Michigan/Ohio State "Decline" Parallels

Submitted by MGoEOD on January 6th, 2009 at 7:59 PM

I know all of us have discussed ad nauseam how Michigan's last couple of years have been, whether here, or with your friends, or at the local crack spot. There were several things that have happened over the last few years that were rationalized at the time but in hindsight were indicators of the decline of the program (e.g. Ball State 2006).

During this barren bowl season I decided to take an objective look at our bitter rival to see if there were any similarities. Please make no mistake, I'm not guaranteeing OSU's imminent demise any more than I guarantee Michigan's next National Championship (while I, of course, hope for both). I assure you the point of this post is not to dissect Michigan's recent shortcomings but to draw some parallels to Ohio State's current state of affairs.

The first similarity is predictable play calling with little to no adjustments. A perfect Michigan example is the 2006 Rose bowl which saw Michigan and USC go into the half tied at 3. USC proceeded to come out throwing and put up 29 points while Michigan continued it's zone left runs until it was too late. On to OSU. While there are enough examples in recent years the thing that sticks out most to me are other teams' postgame comments. Just this year Rey Maualuga and Colt McCoy both gave indications that either a) OSU did exactly what they did on film (Maualuga) or b) their coverage was predictable enough for the WR to call a play (McCoy).

Another similarity is when a great team wins a close one to a lesser opponent they are expected to roll on. Michigan's example is Ball State 2006, which everyone treated as a trap game after the fact and woke up to Appy State the next year. This year OSU played a close game against the vaunted Ohio University Bobcats that they barely escaped at home.

We all know the diluted argument (which will never be settled) that it's better to get to a BCS game and lose than not get there at all. To which I say: bullshit. First of all, as a fan, I would take a victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl over a BCS beatdown any day. Secondly, ALL of us have to remember how frustrating the annual "showdowns" in Pasadena were getting. Maybe getting to one and getting beat is a moral victory; 3 in a row is just pathetically uncompetitive.

The last example (unless anyone wants to chime in) is the fact that Tressel was hired because of his "big game" experience and abilities. He held up his end of the bargain for the first couple of years, but in recent memory hasn't shown up. The most telling stat is OSU's record against opponents ranked in the Top 10 since "The Game" in 2006, which is 0-5. In the same span Michigan's record against Top 10 opponents is, get this, 3-4. (If you count the 2006 season the records go OSU [2-5] and Michigan [4-5]. Remember one of OSU's wins and one of M's losses were The Game FWIW).

To summarize, in my humble opinion, I honestly believe that as Michigan goes the Big Ten goes (for the most part). Michigan has been sliding for years, but it wasn't truly evident until the Buckeyes were getting exposed. Imagine being in Columbus thinking "How can we beat Michigan every year but not win a bowl game?" (On the other hand how can we beat Florida while they run laps around OSU...?) The truth is Michigan hasn't been very good, plain and simple. And the only time they were was when they were, yep, unpredictable. You know Urban Meyer had the same reaction all of us did when Michigan lined up 5-wide on the first play from scrimmage, which was: WTF?!

This is purely for discussion's sake only. No predictions, merely observations. Please don't get me wrong; I am not insisting or assuming that Tressel is out or doomed, I'm just trying to look at some gradual trends that we didn't notice on Michigan's behalf over the last few years. But I'm also realizing that without Michigan on top, the Big 10 simply cannot support itself. The balance of power has to be restored.

Comments

jmblue

January 6th, 2009 at 10:16 PM ^

While I agree to some extent that the program was getting stale, I think you're overdoing things a bit. I don't agree about Ball State 2006 an indicator of decline for the program. For one thing, we've had a number of games like that against lesser opponents over the years. (And so has OSU; in their 2002 championship season, they barely escaped past Cincinnati, which was then in Conference USA.) And besides, if we hadn't prematurely cleared our bench (presumably to avoid injury with OSU coming up) we almost certainly would have won by 20+. If anything, I think that game was an indicator that BSU was starting to turn the corner under Hoke; they've had two winning seasons since then.

Also, let's keep in mind that one of our BCS "beatdowns" was a last-second loss to Texas. The other two were to USC, which has been unreal in bowl games since 2002. Aside from the Vince Young Texas team, no one has stayed close to them.

