Michigan is Good, But Not Elite, and Won't be Elite Without Different (Worse) Institutional Standards

Submitted by jcorqian on November 26th, 2018 at 4:11 PM

Summary Points

  • We have severely overreacted as a fanbase after OSU instead of just admitting the truth
  • The truth is that we are likely a good, consistent 10-win team under Harbaugh which would be mostly in-line with history; we are not elite and we have never been elite in the modern era
  • To be elite would mean winning 85%+ of games like Meyer, Saban, and Swinney – my view is that the distinction between elite and non-elite programs is not scheme or player development but rather player talent being recruited
  • Michigan – as a university – has structural factors (not paying players, adhering to academic standards, caring about integrity, etc.) that prevent us from recruiting elite talent as consistently as Alabama, Clemson, and OSU
  • We as a university / fanbase would have to sacrifice some of those structural factors to truly be an elite team – the open question to ourselves is whether that’s worth it or not…  if it’s not worth it, we should be content with 10-win seasons and rarely beating OSU instead of constantly being in BPONE
    • I am not making a value judgment on this, as I’m not sure where I stand on this myself – I guess I personally lean towards being ok with just being good but not elite at football and having Michigan be a place of integrity

I. Our Overreactions

The short-term thinking and overreactions on this board and the broader fanbase consistently leaves me shaking my head.  Perhaps it should be unsurprising given that I work as an equity investor and so see short-termism and overreactions in the market constantly, but I guess the effect is even more dramatic in college sports.  

Before the season started, everyone had fairly reasonable takes as summed up by LSAClassof2000's diary post here.  The average prediction on this board was for 9.6 wins, and we achieved 10 wins which was right in line.  But man did we ride an absolute roller coaster of hot takes and overreactions along the way. 

After Notre Dame - a game that we lost by one touchdown against a veteran team on the road at night after several game-defining plays bizarrely went ND's way - the board was ready to throw in the towel.  We were severely drenched in BPONE and this includes Brian et. al., UMBig11, and even reasonable coach types I really respect like Magnus.  There were only a few dissenting opinions that the season wasn't lost and that we - in fact - were actually pretty good.  This was my thought as well, and I told several co-workers that I was actually fairly encouraged by our performance against a very good team for a first road start breaking in that offensive line.  Of course, today Notre Dame is a lock to be in the playoff.  You can argue that their schedule was really easy, but when they made that schedule they had no idea all the teams they would play this year would suck.  I would argue the same thing about our schedule - many of the teams we played and beat turned out to be not as good as advertised (e.g., Michigan State, Penn State, and especially Wisconsin which started the season #4).

Then came our string of 10 straight wins.  We paved weaker teams into the dust and rode an incredible wave of optimism through the Penn State game.  The Revenge Tour was in full swing, with merely one last foe to defeat.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't immune to the optimism in any way and I really enjoyed that feeling.  It was strong enough that many ignored some cracks along the way.  Never mind that it became fairly obvious that many of these teams that we beat simply weren't as good as they were supposed to be.  Never mind the fact that we were somewhat exposed by Indiana, which ran a similar offense to OSU but with athletes only 90% as good (and that last 10% makes all the difference - imagine a 10% difference in the 40-yard dash, for example).  We here on the board were already going through every possible CFP scenario to see how Michigan would get in, who we'd play, etc.  That little obstacle in the way which was OSU was almost a foregone victory - after all, they got blown out by Purdue right?  They only narrowly beat teams that we pounded into the pavement right?  Michigan is going to be elite again and the conversation was already "bring on Alabama."

Then the OSU game happened.  Yes, it was a debacle, and yes we are probably better than 62 - 39.  The game proved that we are - in fact - not elite and not ready to compete with a truly elite team.  By this, I mean if the game were played 100 times, that we would win at least 40 of those times.  I don't think that's been the case for Harbaugh other than 2016, during which perhaps it was 60 / 100 towards us.  We just aren't at that level.  But our fanbase simply couldn't take this realization.  The asinine calls of fire Harbaugh, fire Pep (never mind that literally no one here knows how much of the offense is Pep vs. Harbaugh), fire Don Brown (never mind that we've fielded the #1 defense 3 years in a row), fire everybody are simply maddening and illogical.  Who does this element of the fanbase think we could get that's better?  It makes no sense.  What was really dumb to me were all the posters who turned on the players and on the Revenge Tour.  "Wow the Revenge Tour is the most juvenile thing ever, it's stupid, other teams don't need that motivation, let your actions do the talking, etc."  These were very likely the exact same people who were fully on board with it earlier and ready to buy Revenge Tour gear.  If we had beat OSU, how many posts on the Revenge Tour being stupid would there be?  I bet it would be literally zero.  This is ridiculous - either the Revenge Tour is awesome or it's juvenile and stupid.  The concept itself should not be affected by the outcome of the game.  Yet here we are.

II. Who We Are - Good, But Not Elite

Ultimately the point of this diary is to address our latest overreaction to the OSU game.  For my job, I attempt to recognize when human sentiment swings too far from the fundamentals in either direction and simply analyze what the data says.  What the data says is that we had a pretty good team that had a pretty good season, just not elite.  In fact, the data says that we have - at least in modern history - never been consistently an elite team (the definition here being one that is truly capable of winning a national championship). 

