on the line, by a mile. With your logic, losing Hurst shouldn't have been a big deal, bc Mone, Solomon, Dwumfor, Marshall, and Kemp were returning with one more year of "seasoning". I don't think it worked like that.


November 26th, 2018 at 2:08 AM ^

Even the NFL draft is rarely a quick fix, but yes, you're absolutely correct that Harrison and Karlaftis aren't going to come in right away and come close to being Gary or Winovich.

Some combination of Uche, Hutchinson, Vilain or maybe even Upshaw or Welshof have a better chance of stepping into those spots.


November 26th, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

Yeah, Gary was out for MSU and PSU and those were arguable M's best two defensive performances so it doesn't seem like losing him will be that big of a deal (not that he's not good, it's just that Paye doesn't represent a big drop off from what Gary was doing).

Not sure if it was the injury or what, but he just never became that dominant player you hope for out of the #1 recruit. 


November 25th, 2018 at 4:24 AM ^


We're trying to build a program. A PROGRAM.

Seven years of Rod and Hoke wiped out what we were. Whoops. Bummer

We're going to lose these games until we get there. I don't understand this fanbase. Go look up the Clemson football history. Or Texas when Mack Brown started.

I like our trajectory. Yea this sucked. But man.. chill y'all


November 25th, 2018 at 10:41 AM ^

I agree with you about the program needing to be completely rebuilt after the RR era.  Hoke, while not up to the high standards UM has and aspires to, did beat OSU.  

The point now is, UM is a distant 2nd to OSU and has a ton of ground to make up before UM can expect to be winning games against good teams for one reason or another.  Harbaugh is the only answer UM has, and any take that says he should be gone is a bad one.  The real festering issue is that this season may be as good as it gets of UM until Meyer moves on.  Dantonio is a dinosaur who can’t field a complete team and might win1/5 against UM if he stays.  Pretty much the same thing for Franklin and PSU.  UM can continue to pave the bottom half of the East while staying competitive with the best of the West and win 9/10 games every year, with the occasional 11 win regular season thrown in.  But after the last 20 years, I can no longer expect UM to beat OSU.  I’m beginning to wonder if it will happen again in my lifetime.  I’m 38...

At this point, I honestly expect OSU will find the next Saban when Meyer does move on, whether that’s this off season or 15 years from now.  It doesn’t matter because God hates UM and all their fans.


November 25th, 2018 at 6:26 PM ^

I agree to a point.  The sky isn't falling.  OSU is at its historic high point, etc.

However, the stubbornness of this coaching staff is really troubling.  It is incredibly easy to game plan against us because of that.  If we have a big talent gap against our opponent the old school "Michigan man" sludgefart 1970's offense works.  It doesn't work against elite teams with elite DC's.  We could have scored a lot more points yesterday by simply passing downfield.  Christ, we were running up the middle and huddling late into the game while down 20 points.  Just undeniably stupid.

That wasn't the worst of it though...  Indiana exposes a huge weakness of our press man defense.  Everyone in the world is talking about it.  What do we do differently?  How do we address this glaring weakness that Urban Meyer is planning to key on?  Absolutely nothing.  NOT. A. DAM. THING.  Watson can't match the speed of his opponent and is getting flamed every other play.  What do we do? NOTHING.  Who do we sub in with speed?  NOBODY.   That is unacceptable.  I bet Urban was thinking to himself "holy shit, they really don't know how to run a zone defense...  This isn't even fun anymore.  I feel like I'm picking on a retard."

JH has got to open up or gtfo.  Don Brown needs to install some zone looks or gtfo.  No excuse for that debacle yesterday. 



November 26th, 2018 at 11:18 AM ^

I recall discussions after last year about needing to install zone concepts into the defense specifically because of what OSU was doing, and I had thought Brown was doing that.  Turns out no.  It's like the coaching staff learned nothing from previous games against OSU.  That to me is astounding.


November 26th, 2018 at 9:50 AM ^

when Jim Tressel was fired tOSU program was in a giant mess. They were not bowl eligible and the recruits were reduced as well as losing players. They hired a new coach who didn't make excuses and soon won a National Championship. He did it after going undefeated his first year and won it in his third. harbaugh has been at the helm for four years. Draw your own conclusions without the need for excuses.