I do not believe that App State was inevitable. We wouldn't have lost that game if Henne had been his usual self. For some reason, he was way off-target for much of the day. And then Hart sat out about half the game with a thigh injury. Our D certainly stunk in the first half, but with Henne/Hart healthy and in form, we'd have won by like, 42-28 and the game would have gone unnoticed by everyone outside of Ann Arbor.

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 6:57 AM ^

I wasn't counting the VY Rose Bowl. That was just stunning. I thought for sure M was going to finally get a W that year. I didn't even want to bring up the Alamo Bowl (sigh).

Again I'm speculating a lot here but with the benefit of hindsight I still wipe my brow thinking about Ball State. M had a dominant D that year and Ball State knew exactly what to do. It was only magnified against App St. I've tried what iffing that game forever but all I can come up with is: You're Michigan...

funkywolve

January 6th, 2009 at 11:37 PM ^

The irony is that as more big ten teams play USC, UM's losses don't look as bad. While UM's losses weren't nailbiters they weren't the complete blowouts that we've seen from Illinois, OSU and Penn St.

UM was actually tied 3-3 at halftime against USC a couple years ago. PSU was down 31-7. OSU wasn't close at the half either.

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 6:56 AM ^

The 2004 Rose Bowl was a bummer and at the time kind of emabarrassing, but the next year when Leinart and Bush really started rolling I was relieved to only lose by 14.

The trend you point out is lack of adjustment. Pete Carroll 1) knows how to prepare for predictable Big Ten teams and 2) comes out different at halftime. PSU was the closest team to adjusting but that didn't come until the 4th quarter.

The Big Ten has tremendous talent. Talent just isn't good enough anymore. That's what I'm trying to project on UOS at the moment.

mjv

January 7th, 2009 at 12:25 AM ^

Please correct my memory if I'm wrong, but I believe that we were up by more than 20 points against Ball State and LC pulled the starters towards the end of the third or beginning of the fourth quarter. That game was in the bag until the second and third team came in and made it close.

Also, Brady Hoke is one of LC's for assistants, and I felt at the time that LC called off the dogs to let Hoke escape with some dignity.

On the other hand there is NO justification for App State 2007. That was a team that just felt that by throwing the Winged helmets on the field, they were guaranteed a victory.

Shock G

January 7th, 2009 at 8:54 AM ^

It's hard to call a program that in the past four seasons has particpated in a BCS bowl game (1-3 record), two of which were for the MNC, has won two outright Big Ten Championships, shared two other Big Ten Championships, and continues to beat up the Big Ten regularly in decline or progressing towards decline.

Nevermind in those four seasons Ohio State has managed a 43-8 record and continues to recruit at a very high level.

In terms of predictable play calling in big games I actually think 2008 was different for the Buckeyes in spite of what USC may have said after the game. The reason that game ended 35-3 was more to do with execution than play calling. Early on, if you recall, the Buckeyes had USC off balance with the alternating QBs (couple that with a healthy Beanie and you're looking at the potential for a better ball game). In this years Fiesta the only predicatbility was in the second half you knew when Boeckman was in that OSU would be throwing while when Pryor was under center it would likely be a run play. Again, an injured Beanie in the second half likely altered the game plan some.

If OSU has been predicatable in play calling it had been defensively over the years. However, the game plan in the Fiesta was something the Buckeyes had not shown defensively all year (or in the past several for that matter).

In terms of close games against lesser OOC opponents well I am not sold on the idea of that being a precursor to a downfall until one of those games is lost. This is like thinking USC is on the verge of not winning the Pac Ten one of these years because they get beat by the likes of a 4-8 Stanford, a lousy UCLA, or surprised by an Oregon State, seemingly every year. OOC opponents from the likes of the MAC, Conf USA, FCS, etc., get amped to play in the Big House, or the Shoe ... you're going to get that teams best every time and sometimes you're going to not play your best. Its the nature of the beast.

Lastly, in terms of big game wins .. you're right Tressel has lacked recently in the big games due to a failure to adjust, not coach up, or develop an executable and fine game plan. The difference I saw was the Fiesta. Misdirection in the power running game, zone read, option, long game, short game, Boeckman and Pryor on the field at the same time, coming back from an 11 point deficit, taking arguably the nation's best team within 16 seconds from defeat, dialing it up defensively.