This seems to be the disconnect with the wild overreaction to the OSU game - a significant portion of our fanbase already thought of ourselves as elite.  This is simply not true and really has never been true in the modern era.  The takeaway for me is to simply reset my expectations - the playoff simply shouldn't be the expectation here at Michigan unless we change some long-term philosophical approaches as a university that are ultimately structural deficiencies (more on this later).

I was going to gather the data to prove this myself, but thankfully jmblue has beaten me to the punch and has done an excellent job of both providing the data and his own very well-reasoned conclusions.  I link to his diary post here.

The only things I would add to jmblue's work is to highlight a couple points.  From 1979 to 2007 (29 years pre-RR), we averaged 9.1 wins.  So Bo, Gary, and Lloyd together during this time averaged only 9.1 wins, and 1997 was a complete outlier.  9-3 and 9-4 seasons consistently results in a <75% win rate, obviously.  Harbaugh is actually averaging more in his four seasons.  Yes an extra game was added at some point compared to earlier eras, but it was also easier to win in the earlier years due to a bigger talent disparity (scholarships).  And again, as jmblue points out, we won many of those earlier Big Ten championships simply because you could tie - if that same methodology were used today, we would tie with OSU for Big Ten champions this year.

III. What Does Elite Actually Look Like?

So we've hopefully established that we are a pretty good team over the years - even great at times - but not really consistently elite.  So what does consistently elite look like?  Phrased another way, what would the team have to achieve to live up to the "fire Harbaugh" reactionary crowd's expectations?

Meyer is 81 - 9 (90%) at OSU in 7 seasons.  That is elite.  Saban is 144 - 20 (88%) at Alabama in 12 seasons, and 137 - 14 (91%) excluding his first 7 - 6 season.  That is elite.  Dabo Swinney is 113 - 30 (79%) at Clemson in 11 seasons, but 15 of those losses came during his first 3 seasons as he was building the program.  Excluding those, he is 94 - 15 (86%).  That is elite.

Since the college football playoff started, here are the teams and winners from every championship year (e.g., 2015 for the 2014 - 2015 season):

2015: Oregon, Florida State, Alabama, Ohio State | Winner: Ohio State over Oregon

2016: Clemson, Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan State (LOL) | Winner: Alabama over Clemson

2017: Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama, Washington | Winner: Clemson over Alabama

2018: Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama, Clemson | Winner: Alabama over Georgia

2019 projected: Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, Oklahoma

There's a few conclusions that I draw from this:

+ Teams that make the CFP – and especially those that win – generally have the best players.  In my view there are two ways to win in football – have better schemes or have better players.  At the elite level, however, I think everyone has great coaches that run great schemes.  I don’t think we will ever have a massive schematic advantage over Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, or OSU – they care about football and can pay good coaches just as much as us (in fact, below I argue we have a schematic deficit as we refuse to embrace the spread).  Case in point – OSU already had counters to adjustments that Michigan made to its defense, as Space Coyote pointed out.  It’s not as if we would have magically won the game if we just played zone defense the whole time – OSU has the coaching and the athletes to run zone beaters, and Brandon Watson is still going to be slower than OSU’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th wide receivers (I hate writing that as Watson has stuck around to be a very good player – unfortunately he is simply athletically limited).  I don’t think anyone would dispute that OSU has better talent top to bottom than Michigan does and that it matters.  We need better players to compete at this level on a consistent basis.  Obviously player development matters a lot too, but it’s not like those elite teams don’t develop their players.

+ Teams that make the CFP typically run a spread offense.  I believe that the only team above that doesn’t run a spread basically at all is MSU (LOL).  Alabama used to be more pro-style (but incorporated spread elements) but has transitioned with the times to a spread.  Admittedly, I haven’t followed Georgia much to know whether they are clearly spread or pro-style under Kirby Smart.  Ultimately, however, the data would suggest fairly convincingly that at the college level at least the spread offense is simply better and harder to defend.

+ It’s much easier to for certain teams to make it to the CFP than others.  But just because you make the CFP doesn’t mean you are an elite top four team.  MSU (LOL), Washington, and even Oregon and Oklahoma are examples of this.  This is because college football is split into divisions, and some divisions are inherently easier than others.  The Pac12 and Big12 are simply weaker than the Big10 and SEC in this current era, meaning that the top-end teams in the Pac12 and Big12 are likely worse than the Big10 and SECs’ top-end teams.  Yet, the best teams from these weaker conferences can often sneak in over the 2nd or 3rd best team from the Big10 or SEC.  Oregon / Washington doesn’t have to go through Alabama or OSU to get in, nor does Oklahoma.  However, Michigan has to go through OSU and Georgia has to go through Alabama.  Not that this matters all that much in the end because of the point below.

+ Teams that don't belong in the playoffs are quickly exposed.  If you aren't actually a Top 4 team in the country but you make the playoffs anyway, you get pounded pretty hard.  MSU (LOL), Washington, and even Oregon are examples of this.  They each got destroyed by an actual elite team.  Had Michigan made it to the CFP to play Alabama or Clemson, I think we would have been absolutely wrecked.  I think Notre Dame – which is a pretty damn good team this year – is going to get wrecked by either of those teams.