November 26th, 2018 at 11:23 AM ^

Organizationally a mess but they weren't depleted of talent, just the opposite since Tressel had recruited very well.  In fact Meyer had the type of QB in place he needed to run his system.  Meyer had the perfect situation to step in and start winning.

Harbaugh had a much tougher job as the entire AD was a mess (although a well-funded one) and the talent level was very uneven with little depth. 


November 26th, 2018 at 4:14 PM ^

They were down 4 recruits each season. Many opted to go early pro. Urban motivated them t an undefeated season. The NC team was young. He quickly rebuilt that team. Urban lost his star rb to UM, but decided on a Missouri track star. One rarely played for Um and the other starts for the Cowboys. Zeke E.  Heck the talk is that UM would have won with a QB. Urban won with a 3rd stringer. The OL was good, but UM has that coach now. He worked wonders his first year at Columbus. I saw his ol saturday.


November 25th, 2018 at 4:50 AM ^

Yes it is, Goddamnit. It is every bit as bad as it looks, and then some. 

I'm fucking sick and tired of the same old bullshit every fucking year. And every fucking year, someone chimes in and tries to find a silver lining or make a case for why we're this close to getting over the hump. Well guess what? We were this close to getting over the hump TEN FUCKING YEARS AGO. In 2008, after Tressel pounded Michigan for what seemed like the umpteenth time, we all said we were sick and tired of losing to Ohio State. Fast forward ten years, and we're still sick and tired of losing to Ohio State. Of all years, this was the year when it looked like we were most well-positioned to get the monkey off our backs. And we went out and faceplanted like we didn't even belong on the same field as Ohio State. 

This shit is systemic, cultural, endemic, whatever you want to call it. Anyone who denies that there is something seriously wrong with a program that shits the bed time and again against its biggest rival is in denial. 16 out of 18 is not bad luck; it's a pattern.


November 25th, 2018 at 6:02 AM ^

Sorry for the profanity-laden rant; I got a little carried away. I'm taking this one harder than past losses to OSU because of the way we got manhandled after thinking all season that this would be the year we finally turn the corner.

My main point is this: 16 losses to OSU in 18 years and an 0-4 record by a coach whose hiring came with more hype than any other hiring in recent memory points to some sort of systemic, structural problem within the program. I don't know what that problem is, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to deny that there's something deeper at play here that is preventing Michigan from getting over the hump and competing with Ohio State. It's hard to look for positives when there's no indication that whatever malaise is causing this shocking run of futility in The Game (which is damn near entering its third decade) is even being diagnosed, let alone treated, by anyone in charge.

I appreciate the effort to inject some optimism into the discussion. I really do. But claiming that things aren't as bad as they look by pointing out that the difference amounts to a handful of deficiencies is like claiming that a widget that keeps coming out of the factory defective time and again is not as bad as it looks because the defects amount to a handful of correctable flaws. At some point, you have to wonder what's wrong with the factory that makes it keep producing defective widgets. 


November 25th, 2018 at 8:07 AM ^

That's much more reasonable haha.

TL;DR Michigan simply hasn't been very good for over a decade and in the last couple years when they have been, OSU has been elite.

I can certainly understand the frustration. I really don't think it's as systemic a problem as you think though. Carr was a good coach but he was a coaching dinosaur and it's obvious the program was starting to crumble at the end. How long did Bo ask him to hang on? Didn't Carr want to retire like 3 years earlier? God I wish he had. Would have been better for him and the program. And then you have the RR and Hoke years, which were some of the worst in Michigan history. Harbaugh is obviously much better but OSU is beyond the Tressel years. As I say below, they are elite. Over the last 6 years or however long Urban has been there, no program has been better besides the greatest dynasty in the history of college football with Saban at Alabama and maaaaybe Dabo at Clemson. Harbaugh has been really good, but really good won't get you to 50/50 with OSU. In 2016 this program was obviously a work in progress and still almost took down OSU on the road. Last year was a combination of bad luck and a few glitches that look to have been corrected, and Michigan still should have won that game.