There is no doubt the Big Ten is down. It hasn't been all OSU and it hasn't been all Michigan. However, Michigan will have to return, Ohio State will have to start winning big games, and the remainder of the league will have rise as well.

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 10:01 AM ^

Very good points (which was my goal with this post). I see a lot of justification, which is factually based, that I was trying to bring to light.

OSU was less predictable in their planning for the Fiesta Bowl this year, but not in their adjustments. And what does that hold for the future? Pryor's TD grab was a cool play, but the only reason he was catching it is because he couldn't throw it. Someone else noted that the early appearance of Boeckman might be an indication of a lack of faith in Pryor at this point, but who knows?

Your mention of OOC opponents is kind of my point. After the close games, it's easy to rationalize what happened. It's only when you lose one that trouble becomes obvious. That's why I point it out. Is it an abberation, or a harbinger?

Recruiting at a high level is a fact as well. But what happens to that talent when it gets there? Injuries alter game plans, sure. But with the high level of consistency in recruiting, there is no one to plug in to keep the game within 30 points?

All the things I'm hearing are very similar to what we were all saying in defense of Michigan the last few years. That's what I'm gettting at.

deekeeeekaakeeyyyy

January 7th, 2009 at 9:06 AM ^

I was at that Ball State game and I remember thinking that M could be in trouble when those back-ups were the starters. Yes they were underclassman but why couldn't they tackle, cover, or even make a play at that time? Maybe the recruiting drop off started in 2005 when those kids were recruited?

Does anyone think that, perhaps, once those back-ups became the starters (07', 08') that Michigan just didn't have the talent that it was accustomed to and, therefore, relied too heavily on the name Michigan rather than on preparation?

S FL Wolverine

January 7th, 2009 at 10:26 AM ^

I made a lengthy post on the "HAHAHA Ohio State" thread that laid out my belief that college football is broken up at the highest level into the "elites" and those who are a significant step behind. What I didn't discuss is why there is such a gap from the perennial elites to the next tier. I think there is no single answer, but there are things that when combined make the most sense:

1. Speed and quickness. This is a common denominator on all of the elite teams (USC, Florida, LSU) and the teams from the elite conferences with a chance to win the MNC in any given year (Georgia, Oregon, Auburn, Alabama, Tennessee). While many of the "lesser" conferences have speed, in general, their players lack the quickness that the elites have.

2. Talent. This is harder to define. All of the elite programs and 2nd-tier programs have talent that is rated in the top 10 nationally by the recruiting services. However, not all ranked talent is equal, and it seems that players who come from Florida or SoCal or the Southeast US in general pan out better. This could be because they are, in general, faster and quicker. See #1.

3. Unpredicatbility of Schemes. This is important, and when combined with #1 it makes teams very difficult to beat. However, USC, the program of the decade so far, is rather predicatble on offense, for example, but has so much talent, speed, and quickness that it oversomes this predictability. But I will grant that USC does make gametime adjustments, which still allows them to be at least average in this metric. However, look at a team like WVU last year that clearly did not have the talent of the elites, but combined speed, quickness, coaching, and constant unpredictability to be very good. This shows you how important this attribute can be.

4. Coaching. Two of my elite teams (USC and Florida) have excellent coaching, while the third (LSU) is probably at least good (up to debate). The other teams from the "elite" conferences that I mention, such as Oregon, Alabama, Georgia all have at least good coaching. This by the way is why I think Texas, which has plenty of speed, adequate quickness, stellar recruiting, and average predictability cannot usually compete with the elite teams, or even other well-coached 2nd Tier teams like Oklahoma. Mac Brown is just an average coach, and that often shows in the big games (unless he has God = Vince Young at QB!).

Combine 1-4, and I think you get an idea of what makes the "elite" teams elite, and the other programs 2nd Tier.

So what about OSU? Positives: Excellent recruiting, good speed, good coaching. Negatives: General predictability, little quickness, lack of in-game adjustments. Combine these things and I think their upside is limited. They may not be in decline, but they have plateaued and will only win a MNC if they manage to avoid an elite team or elite conference (Pac-10, SEC) in the title game.