IV. How Do We Become Elite?

If you made it this far, I appreciate it and I do finally get to the punchline.  I’m not just pointing out problems without offering potential solutions – unfortunately these solutions may not be well received by us as Michigan alumni and fans.  After all, Michigan is an institution that stands for integrity and we all need to make our own choices on what football means to us within that broader context.

Easy fixes – schematically.  As the data above would suggest, we should be running a spread offense.  We should force defenses to play 11v11 (on every play), use misdirection, and get the ball to our playmakers 1v1 in space.  We have the athletes now to do so but we still do not do this.  Instead, we line up in a mashing formation to run and then run obvious play actions on 3rd and 7 that fool no one (I don’t think we’ve really ever actually run on this down and distance, so why even fake it?).  We run to open up the pass when we could and likely should pass to open up the run.  Get the ball to DPJ and Chris Evans and let them beat guys 1v1, just like Indiana and OSU did to us.  Get the ball to playmakers as they are running in stride so they can pickup YAC instead of having players have to constantly look back, adjust, and then get tackled for YAC.  Let playmakers make plays with as few execution constraints as possible (e.g., everyone else needs to hit their blocks).  It’s always going to be harder to tackle someone running full speed when they get the ball. 

I don’t think these are novel concepts but for some reason seem to choose a more complicated scheme on purpose – Harbaugh has been fairly stubborn in this regard despite showing a history of tinkering and philosophy adjustments elsewhere.  Our offense does well against inferior defenses, but against OSU which has superior talent and just as importantly superior depth we have obviously not fared well.  The OSU game was really disappointing because it appeared we were on the path to incorporating all the above elements into our game – however, we seemed to prefer to play completely straight up and absolutely regressed.

On defense, I think changes to scheme are less necessary.  We simply didn’t have the athletes to matchup.  OSU’s top four receivers are all 4.4 speed players and excellent at getting open and they have literally the best throwing quarterback in the history of the Big 10 (by statistics at least).  Our defensive line simply was not good enough either – those that thought Michigan has the best defensive line in the country simply have not spent enough time watching other teams out there.  I don’t believe the outcome of the OSU game would have been any different had we altered our scheme, ran zone completely, etc.  We were simply out-talented more so than we were outcoached.

I think a better scheme will close the gap between us and OSU, and would have made this last game closer for us.  It wouldn't have won the game for us though.  We needed players as well.

Hard fixes – recruit better players.  Michigan pulls in a Rashan Gary, Jabrill Peppers, Daxton Hill, and hopefully Zach Harrison every once in a while, but it really isn’t to the consistency of Alabama, Clemson, and especially Ohio State.  Clemson (and I know it wasn’t always the case before) today starts four world-beaters at defensive line.  I think highly of Rashan as a player, teammate, and person but think that any of Clemson’s four is likely as good if not better at the college level than Rashan has been… and there are four of them.  Again, I don’t think this is going out on a limb here but we simply don’t have the athletes to consistently beat OSU.  And yes, I know that Purdue blew them out and Maryland almost beat them but they were just lucky rolls of the dice.  Do you really believe that Purdue / Maryland beats this year’s OSU team consistently, e.g., >60 games out of 100?

In my mind, there are several reasons why Michigan does not recruit at the level of Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State:

+ We do not cheat and pay players.  We all know that the entire SEC, from Saban on down, pay players to go to their school.  Our own players have implied as much during their recruitments – Denard, Rashan with Clemson, etc.  Look at Laquon Treadwell and Isaiah Wilson to Ole Miss and Georgia respectively.  We know beyond a doubt this is happening.  There are supremely talented players that would never consider us because we won’t buy their mother a new house or car or slip them a few thousand dollars.

+ We care about academics.  When you come to Michigan, it’s expected that you go to class and graduate with a Michigan degree.  It’s expected that you better yourself and expand your horizons – that’s why we have the overseas trips to Paris, Rome, etc.  There are talented players that do not care about academics or bettering themselves.  They won’t consider us because the just want to play football, party, and fuck girls without having to deal with homework.

+ We care about character.  We all know Urban Meyer is a piece of shit who played Aaron Hernandez and who protected a coach who beat his wife (and truthfully, I freely admit I don’t really care about Courtney Smith – I was only interested because it was OSU; otherwise, she is a completely random person to me and I don’t have any vested interest in her any more than I would have towards any other victim I don’t know – obviously domestic violence is horrible in general).  We know Urban doesn’t care about anything other than winning, and his own players have implied that it’s an all business, cutthroat environment as opposed to a closer, family environment at Michigan.  It just recently came out that Reuben Foster had a domestic violence incident (yes I realize that he isn’t on Saban’s current team).  We all know that other teams have played players who have done probably pretty bad things.  Yet our standard is higher.  There are talented players out there who won’t consider us because they want to get away with doing bad things.

+ These matter to a lesser extent, but geography works against us.  Michigan is not filled with recruiting talent unlike Ohio, California, Texas, and the South.  Furthermore, though I don’t believe Michigan is really colder than anywhere else of similar latitude (I’m from Iowa and used to live in NYC), the perception that Michigan winters are horrendous probably prevents some talented players from considering us.

