The last 40 years of Michigan football

Submitted by jmblue on November 25th, 2018 at 2:46 PM

A look at our Michigan records the past 40 years and where this season fits in that context: 

YEAR   Overall   Big Ten   Place    OSU game    Bowl game  Coach

1979       8-4      (6-2)        3rd          L                      L  (Schembechler)

1980      10-2      (8-0)       1st          W                     W (Schembechler)

1981      9-3        (6-3)       3rd          L                      W (Schembechler)

1982      8-4        (8-1)       1st           L                      L (Schembechler)

1983      9-3        (8-1)       2nd          W                    L  (Schembechler)

1984      6-6        (5-4)       6th           L                     L  (Schembechler)

1985     10-1-1    (6-1-1)   2nd          W                    W (Schembechler)

1986     11-2        (7-1)     T-1st         W                    L  (Schembechler)

1987      8-4        (5-3)      4th            L                     W (Schembechler)

1988      9-2-1     (7-0-1)   1st           W                     W (Schembechler)

1989     10-2       (8-0)      1st            W                     L (Schembechler)

1990      9-3        (6-2)      T-1st        W                      W  (Moeller)

1991     10-2      (8-0)      1st            W                      L (Moeller)

1992     9-0-3     (6-0-2)    1st           T                       W (Moeller)

1993     8-4        (5-3)      4th            W                       W (Moeller)

1994     8-4        (5-3)     3rd             L                         W (Moeller)

1995     9-4        (5-3)      3rd           W                         L (Carr) 

1996    8-4          (5-3)     5th           W                         L (Carr) 

1997    12-0        (8-0)    1st            W                         W (Carr) 

1998    10-3        (7-1)     T-1st        L                          W (Carr) 

1999    10-2        (6-2)     2nd         W                          W (Carr) 

2000    9-3           (6-2)    T-1st       W                         W (Carr) 

2001    8-4           (6-2)    2nd         L                           L (Carr) 

2002    10-3         (6-2)    3rd         L                           W (Carr) 

2003    10-3         (7-1)    1st         W                           L (Carr) 

2004    9-3           (7-1)    T-1st      L                           L  (Carr) 

2005    7-5            (5-3)   3rd        L                            L (Carr) 

2006    11-2           (7-1)   2nd      L                             L (Carr) 

2007    9-4            (6-2)    2nd      L                           W (Carr) 

2008    3-9            (2-6)    9th        L                            --  (Rodriguez)

2009    5-7            (1-7)   10th       L                           --  (Rodriguez) 

2010    7-6            (3-5)    7th        L                           L  (Rodriguez)

2011    11-2          (6-2)    2nd (div.)  W                      W   (Hoke)

2012    8-5           (6-2)    2nd (div.)   L                       L    (Hoke)

2013    7-6            (3-5)   5th (div.)   L                        L  (Hoke)

2014    5-7           (3-5)    5th (div.)   L                        -- (Hoke)

2015    10-3         (6-2)    3rd (div.)   L                        W  (Harbaugh)

2016    10-3         (7-2)    3rd (div.)    L                       L (Harbaugh)

2017    8-5           (5-4)    4th (div.)   L                       L (Harbaugh)

2018    10-2          (8-1)   T1 (div.)   L                        ?  (Harbaugh)


-We are clearly a good program.  Some are currently emoting and acting like we are something like Ole Miss historically.  No we are not.  We have 36 winning seasons in the last 40 years (and 46 in the last 50).  We are not #1 all-time in wins because of what we did in the early 1900s.  If that were all it took, Minnesota would still be up there.

-However, we tend to be more good than great.  Others have reacted to the loss by painting a rosy picture of the 1969-2007 era, in which we supposedly were in national title contention every year.  In fact, 2018 is only the 15th time in those 40 years we've won 10 games.  Even if we ignore the Richrod/Hoke down period, we've done it only 14 of the other 33 years.  True, teams didn't start regularly playing 13 games until this century, but in the last four decades it's never really been an annual thing to reach double digits in wins.  Bo was probably fortunate that the 1981-84 stretch happened in the pre-internet age.

-It's really hard to go undefeated in the Big Ten.  Only four times did we go unbeaten and untied in league play.  Two other times we were undefeated with ties.

-Finishing with one conference loss (and no ties) generally wins you a share of the league (now division) title.  This was the case five of the six years we've done that, excluding only 2006.  We are in fact East division co-champs this year.  You can scoff at that but if this were the pre-2011 era, we would be Big Ten champs right now and the guys would be getting 2018 championship rings next spring.  The goal posts have moved in that regard.

-Jim Harbaugh has restored us to normalcy in every regard but one.  That of course is the OSU record.  Overall we went 16-23-1 against OSU in the last 40 years, so based on that, he should have one or two wins against them right now.  