As for Michigan, the future IMO is bright:

1. Building excellent speed and quickness through conditioning and recruiting.

2. Building excellent talent base.

3. General unpredictability of offensive schemes. Defense TBD. Gametime adjustments TBD.

4. Coaching. From his history, I would conclude that RR's coaching and his staff's are excellent. However, DC is an important hole to fill.

Shock G

January 7th, 2009 at 10:29 AM ^

In terms of OSU's positives and negatives I think I would swap coaching to negative and quickness to positive.

Bollman and Daniels needs to be replaced by a younger, fresher perspective OR learn it and coach it. I think Heacock benefits from having Luke Fickell as his co-DC and linebacker coach.

Also, the OSU's coaching staff doesn't seem to adjust well. While this past Fiesta Bowl may serve as a precursor to a change in that only time will tell; it may also serve as a precursor to change in predicatbility.

Quickness is something that has improved significantly in my opinion. The one place I don't see it is on the o line but that could be more technique than anything.

chitownblue (not verified)

January 7th, 2009 at 10:23 AM ^

I don't think OSU's current existence would be akin to our 2006 before a big tumble. The only way I see OSU drop as far as we have is if:

OSU is stupid enough to fire Tressell, and that prompts the transfer of Terrelle Pryor and Michael Brewster. Further, Michael Adams and JB Shugarts would quit. They would hire June Jones, who would attempt to play the Run & Shoot with RS Freshman Joe Bauserman as their QB.

Obviously, this is exactly what happened to Michigan, if you change the names. THAT is what caused our drop - not close calls to Ball State, etc.

In reply to by chitownblue (not verified)

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 12:09 PM ^

That is a "Perfect Storm" scenario for an immediate collapse and a good summary of M's 2008.

However, you have to admit ALL of us were surprised at what happened this year and only after looking back were we able to pinpoint some major deficiencies (and bad breaks e.g. Forcier transferring).

I still don't think that is what caused the "drop". The sudden collapse of the season, yes. Through hindsight it seems everything came to a head the last couple years. Michigan had already been sliding on a national level.

I'm just wondering if OSU has hit their ceiling at this point.

imafreak1

January 7th, 2009 at 11:39 AM ^

After the Fiesta Bowl I had very similar thoughts. It seemed to me that many things went OSU’s way in that game and yet they teetered on the edge of another blowout loss. It’s the same script in the big games with them and that’s a concern (for them.) Sometimes teams lose because someone’s got to but when, as was the case for Lloyd and maybe trending for Tress, when that team happens to be you more and more there’s a cause for concern. As has been demonstrated by this very thread, there are always excuses but it is my belief that who wins and loses is not as capricious as many people think. Things happen for a reason in football. Just because a game is close, I do not necessarily think the game ‘could have gone either way.’ Significant trends, like losing in big bowls or to OSU, happen for a reason.

For Lloyd’s part, yes USC was great, and those OSU games were so close, and if only they blocked that Texas FG… It’s a trend. Sure, Henne played horribly and Hart was, apparently hurt, against AppSt. but winning would only have put a patina of respectability on what otherwise was a travesty of preparation and defensive coaching.

For Tress’ part, the sample size may not be large enough to tell. He showed great flexibility in 2006 (but maybe that was the Lloyd senior QB phenomenon) and what was he really supposed to do with Boeckman and a green TP? He showed some moxy playing both QBs and hooking Boeckman against old school conventional wisdom. But the script is looking pretty familiar—punt play, defense, minimize risk, out execute the opponent. As for the making BCS games, that is the same mirage that blinded ND fans in the early Weis years, because it’s not like OSU has been particularly competitive in them. They were the result of an easy schedule, rigged system, and weak Big Ten.

Make no mistake, the Big Ten championship and consequent BCS bowl game are there for the taking. The question is how long will it take RR to get to taking it. Football has turned away from the minimize risk mode due to parity and offensive philosophy. The margin for error has grown too slim and unpredictability has started to trump execution coupled with risk management.