So what do we do to counter these issues?  Well, the first question in my mind is should we even want to change these things? 

There is a clear trade-off between the quality of player and Michigan’s standards (when it comes to recruiting as a whole – obviously we have one-off case in Rashan and Jabrill etc.) – lower the standards and bring in higher quality players.  Hypothetically, if Michigan were to pay players I think our recruiting disadvantage goes away.  We have more resources than basically any other football school out there.  $50k for a top-20 recruit consistently is nothing.  I myself don’t even know where I sit on this issue – I’m not sure it’s a good thing to prioritize football over the integrity of Michigan.  But that’s essentially what we would have to do to be an elite program.  It’s up to each of us to determine how much that means individually.

Overall conclusion: Michigan is not on a level playing field with Alabama, Clemson, OSU, etc.  We could make it a level playing field if we 1) paid players, 2) lowered academic standards, and 3) lowered character standards.  If we as an institution are willing to make that tradeoff, then we can be an elite program.  If we are not willing to do so, then we should be content with 10-win seasons and rare victories vs. OSU and rare appearances in the CFP in which we are beaten by teams with superior talent.  We simply cannot have both high institutional standards as a program AND expect to consistently beat OSU and compete for championships.

Side note: I tried to think through hypothetically what would happen if Michigan successfully lobbied (together with other schools) for paying the players.  I don’t think that would work either because 1) not all the schools have enough money to pay players beyond scholarships (at least I don’t believe so since most athletic departments are loss-making), and 2) there is nothing to prevent Alabama from further paying the #1 recruit in the nation on top of what they are getting paid just to play in college.  We would just be back to where we are today.  The counter to that is that after a certain level of payment, money would matter less to players and so they might start valuing other things that other programs have to offer.  However, these are 17-year old kids often from less than fortunate backgrounds so I still imagine that – on the whole – more money is hard to turn down.

Comments

Clarence Beeks

November 26th, 2018 at 4:21 PM ^

This was excellent, thank you.  I was thinking a lot in the aftermath of Saturday about the impact of academics on the equation.  The reality is, that makes an enormous difference and is one that we likely cannot (and do, and should not, not want to) overcome.

Njia

November 27th, 2018 at 8:49 AM ^

ND being in the playoff is not inconsistent with the OP's thesis. He makes the statement that unicorns like ND in 2018 will happen for a number of reasons, but will be exposed in the playoff itself. I think we all expect that the Irish will get absolutely smashed by Clemson (though it remains to be seen).

If ND beats Clemson, then it severely weakens the case laid out in this diary. But if ND gets curb-stomped, it's hard to argue against the point being made.

I Have Always …

November 27th, 2018 at 1:08 PM ^

I actually don't think that a ND win would severely weaken his thesis. If consistently making the playoff is a criteria for an "elite" team I think one year of ND success doesn't necessarily mean they are on an Alabama/OSU/Clemson level. Now if they do it 3 out of the next 5 that would pretty well shatter the thesis.

0-4

November 27th, 2018 at 9:49 AM ^

Exactly! This is viewpoint is very narrow thinking. And to say Paris & Rome is about education and not recruiting and paying players is short sighted. What's the cost per player to take them on those trips they can't afford to take on their own? That's a form of payment players from other schools aren't getting. Additionally, while Michigan guys are taking Selfies in Rome & pretending to have practices, Elite programs are getting real work done on improving their players. Harbaugh is a ex-QB1, but his best QB since coaching Michigan is not his recruit, but a transfer who doesn't exactly understand the rivalry. Maybe coach Harbaugh should do better at developing his own Quarterbacks! Maybe there should be more focus on overall player development & less on gimmicks meant to draw attention to the program! Winning big games draws enough attention to the program all on its own. 

 

schreibee

November 27th, 2018 at 5:59 PM ^

So what you're saying is YOU get no value from players taking trips to Europe.

And you don't care much about them as people, and what THEY may get from them, just their value as players on the school's teams?

Well, we all know at least ONE player agreed trips to Europe were a waste of time - Jalen Rose! 

treetown

December 2nd, 2018 at 11:45 AM ^

There is a pool of kids who can play extremely well and can also qualify without a lot of smoke and mirrors. The problem is that this pool is not large and year to year is pretty limited in some categories - like defensive linemen, running backs, etc. BUT that number is still more than the typical 25-26 football recruits each year. In theory it can be done, but it is hard, not easy and probably take longer to establish. 

The other pathway is faster - juco transfers, lowered standards - heck don't bother, go the UNC route and create a completely fake phone degree concentration. (how that hasn't led to sanctions is still mind blowing) https://www.businessinsider.com/ncaa-unc-athletics-slide-fake-classes-sanctions-decision-2017-10 

I think the trips do matter to the kids in this pool and their families. 

Finally, check out the latest issue of M magazine, the official magazine of the Athletic Dept.

https://mgoblue.com/sports/2017/6/16/magazine.aspx  There is a pair of great where are they know pieces on Dave Gallagher and Stefan Humphries - I think the kids we are trying to recruits want to have these types of options in their future.