OTOH, it should be noted we were 10-2-1 against John Cooper and 1-0 against Luke Fickell.  Harbaugh has not had luxury of coaching against those guys.  We have gone 5-21 against Earle Bruce, Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer.  Yikes.  (Thank goodness we had Harbaugh as a QB to go 2-0 in 1985 and '86.)

Urban Meyer is 81-9 (.900) as OSU's coach, which is incredible.  That makes the 2016 Game all the more frustrating - we had them on the ropes.  That sucks.  

So what about yesterday's loss?

Well, it sucked.  I guess you can point out that blowout losses are more frequent these days in general (Meyer's had three since January 2017) but it's still ugly.  I'm shocked at how badly we were dominated at the line of scrimmage; to me that's the story.  Our OL and DL were decisively outplayed by their counterparts and that really was it.  That's disheartening considering that 1) we all thought our OL was vastly improved since the ND game and 2) we have one of our best DE pairings ever in Winovich and Gary (though neither was probably very healthy yesterday).

But in all honesty, most Michigan teams haven't done well against top 5-level teams not coached by John Cooper.  Bo had a rough time in the Rose Bowl.  Our 1991 team got embarrassed by FSU and Washington.  Carr's teams got blown out by Tennessee in 2001 and repeatedly by Carroll's SC teams.  We've had of course a lot of close games, too, such as the Rose Bowl against Texas or the ND games when Lou Holtz was there.  But usually we've lost. 

The problem is that with Meyer, a perennial top-5 team has taken residence in our conference.  (The dirty secret is that the Big Ten has kind of sucked for most of the last 40 years, producing very few bona fide national title contenders.)  It would be nice for us if Meyer would, in fact, retire and for OSU to hire a merely good coach to replace him.

In the meantime, Harbaugh has us basically back where we were in the pre-2008 era.  That in itself is progress from where we were four years ago.  Can we take the next step?  That may require some self-inflicted help from OSU.  They're certainly due for some bad luck.   


Couzen Rick's

November 25th, 2018 at 3:09 PM ^

You nailed it. We've had good success with Harbaugh, especially considering the results over the last 20 years. We just need to come to terms with the fact that OSU is having an all time great run the past 20 years or so. Pile on top of that MSU has had their best 10 year run since the 50s-60s (albeit a large part of their success was Michigan being down). Throw in a few successful ND seasons and a flukey PSU B1G title and that's why our success feels hollow. 


November 25th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

Of all the Big time schools, OSU is the only team not to have a 5-year or longer stretch of mediocre to lousy football. ND, USC, Oklahoma, Bama, Texas, Nebraska, etc. all had crap stretches. 

Only Oklahoma and OSU haven't had a crap stretch this century. 

Even Cooper won a lot of games, just not THE GAME (2-10-1).

I think MSU is due for more 7-5 seasons, so we can focus on the bigger rivalry and get a team built for that game. 


November 26th, 2018 at 2:25 PM ^

Being a semi old-timer, can't forget that Michigan dominated Ohio State for 25 years. From 1976-2000, led the series 17-7-1 and a couple of those losses were after Michigan had already clinched the Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl appearances were 11-3 during that time frame, back when going to Pasadena meant everything. Also ruined their perfect season 3 times in 90s.

The dominance wasn't like it is now in OSU's favor, but the cycle can change again and probably will soon.


November 26th, 2018 at 3:12 PM ^

During that stretch OSU was coached by an aging Woody Hayes, Earle Bruce and then John Cooper.  Right now with Meyer they are firing on all cylinders - they are at their program's ceiling.  Their next coach will almost certainly be a comedown from him and it'd be nice if it happened sooner rather than later.  


November 25th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

Around 1992, I remember Sporting News had a story about "what's wrong with the Big Ten?" saying how UM dominated a weak league and was the only premier team. In fact, we won or shared 5 straight B10 titles.

Then PSU helped change the league (12-0 in 94) and Cooper even beat us twice (94 and 98).

While yesterday's performance and game plan sucked, it's not like we consistently have the BETTER team and lose (like Cooper did in 93, 95, 96, etc.). Anyone comparing Cooper to Harbaugh needs to remember we had 4 straight 4-loss teams, three that beat UNBEATEN OSU teams! OSU from 2015-18 is way better performing team in all games than UM 93-96. 

As for the 81-84 stretch, I was in school from 81-85. The 1981 team was far more disappointing than the team that lost yesterday - maybe the worst season vs. expectations ever. Started the year #1 and went 6-3 in B10 with final game home loss to a mediocre OSU team. 82 we won the B10 so no heat on Bo, even though we lost at OSU after clinching the week earlier. 83 we beat MSU and OSU - again no heat on Bo. 84 was a clunker year period. Bad team, injured QB, etc. There were a lot of people PO'ed after the season. Read Bo's Lasting Lessons and he talks about that team and the 85 team which was great and ended #2. Bo won 4 of 5 to close his career vs. OSU, and won 3 B10 titles. 