Blue Durham

January 7th, 2009 at 12:22 PM ^

It could be argued that there has been a steady decline since the 1970's, Schembechler's glory days. Bo's final 3 years were less successful (percentage-wise) than the years prior. Moeller and Carr's winning percentage slightly drop off (although Carr's last 3 years was appreciably down as compared to his overall)

Winning percentages of Michigan coaches
Schembechler: .796
Gary Moeller: .758
Carr overall: .753
Carr 1st 10: .766
Carr last 3: .710
Rodriguez: .250

The long (last 30 years) term: steady decline? yeah, but that is most likely due to the fact that the overall competition is much better since the '70's. [One season, 2008, is a blip on this time scale]. Perhaps coincedentally, a de-emphasis on fundementals, Bo's favorite, has been characteristic of this long, steady decline since the last few years of Bo's career.

The short (last 4 years) term: steady decline? Yeah, but there are 2 declines. Carr's and RR's, and they both have different causes.

Carr's small, steady decline could be argued was due to an "ossification." This small decline very well could have been the "Ball State" scare you are referring to. Carr also seemed to delegate more to the coordinators, to the team's detriment.

RR's record due to massive attrition (graduation, injuries, transfers, quitting), particularly at key positions or bad combinations (OL and QB) in conjunction with the wholesale implementation of a new system for the first time since 1969.

Poor fundementals you observed by the 2nd and 3rd teams in the Ball State game proved catastrophic time and again in the past season by a team that could ill-afford such mistakes.

Kolesar40

January 7th, 2009 at 12:32 PM ^

You are trying justify our horrific decline by comparing it to a program on the rise. OSU has had its issues in big games, but how can you say it is better to not go to BCS and win? Our win over Florida was great, but the whole reason we were in that game was becasue we couldnt beat OSU, or APp State. I dont have the time to pick apart all of your claims, but As Michigan goes, the big ten goes? What do you have to support this? You can't extrapolate that because we were bad, and the big ten went 1-6 in bowls, that it is casuse and effect.

Lastly if you want to look at trends, look at the fact that we can't beat OSU, and they win 11 games every year it seems. Look at the fact that they are crushing it in recruiting, while we sweat it out to get 1 5* this year. Is the Big Ten down? yes. Does OSU struggle against good teams? yes. That does not mean we can look at the 2 programs and identify that we are both trending along the same line. They have a stable coaching staff, few de-committs, and a philosophy that everyone buys into. We don't have a DC, a head coach off to a rocky start, and a lot of turbulance with our recruiting. You want to point to their game against Ohio as a sign they are in trouble?

I want as badly as anyone to get back on top and crush OSU, but to think the 2 programs are heading down the same path at this moment is crazy talk. Go Blue!

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 2:27 PM ^

I'm not trying to justify Michigan's decline, I'm just trying to correlate it and get other people's takes. These are NOT predictions. If you read the whole post I tried to stress that these are merely observations I've made objectively to see if OSU has reached or is close to it's ceiling.

Reaching a BCS game and losing is fine, so to speak. Doing it over and over gets old and frustrating. That's the questions I'm trying to raise on both accounts; "Are 9-10 win seasons and just getting to big games "good enough", or do you want to be relevant on a national level?" Michigan answered this question with a great hire (IMO).

You are right in your summation, although it still doesn't answer my questions: OSU absolutely has "a stable coaching staff, few de-committs, and a philosophy that everyone buys into". They also "win 11 games" and "crush it" in recruiting. So why aren't they competitive on the big stage?

To me, the indicators are there. In a couple years I will either be a sage or a blasphemer. Now that we (Michigan fans) have the benefit of hindsight, I'm just trying to project it on another underachieving team to find any existing similarities.

Kolesar40

January 7th, 2009 at 3:07 PM ^

post and disagree that you are being objective. That is my point, you are not being objective. You are trying to draw parallels with OSU not being good against top 5 teams and us losing to App State, and Toledo. There is no parallel there. Both teams have a serious issues to address, but given the issues I would rather stay up at night trying to figure out how to beat USC than how to keep Toledo's WR from catching 20 passes on us.

Your argument is about parallel declines, but then you imply that you are merely asking questions about addressing the future. Yes Michigan made a great hire (we hope), and that addresses the situation. Is 9-10 winning seasons good enough? Of course not, and every Mich/OSU fan would agree, so that exactly is your point? I guarantee that OSU is doing everything they can to be "relevant on the national level" and I do not know why they have struggled against the top teams, but that is not to say their struggles are in line with ours.

The indicators are not there. OSU played a close game against Ohio at home. So what. That does not imply they will lose to Youngstown next year. You are making leaps that are not logical. But who am I to judge, its a blog and its here for people to give their opnions.