Lakeyale13

November 28th, 2018 at 6:28 PM ^

I cant help but read into the arrogance, or perhaps its excuse that has "emotional protection" behind it.  Michigan's standards are high, but it isn't freaking Ivy league high.  Believe it or not, but Florida is a top 10 public institution.  Clemson is a fantastic school and not easy to get in.  

I have lived in the South for the last 25 years and it is amazing the bias people from the "North" have.  They somehow have falsely come to the conclusion that Southern Schools are crap and have very low academic standards.  Y'all need some education on Southern Academics!!

 

ND was also in the Championship Game a couple years back too.

gruden

November 29th, 2018 at 10:44 AM ^

Since this is a fact-based thread, let's throw a few facts out there from 2017:

Clemson admission: 50.5%

Freshman SAT range: 1220-1400

Freshman ACT composite range: 26-31

UM admission: 28.6%

Freshman SAT range: 1370-1530

Freshman ACT composite range: 29-33

Many students accepted to Clemson would not be accepted to M.

LOL UofM Arrogance

November 27th, 2018 at 12:31 PM ^

There are two schools in the Big 10 that require a higher standard to get into school, Northwestern & Wisconsin.  Don't kid yourself that this is your recruiting issue.  Until Michigan people realize it is their arrogance that feeds their ignorance, you are not going to be elite.  Keep thinking you are better than everyone else and MSU and OSU will just keep on winning.

 

schreibee

November 27th, 2018 at 5:22 PM ^

You may feel a NW degree carries equal weight to Michigan, I'm sure we ALL disagree on here. Wisconsin - not a chance, that's just laughable bucknut tripe meant to enrage not to enlighten. 

But there isn't ANY question that Michigan holds its players & coaches to a higher standard than the teams that have made multiple CFP appearances, and some that have made only 1 (fsu, msu). Fuck, Brian Kelly got a kid killed taping practice. ND went into full self-defense mode, no accountability for the coach. 

So, while I'm not ready to throw in the towel on getting elite players to come to UM, I'm pretty much in agreement with most of the points in this thread!

And bucknuts be DAMNED!

 

Eleven Year Wo…

November 27th, 2018 at 8:32 PM ^

Northwestern maybe, but Wisconsin is clearly and demonstrably easier to get into than Michigan.

15%<6% of SAT test takers, but then I realize trolls suck at math. 

Wisconsin:

SAT Requirements

SAT Range

1270-1470

Applicants Submitting SAT 16%

SAT Reading 25th 610 SAT Reading 75th 690

SAT Math 25th 660 SAT Math 75th 780

SAT Composite 25th 1270 SAT Composite 75th 1470

SAT SCORES YOU NEED TO GET IN

What are the SAT requirements for students to be admitted to University of Wisconsin Madison?

University of Wisconsin Madison typically requires applicants to be in the top 15 percent of SAT test takers. The school consistently takes SAT composite scores down to 1270 on a 1600 scale, below which admission should be considered a reach. We estimate some students could be accepted with SAT's as low as 1170. The estimated average SAT composite for admitted freshman is 1370 out of 1600. 16 percent of applicants submit SAT scores to the school. Note: SAT scores presented on this page have been adjusted upwards per the College Board's concordance tables for test takers after March 2016.

Data Sources, IPEDS for Fall 2016 starting class

 

Michigan

SAT Requirements

SAT Range

1370-1530

Applicants Submitting SAT 27%

SAT Reading 25th 670 SAT Reading 75th 750

SAT Math 25th 700 SAT Math 75th 780

SAT Composite 25th 1370 SAT Composite 75th 1530

SAT SCORES YOU NEED TO GET IN

What are the SAT requirements for students to be admitted to University of Michigan?

University of Michigan typically requires applicants to be in the top 6 percent of SAT test takers. The school consistently takes SAT composite scores down to 1370 on a 1600 scale, below which admission should be considered a reach. We estimate some students could be accepted with SAT's as low as 1290. The estimated average SAT composite for admitted freshman is 1450 out of 1600. 27 percent of applicants submit SAT scores to the school. Note: SAT scores presented on this page have been adjusted upwards per the College Board's concordance tables for test takers after March 2016.

Data Sources, IPEDS for Fall 2016 starting class

LOL UofM Arrogance

November 27th, 2018 at 8:54 PM ^

Im certainly not saying that a NW degree or a Wisconsin degree is greater than a U of M degree.  What I tried to explain, but obviously not well, is that those two schools in the Big 10 have a higher standard for their athletes to achieve to gain enrollment than the NCAA basic requirement.  U of M does not.  As you preach your high and mighty "we hold our athletes and coaches to a higher standard", think back the your fab 5 and that payroll.  Gary Moeller did not pass a bar or woman he didn't like.  Your boosters are no different than any other school other than they think they are different.

Ramblin

November 28th, 2018 at 1:34 PM ^

I think my new answer to Buckeye trolls is this:  You guys held a rally for Urban Meyer immediately after his disgusting character was revealed.  Your hot takes on Michigan character are, therefore, ridiculous. 