From 2005-14 there wasn't much to cheer about - except the day Brandon got fired. 

We're 38-13 since. Sure, we need to beat OSU (and ND) but given where things went under RR and Hoke, we couldn't even count of beating Zooker, Danny Dope, Toledo, Rutgers, Minn, Maryland, etc. I was even the games where we barely beat bad Akron and UMass teams!

You're right about the one missing thing, but the ship has been righted to put us on the door step. Whether JH gets us past or not, I'm not really sure who else out there is going to beat the Sabans and Meyers of the world. Lloyd went 1-6 vs. Tressel and is in the CFB HOF (thanks to Cooper).


November 25th, 2018 at 3:29 PM ^

OSU got a lucky break from the start of the Tressel era. It wasn't his "in 310 days...." speech that changed things, it was Drew Henson blowing town with Yankees/OSU millions before spring ball and leaving us with Navarre before he was ready to take over. The home loss to OSU (Navarre was terrible that day) seemed to start the downfall. 

I really don't think Meyer is going to make it that many more years. A blowout loss to Bama and the fans will be after him again. They got lucky the 1st time around after Tressel left. Not sure they will get a better coach than JH. Even the dweeb Finebaum said OSU will keep beating UM until Meyer leaves. I for one expect a GREAT season next year and will be disappointed w/o a sweep of ND, MSU, and OSU at home. 


November 25th, 2018 at 4:09 PM ^

That royally pissed me off.  I already loathed the Yankees for ruining the baseball season regularly. But that year, those [anatomically unlikely individuals] found a way to ruin the football season. I didn't figure out the OSU connection with Steinbozo (roast in hell you fucker!) for a few years, but it sure figures.


November 26th, 2018 at 2:31 PM ^

I think Michigan plays in the national championship game in 2001 if Henson stayed. They lost by 5 at Washington, lost Clockgate game at MSU and at home to an average OSU team. M's defense was much better than expected that season.

Pretty sure Henson wishes he had stayed. It's a shame. He probably would have been a top-10 draft pick in the NFL as well.

SD Larry

November 25th, 2018 at 3:58 PM ^

Many excellent points in your write up and I'm really glad you wrote this.  Some "real" perspective for our fanbase We lead the series with Notre Dame.  Understand you must mean we have not won our share against them when they are top 5 team.  Really want to beat Urban before he goes and think Michigan under Harbaugh can, but talk is cheap until it happens.


November 25th, 2018 at 3:58 PM ^

If you want to see the source of our PTSD/BPONE, look at the last two columns since 2004.  In the last 14 seasons, 8 have ended with losses to OSU and in a bowl game, 3 with a loss to OSU and no bowl game, only 3 ended with a win over OSU &/or in a bowl, and of those 3 only ONE season winning both.  We've seen a lot of success over that time, and in every other respect there's been substantial improvement since Harbaugh arrived. But, 11 of 14 seasons ending with a stench in your mouth, 2 that are bittersweet, and only one cube of sugar; man! It's easy to demand everyone from the AD to the equipment staff be fired.  It ain't rational, but it's understandable.


November 25th, 2018 at 5:38 PM ^

Guess who owns this record.


2000     3-8

2001     7-5

2002    10-3

2003     4-9

2004     6-6

2005   10-2

2006     6-7

2007     7-6


Cooler heads should prevail..


November 25th, 2018 at 7:16 PM ^

Well done.  Four coaches there as well.

It is amazing as mentioned previously that of all of the big time schools in the country, only Ohio State has not had an extended period in the wilderness.

Consider this: Since Michigan State joined the conference in 1953, Ohio State has four total seasons where they were under .500 (you can add one more if you're generous and say .500 or less.)  That's it.  (We're not counting the 2010 record adjustment by the NCAA, which, by the way, was does everyone keep crediting that win to OSU in the discussion of 14 of the last 15?)  I don't have numbers handy, but when only 7% of your seasons in a 65 year period are .500 or lower, that is a tremendous amount of success.  Michigan has ten such seasons, twice as many!  

I don't want to screw up the craps metaphor, but whatever OSU needs to keep rolling to stay hot at the table, they keep rolling it.


November 26th, 2018 at 10:34 AM ^

So I will answer my own question. This is Alabama with 2007 being Saban's first year. My point is that all programs go through ups and downs. Look back at ND, USC, Alabama and so on. Teams that were never good for a prolonged period of time often rise such as OR.