It's like with Michigan State. People kept talking about bad juju and what not, and yeah a couple games could have been different, but State had one of the best periods in their history while Michigan was at one of their lowest. State was just the better program (on the field only). No one will be talking about our records vs. rivals anymore because we're clearly better than PSU and MSU now. They'll just be talking about our record vs. OSU. Just gotta take the next step.

It took Dabo a while to really get his program on a consistently elite level. I still believe Harbaugh can do that. I don't think this is some sort of mental block or Harbaugh spends too much time thinking about OSU or not enough or any of that. OSU has fielded better teams. Period.



November 25th, 2018 at 9:03 AM ^

If you look at Michigan's record the past 40 years I think you will see a record reflecting a lot more systemic issues with the program than people care to remember. Everyone remembers 1997, but forgets it's the only national title since what 1948?

I actually agree with your take for the most part. I don't think the score is reflective of the talent or coaching difference between the two teams. It is reflective of the drawbacks of playing man coverage against a good QB with good WRs and good protection. How many teams can do this in the country I don't know, but 2018 OSU is definitely one of them. 

The defensive issue is that it's a 1-trick pony that is amazing when the trick is working and is a debacle when it isn't. But one of the reasons the "trick" is so good is because they commit wholeheartedly to it.

The offensive issues are bigger to me. The team scored 39 points, but half was garbage time and 1 was a 1 play, 9 yard drive off a turnover. On the first 9 drives of the game (not including the cheap one before the half) the offense scored 13 points. And this OSU defense isn't good. Period. 

When he has an all-world QB (Andrew Luck), this offense can fire on all cylinders. Unfortunately he hasn't developed that in his time here nor has he recruited that. 


November 25th, 2018 at 10:37 AM ^

That’s the thing: he doesn’t need an all-world QB to execute on the Stanford game plan. A QB at Shea’s level can pull it off; he’ll probably score less though. 

Your other point is the bigger one. 16 of 18 by OSU, and we as a fan base are going batshit over it. We’re placing the entirety of that 16/18 on Harbaugh’s shoulders, which is silly. He’s responsible for 4, no more, no less. 

The BPONE is alive and well for OSU, but I put this diary together in order to point out that we don’t have a tire fire program that will take drastic changes to get to OSU level. The DTs will be better next year (DE may be more of a tossup, but we have talent there). We’re getting more explosive athletes. And, even if we’re stuck with Pep, the offense will be better due to continued OL and WR development, along w/ the QB being more comfortable w/ the offense. 


Ghost of Fritz…

November 25th, 2018 at 10:56 AM ^

This is the right view folks.

JH has gotten Michigan back to being the 2nd best program in the Big Ten.  In his first 4 years he has 3 ten win seasons.  

Huge progress. 

But the biggest challenge for JH will be this off-season.  He needs to make additional changes or he will never get past 2nd best in the conference.

Just to scratch the surface on changes....  Does it really make sense that the offense utilized and relied for production its best position groups--QB and WR corps--so little all year?  No that makes no sense.  Change it. 

I mean the two best coaches in CFB right now (maybe ever?), Saban and Meyer, have both hired new offensive minds and given them enough autonomy to overhaul their offenses.  Adapt or get left behind. 


November 25th, 2018 at 11:39 AM ^

Might it be the fact that every coach we've had since Bo (with the obvious exception of Rich Rod) has kept the program immersed in the "Michigan Man" mantra and stubbornly insisted on maintaining Bo's legacy of influence, even 12 years after his death? Yesterday's loss was straight out of Bo's Rose Bowl playbook: we tried to rely on execution alone against a team with equal or better talent, and we got exposed. Our offense and our defense looked exactly the same as they have all season, and the wrinkles and never-before-seen formations or packages we were all anticipating didn't materialize. Bo got away with that against OSU because Woody had the same philosophy, but Bo's postseason record against the USCs of the world was a measly 2-9. Urban Meyer is part of the Earle Bruce coaching tree, but he rarely talks about Bruce or Woody Hayes the way Harbaugh talks about Bo, and his teams look nothing like Bruce's teams. Bo was a great coach of course, but there were clearly flaws in his philosophy that held him back in the postseason. And with the way that the game and the other blueblood programs that we consider our peers have evolved, those flaws hold us back to a greater extent now than they did during Bo's time.  