There is a very strange, very personal, veiled inferiority thing with you people. The resentment is flattering to me in a way...  Register on a Michigan blog to defend your rival school no matter what disgusting shit your school is currently up to...  "but you guys do it too!  We have high ACT scores too!  Meyer tried to help and he just got confused about his wife beater assistant!"  Creepy.  It really better defines "trolling."

I'm so bummed to lose to these guys every year but then I'm reminded of how happy I am to have never attended OSU or MSU.  No amount of losing will change that.  

 

Maize N' Ute

November 26th, 2018 at 4:22 PM ^

Outside of last years class, Harbaugh had been pretty solid in recruiting.  I don't think institutional standards prevent the offense from calling more aggressive calls, or calling zone defenses when Watson is getting burned play after play or keeps Harbaugh from being out coached and schemed.

This is what we are.  We as Michigan fans reap what we sow.  We got our prodigal son.  The next “Bo” to lead this team to glory.  Harbaugh provides an old school offense that was ran back in the 80’s. No creativity.  No flash.  Just plain stubbornness. This offense will crush the MAC teams of the world due to talent, depth and size.  This offense will struggle early against quality teams of the Big Ten, but will eventually wear them out.  However, this offense will not succeed against elite teams with elite talent and depth.  We’re at an offensive schematic disadvantage. 

This offense is predicated on beating you up.  The same 5-7 guys cant beat up 10 dudes in a game.  Until Harbaugh adopts a more modern offense where we attack through the air, we’re going to continue running our backs into a brick wall and losing against the big boys of college football. 

While schools like Bama and OSU looked to the future, Michigan only cares about the past.  Michigan's problems are coaching philosophy and culture.

 

bronxblue

November 26th, 2018 at 4:42 PM ^

Michigan completed 64.5% of their passes on the year for 8.2 ypa, both top-25 in the country and above a ton of teams that throw the ball a bunch.  Michigan ran the ball 500 times this season because they were pretty damn good at it, averaging 5 ypc against some pretty good running defenses.  And sure, Alabama and Clemson throw the ball a ton and are good at it, but teams like MSU, FSU, Northwestern, etc. also throw the ball a lot and they do so because they can't move it on the ground, and even with those passing attacks they barely scratch out functional offenses.

Michigan's offense, per S&P+, is about 25th in the nation.  That's pretty good; better than Texas Tech, Notre Dame, Penn State, Syracuse, and a slew of other teams that run "modern" passing offenses.  Michigan's offense needs some tweaks yes, but I challenge you to divine the huge differences in playcalls and schemes between Michigan and, say, Notre Dame, Georgia, or Washington, all teams that have or will play for a college championship.

I'mTheStig

November 27th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

Michigan completed 64.5% of their passes on the year for 8.2 ypa, both top-25 in the country and above a ton of teams that throw the ball a bunch

You missed the entire point.  The OP didn't say M is bad.  They said M isn't going to be elite.  You can quote all the gaudy stats (run up against Western, Hawaii, Rutger, et al.) you want and that doesn't change anything.

Here's another stat for you Michigan was #50 (out of 124) this season TDs per red trip zone this season.  

The offense isn't as good as you think it is.

WFNY_DP

November 28th, 2018 at 11:56 AM ^

Michigan completed 64.5% of their passes on the year for 8.2 ypa, both top-25 in the country and above a ton of teams that throw the ball a bunch.

How much does volume figure into that? By count, Michigan is 107th in the country in passing attempts. Completion percentage and YPA don't mean much when you barely throw the ball compared to your peers in that stat category. They're good stats, but they don't indicate a team that can thrive throwing the ball all over the yard, simply because the team hasn't done it consistently.

Yost Ghost

November 30th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

Our QB was under pressure all game and that is clearly an Oline issue. JBB not playing didn't help matters but that doesn't explain away all the protection and blocking issues. However, 39 points should have been enough to beat OSU.  The defense simply couldn't create any pressure upfront. Winovich and Gary had no sacks and no QB pressures. Brian mentioned on the Podcast that M wasn't even blitzing. You give Haskins that kind of time back there and he's going to kill you. Shea could have done the same with that kind of protection.

StopTheTate

November 26th, 2018 at 4:33 PM ^

Dear lord.  If I was looking for evidence that Michigan fans felt entitled and elitist this post would be artifact #1.  You think we lost this game because we have higher academic standards for our athletes?  Please.   You think we don't have a top 5 recruiting class because we don't stoop to the same ethical lows that the other institutions that get caught have?  Just stop.  

BoCanHam15

November 26th, 2018 at 4:58 PM ^

You are absolutely right!!!  First of all we put the most unabounding tight end in space who has already shown that he will never play another down after he leaves us!  And finally we have had this conversation ad nauseam.  Other schools have the same hurdles.  When you have a small window to defeat the other team you cannot give up blocked punts, dropped passes, passes thrown directly at the defense and what in the world is going on at right and left tackle.  We were in trouble before the game began with JBB out of the game!

MonkeyMan

November 26th, 2018 at 6:07 PM ^

Left out is that Michigan players don't kick kittens while elite team players do.

Also, Michigan players are going to ivy league grad schools while elite team players are trying to figure out Playstation controls. Try understanding a UM player without a thesaurus- just try.

Michigan coaches also don't get paid ridiculous salaries like elite coaches, er, do

Hmmm... Brian says this game was due to Satan- and  the OP says we need to become him!