Hang tight.

Also we need to keep in mind that UM is an excellent program, and there are truly few, if any elite programs that are durable beyond 5-10 years. Current Alabama is the most recent exception.

Human Torpedo

November 25th, 2018 at 7:04 PM ^

It wasn't just losing to OSU for the millionth time that bugged me yesterday, it was the fact that on Rivalry Week, all these different programs were exorcising their program demons yesterday that were similar to ours in rivalry games. Florida finally beat Florida State after 5 straight losses, Minnesota won the Axe for the first time since 2003 (!!!), ND finally won at USC's stadium. It's almost like we have to wait for OSU themselves to almost be non-competitive ala 2011 to have our turn again. Thank God for the recent gradual success against MSU of 2 out of last 3, but even with that I don't see any program with rivalry futility on par with ours except for Tennessee with Bama and Florida


November 25th, 2018 at 8:44 PM ^

I agree with much of what you're saying.  The one thing I would add context to is this statement.

...we tend to be more good than great. Others have reacted to the loss by painting a rosy picture of the 1969-2007 era, in which we supposedly were in national title contention every year.

While we weren't in the running for a NC every year there were a ton of years where we had a preseason top 10 ranking.  In 12 out of the 18 years from 1989 - 2006 we were preseason top 10 (I could only find rankings back to '89).  While the final polls may not have been as kind that ranking would lead us to believe we would contend and get us excited about the season that often included a win vs our rival.

1989: #1

1990: #11

1991: #2

1992: #7

1993: #2

1994: #5

1995: #13

1996: #14

1997: #14

1998: #5

1999: #7

2000: #6

2001: #13

2002: #10

2003: #7

2004: #8

2005: #4

2006: #14



November 25th, 2018 at 9:04 PM ^

If this post is in response to the people who are being characterized as not supporting the program, or panicking, or angry, or in the fire <insert name here> camp, it's a misguided take.

I've seen very few people upset with Michigan's record over the past few days.  This post addresses record.

What people are upset about is Michigan cannot compete with elite teams.  BIG DIFFERENCE between that and quoting records.

Comparing apples to apples makes for a much better discussion.

Hail to the Vi…

November 25th, 2018 at 9:46 PM ^

At this point I will take any win against those OSU fucks, but my hawt take is I would actually like Meyer to stay so we can beat him. I'm tired of looking at that fuckers smug face as he takes another from us.

The refs handed to him in '16 and O'Korn handed to him in '17. Unfortunately I think our coaches handed to him on Saturday, but he gets credit there, they outplayed us.

I want to beat a Meyer coached OSU team to feel the full satisfaction of the win once that sweet, sweet day finally comes.


November 25th, 2018 at 10:13 PM ^

Good post.  This is pretty much where we're at - 1998-2006.  Harbaugh I believe realizes that and we'll see things improve, not collapse as after 2006.  I hope I'm right.


November 26th, 2018 at 9:54 AM ^

Let's add Bo's first ten years and see how we look even better:

Terribly frustrating years, no doubt, with the annual stupid loss to someone over whom we were favored (like my one trip to the Rose Bowl - 1978 inexplicable defeat at the hands of Washington).


Year         Coach                  Overall     League     League place         Bowl Result         Poll

1969    Bo Schembechler    8–3              6–1            T-1st                    L Rose               8/9

1970    Bo Schembechler    9–1              6–1            T-2nd                                              7/9

1971    Bo Schembechler   11–1             8–0             1st                      L Rose                4/6

1972    Bo Schembechler   10–1             7–1             T-1st                                              6/6

1973    Bo Schembechler   10–0–1         7–0–1         T-1st                                              6/6

1974    Bo Schembechler   10–1             7–1             T-1st                                              5/3

1975    Bo Schembechler   8–2–2           7–1             2nd                    L Orange            8/8

1976    Bo Schembechler  10–2              7–1             T-1st                  L Rose                3/3

1977    Bo Schembechler  10–2              7–1             T-1st                  L Rose                8/9

1978    Bo Schembechler  10–2              7–1             T-1st                  L Rose                5/5




November 27th, 2018 at 5:57 AM ^

You beat me to it.  Had the file on my computer for weeks, was going to post it after the bowl game.

Except I went back to 1969 and included our records against MSU (32-17) and ND(15-16)

Anyway, you've also reached the conclusions I did.  We've got a good program.  But just 1 NC and a sprinkling of B1G championships here and there.  Good, but not Alabama.

Also people aren't appreciating what Harbaugh has done.  UM hasn't had 3, 10 win seasons this close to each other since the late 90's/early 2000's, and we haven't had this good of a record in the B1G since 2006.

EDIT:  also I am glad I am not the only person to take the time to make a chart like this :)