Culturally, we still perpetuate the "Michigan Man" meme and continue to uphold the mantra that Michigan is a special place whose excellence is somehow on a different plane from other programs, despite the fact that we've done nothing in recent years to merit that mentality. Hoke had a giant "This is Michigan" mural installed in Schembechler Hall, and Harbaugh kept it. Players and coaches are constantly reminded of the program's accolades from the distant past that bear zero relevance to the present day. There's a glorification of the past and a focus on purely symbolic distinctions (i.e., the fact that we have the biggest stadium, the winged helmets, etc) that permeates the program at every level and borders on obsession. Might we be sending the message to players that being at Michigan by itself counts for something and puts them at some sort of an inherent advantage? Might our self-absorption have bred an attitude of complacency that handicaps us against truly elite programs? 

You Only Live Twice

November 25th, 2018 at 12:33 PM ^

I think of all the things to worry about, celebrating our culture is not the problem, every school celebrates itself, good football program or not. 

It all came down to OSU this year and I can't even begin to wrap my head around what it must be like for the players and coaching staff to have lived through yesterday.  There was almost no blue in that snake pit.

Everything we had thought about OSU turned out to be false.  Haskins can't run, not true.  (Although that wasn't put to the test).  Their LBs are bad, not true.  Safeties bad, not true.   Team not focused, DAMN how that was not true.  That's the only complacency you can point to, and that was from fans, not the coaches.  

We keep recruiting and evolving and 10 win seasons will turn into 11 and 12 win seasons.



November 25th, 2018 at 10:59 AM ^

I used to think like this, as if there were some jinx or structural flaw that nobody could solve. After yesterday, it's become very simple and clear to me - better athletes at most positions, who always bring their A+ game against us. 


If there's one thing to feel "good" about, it's that lesser recruits are decommiting and lesser players are transferring. It was "dirty" back when Saban was the only one doing it, but it's part of today's game and we've at least evolved in that sense. Need to keep trimming the fat and adding more 4/5 stars. 


November 25th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

But does OSU really have that significant of a talent advantage over us? Judging by star ratings and recruiting rankings, our recruiting under Harbaugh has basically been on par with OSU's. They might have a bit of an advantage, but not enough to account for a 23-point shellacking.

Also, Clemson has never recruited on the same level as Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, LSU, et al., and yet Dabo's program has become a CFP mainstay that has surpassed many of the programs that perennially out-recruit Clemson.


November 25th, 2018 at 12:44 PM ^

OSU is reeling in a lot more high end talent. They got 8 five stars the last two years, compared to our 2. They also take a lot more 4* depth, whereas we keep digging for 3*-“sleepers.”

Im too lazy to count them out now, but a quick glance through the 247 or Rivals recruiting shows that OSU doesnt even really take 3*s. For example in 2017 they took like 3 3*s and we took like 8-12 depending on how you count them (kicker and punter probably shouldnt be counted I guess). 

Do this year after year and it really adds up, unfortunately. Especially if you trim the weaker 4*s after it becomes clear they wont work out. 


Edit: Good point about Clemson though, not sure how they do it


November 25th, 2018 at 11:52 PM ^

Osu gets top talent every year, so does Alabama. Yesterday’s game also made it simple for me: we are not at the elite level with Osu. I saw how fast they were. I saw how skilled they were. You saw it too. Did you see that jet sweep? 

Yes we are way better now with jb and he’s my guy. It’s less about Michigan and more about osu’s ability to recruit and that’s not changing.  




November 26th, 2018 at 6:03 AM ^

Clemson is all the more reason I think we're fine. I think we're on the Clemson path. Stars matter, but someone looked at the last 20 years or whatever and you really only need to be like top 15 for your recruiting to be good enough to be a national championship contender. Michigan's recruiting is fine. We're not nearly as far behind OSU as people here seem to think. Harbaugh's first season was an obvious rebuilding year. OSU blew M out. Then we were basically just a single play away from winning 2 years ago and even last year with a meh team. Just think of how different people would feel if Michigan had won in 2016 and made it into the playoffs. Don't get caught up in dumb narratives. Things aren't that far off. I really hope Harbaugh doesn't make any drastic changes.