Are donations to Mgoblog deduct-able as a religious contribution to some satanic cult?

Bob_Timberlake

November 26th, 2018 at 4:35 PM ^

Pretty valid stuff, but why is it that we can't "get lucky" more than 10% of the time vs. OSU, when less talented teams like Purdue, Iowa and MSU have all beaten them in the last few years? Beating OSU needs to be a year-round preparation (like they do vs. us) and our current coaching staff needs to evolve and prepare better...DO A BETTER JOB.

itauditbill

November 26th, 2018 at 4:59 PM ^

Purdue, Iowa and MSU catch OSU looking beyond them. Michigan never will catch OSU looking past them. I agree with the original poster... Michigan will struggle to compete with the elites as long as Michigan chooses to not debase itself. Michigan won't keep wife beating coaches, pedophiles, pedophiles (had to say that twice since two of our rivals embraced that... ) murderers, coaches who send GA's up to in a windstorm, bagmen, hookers... pretty impressive..  The one time we embraced that we suffered for years and years (as we should have). 

I for one had embraced the idea we would be good not super at the start of the year. Optimism and love of the university busted through that as this year went on. I should have known better. Hopefully I will keep that in mind. Enjoy the games that Michigan plays in and hope that our rivals suffer down the road. 

footballguy

November 27th, 2018 at 12:21 AM ^

Was OSU really looking beyond them in 2013? Or 2015?

I have a hard time buying that narrative when their whole season came down to MSU in both those years. Iowa and Purdue you could have a point. 13/14/15 the winner of the conference came down to the MSU/OSU, and the most flat that msu came out was 2014. Yes, OSU preps more for Michigan than other teams, but I don't buy that they just looked beyond MSU in the games that MSU won. 

And the past 3 years, PSU vs OSU were classic games that I guarantee OSU prepped for diligently.

I think this year just came down to a really bad gameplan. Obviously OSU has better players, but they're not 30 points. 

JamesBondHerpesMeds

November 26th, 2018 at 4:39 PM ^

It’s a bit reckless to say “we don’t pay players” and suggest that every elite program does. I, too, want to discuss Michigan athletics with an upturned nose, a glass of Moët in my gloved hand, and a Kafka tome in my lap, but claiming such things - as well as the “academic standards” argument - just reeks of classism and distracts from the fundamentals. 

Stanford under Harbaugh - and partially under Shaw - did a nice job of debunking some of these claims, Notre Dame is going to the Playoff, and Northwestern is playing for the Big Ten title. Those are three immediate counterpoints to your points.

jcorqian

November 26th, 2018 at 5:27 PM ^

@ JamesBondHerpesMeds

I don't want to suggest that every program does it.  I don't think ND does it, for example.  But they are not elite.  I think the three programs I consistently mentioned (Alabama, Clemson, OSU) to be elite have lower standards and/or pay players, and I'm not sure why that's not simply objective to say.

I also don't see how Stanford, Northwestern, and ND debunk my points at all.  These are not elite programs.

Stanford under Harbaugh and Shaw is literally what we have now under Harbaugh.  A good team that falls short of elite.  That's exactly where we are.

Northwestern is 8 - 4 and not a particularly good football team.  Just cause they are playing for the Big10 title from winning the West does not make them elite.  Think this is pretty obvious.

Notre Dame is legitimately good this year.  They have definitely not been an elite program whatsoever under Kelly.  They are aided on their journey to the CFP because they don't play anyone who is elite this year, and in fact do not have to play an extra game at all.  Under Kelly, they have been 8-5, 8-5, 12-1, 9-4, 8-5, 10-3, 4-8, 10-3, and now 12-0.  That's not an elite program, that's a good program with occasional flashes.  Michigan has occasional flashes too...  doesn't make us an elite program.  ND is going to be destroyed by Alabama or Clemson in the playoff.

JamesBondHerpesMeds

November 26th, 2018 at 5:40 PM ^

I agree that if we're orbiting around the "elite" label, your points are there.

I'd posit that the three teams I mentioned have all done things Michigan has not in recent memory: won a Rose Bowl, made the CFP, or played for the Big Ten title. Those seem like table stakes for any team with a legitimate argument to make as a nationally competitive program. 

MGlobules

November 26th, 2018 at 6:11 PM ^

From what I can see Harbaugh won four, five, eight, and then twelve games at Stanford. Different situations, but doing much better here so far. This diary is a bit lengthy, but I tend to agree that higher academic standards are a hindrance. Harbaugh sleuths out great players, but they are all bright guys.

Saw a convo between Cowherd and KIatt the other day and they were saying that Kelly has openly admitted how tough it is to recruit at ND; this was given as a reason that he might go to the NFL after this season. What he has accomplished pales next to Harbaugh if you look at Kelly's first few seasons, but we may be seeing something akin to what Harbaugh faces year to year--pretty steep hurdles to becoming a consistent top-tier squad. Carr was winning 8-9; here Harbaugh is with 10 in 3 of 4. 

You can't blame fans for wanting to grouse, but when you bring a few facts to the table it's pretty clear we're doing okay. We just got murdalized by OSU, and it sucked--that's all. Jimmy and Don were not ready, and that's on them, too. But nobody's going anywhere, including--probably--our school. 

Next year I see no reason why we shouldn't win 10-11 again. . . and OSU is going to be awfully, awfully good. 

0-4

November 27th, 2018 at 11:43 AM ^

How does OSU pay players? How is Michigan taking players to Europe about education when the rest of the country sees it as 1). A back door payment for trips no other school Michigan does and most all players couldn't afford on their own. 2). A recruiting gimmick that is actually taking away from spring development. How is it that OSU doesn't reach Michigans intellectual and entrance standards, but it's student body's 29 ACT average score is well above the community college standard everyone seems to tag them with. Brings me to the question, how narrow is everyones vision on this & how many excuses are there going to be? Columbus gets the same winters as Ann Arbor, but yet OSU gets Elite players from Florida & Texas every year, why? (and saying they pay them's a cop out). Maybe it's as simple as elite players want to be developed for careers in the NFL & so they play for college coaches that can get them there the quickest. Maybe elite players don't look at Harbaugh that same way. Maybe he just gets the ones that love gimmicks. Maybe.

 

Mich-Tx-Buck-i

November 29th, 2018 at 11:12 AM ^

Agree with comment that this post reeks of classism with a heaping dose of narcissism. I have been at Michigan home games where they are losing to MSU and student section chants include "that's alright, that's okay, you're going to work for us someday". smh...Karma is a bitch.

There are plenty of blue collar UM fans that are good regular folks. But then there's an absolutely insufferable, egotistical, self important group of UM grads that write-off every stupid loss claiming they are indeed superior & that's why they can't win. Let's all just admit that UM accepts only the top 6% of College admissions test scores. Their average is high & so are the IQ's. Yay for UM!  They are indeed the Ivy League of the Midwest. Then why watch football & ever expect to win?! UM is the greatest academic school in the history of the big10 & maybe the world...then why can't your uber intelligent head coach figure out how to motivate & scheme against tOSU? Because that's how you got beat.

To claim institutional superiority & stringent standards as the reason your football team cannot be elite is absolutely the biggest cop out in the history of sport & the rivalry.  Is that what it's really come to? Why even play THE game?  UM is superior academically & tOSU is superior on the football field, let's just give OSU the win & move on.

Well if UM is such a great school & hold their football players to those higher standards, then why can I still not understand 1/2 the things that Desmond says on Game Day?  Why are some of the most intelligent, well-spoken, sports announcers that are former college players from tOSU? 

Your assumption that all elite schools are paying players & violating other rules may be correct. But if you think UM (& other non-elite schools) don't do the same things you're smokin somethin.  I lived there in the 80's and watched the fab 5 driving around in Cadillacs with $1000 gold chains around their necks. Gimme a break & lose the holier than thou facade. It seems that OSU began getting the better recruits during the span of time OSU started owning the rivalry.  Success breeding more success. Is it possible that if UM started preparing better & winning THE game that more elite athletes would want to come there? hmmmm

UM gets beat every year by OSU because of karma & because they refuse to  admit THE game is anything but another game. Harbaugh refuses to accept actual responsibility & you can tell by the way he is usually full of excuses (or a deer in headlights) and NO solutions.  If I were you I would stop making excuses for Harbaugh & start demanding real answers & change or else quit watching football. You know what the definition of insanity is...

NateVolk

November 26th, 2018 at 5:53 PM ^

Come on. We're already Stanford basically. Since Andrew Luck left the building, Shaw has 4 10- win seasons out of 7. Jim already has 3 in 4 seasons. 

We'll probably beat ND next year. (Wasn't like it was a blow out this year on their field breaking in a new QB.)

And than playing the "Northwestern is competing for the Big Ten title" card.....  Really?

The OP's point is if we want more than to be Stanford, we have take on the sport from a recruiting standpoint like the teams who are elite already do.

Those schools you mention further the OP's point rather than debunk it.

Personally I am fine with being Stanford with the occasional bigger year if that's the best we can do. Michigan should be different. Should be about lots of big important things. And it should do right by the kids it brings in to play football.

Football being just one of those important things that makes a university. 

A sustainable winning program is being built. Heights yet to be determined. But the OP makes some points which are hard to refute. 

newtopos

November 26th, 2018 at 4:41 PM ^

Excellent post.  There are inherent, structural disadvantages that Michigan faces (based in part on the choices that it has made as an institution).  I would also put more weight on geography/location of talent.  If the state of Michigan had the level of high school talent as, say, Louisiana, that would alter the landscape.

Blue in PA

November 26th, 2018 at 4:44 PM ^

what if we paid recruits in bitcoin?  after all, it isn't really money... and in a month it might not even be anything..... but then again, it could be worth more than whatever Tua's mom got to move to Alabama.....

 

just a thought.  

 

 

skwogler

November 26th, 2018 at 4:44 PM ^

Thank you for the analysis.  I agree with much of what you had to say....maybe all of it.

I'd rather keep our integrity intact.  I'll settle for 10 win teams with shots at the National Title every 10 years or so.  Managing expectations is the key to being at peace with and enjoying the performance of the TEAM.

Go blue!