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 4:09 PM ^

I admit the title of the post is a little misleading. That's why I put the term "Decline" in quotes in an attempt to soften it up.

At any rate I did nothing to compare the App State loss to their struggles against top 5 opponents. Actually, I pointed out that in spite of Michigan's problems the last few years they have a better record than OSU against top 10 teams. I just found that interesting.

It's also a good thing you would rather stay up trying to figure out how to beat USC, since that's all we could do the last few trips out west (and to no avail).

I merely am pointing these things out in an attempt to ask the question: "Has OSU peaked with Tressel?" He has a very JR/SR heavy team (some say the best in recent OSU history) that could never get over the hump. Just as Lloyd said that the Henne/Hart class was the best he ever had, yet goes 0-4 against OSU and 1-3 in bowl games.

Your defense against OSU is very similar to defenses of Michigan's record in recent memory I've heard. They might not fall as fast or as hard, but to me the indications that they have peaked are there. Again, only time will tell and I'm glad to hear another point of view. That's why I posted in the first place.

AC1997

January 7th, 2009 at 12:54 PM ^

I think the big difference between Michigan and OSU in recent years boils down to talent. Both Lloyd and Tressel were conservative coaches who believed in simplified offenses and solid defense. When the two met recently OSU simply had more talent on the field when you compare position to position. In 2006 it was the most evenly matched and that game probably goes the other way if it is played in AA instead of the stinkhole that is Columbus.

Further evidence to this point is when you've seen OSU and Michigan have their biggest success. We beat Florida when Carr opened up the offense more than he has in a decade and we had a senior/junior laden offense. Likewise, Tressel has had the most success when he opened up his offense for Troy Smith to run around.

Otherwise the two programs would be happy to play to the level of their competition - whether it is BSU, Cincy, or anyone else. But that is harder to do in the current landscape and when you don't have the depth or talent to dominate.

You can't take anything away from OSU and their recent success. Their biggest issues in the bowl games have been a combination of injury (Ginn, Beanie) and conservative play calling to some extent.

In Michigan's case their talent decline and conservative philosophy started catching up with them the past two years. Sure, a healthy and effective Henne/Hart maybe change the Appy State game. But they still played sloppy, unprepared football in all three phases.

I think you'll continue to see OSU play to their current level (top ten team, sneaking into the top five here and there). Michigan now has a coach who is willing to open things up. They just need the talent level to climb, which is seems to be doing with this recruiting class.

Kolesar40

January 7th, 2009 at 3:08 PM ^

discrepancy exists between us and OSU, but that existed in the 1990's as well when we ruined their undefeated seasons due to the incompetance of Coop. The biggest difference may lie in coaching (Tress vs. Lloyd). Say what you want about Tress, but he came in from day 1, said they will beat Mich, and followed thru. Drives me fricken crazy, but we were better than they were the year Texas beat us in the Rose Bowl, and got waxed pretty good by Smith and Co. I would also argue that they enjoyed the most success when they went undefeated and won the NC (albeit from a gift PI call), not when they opened things up with Smith. The team that won it all, was the most conservative squad he has had, but it worked, so not sure that argument flies either.

I am confident the gap will close, but we still have some work to do. They have an advantage given how good the HS talent out of Ohio is. They usually get the studs, where as we have to go national to get our studs (we do well in Ohio too).

chitownblue (not verified)

January 7th, 2009 at 4:30 PM ^

I don't think we had a talent advatange in the '90's at all. All those OSU teams just crapped out NFL players - Springs, Winfield, George, Diggs, Katzenmoyer, Galloway, Boston, Glenn, etc., etc., etc.

Carr was a significantly better coach than Cooper. You're forgetting that those OSU teams would routinely lose a single game a season - to us.

markusr2007

January 7th, 2009 at 1:37 PM ^

IMO, Michigan football has been on a slow gradual decline, sort of like the Roman Empire.

The numerous NFL draftees, two Heisman trophy winners, the 1997 perfect season and shared National Title, the intermittent Big Ten titles, 9-3-0 average yearly record - it all camoflaged the disturbing bits underneath. These "disturbing bits" were:

a.) too much focus and self-congratulation for beating rival Ohio State, rather than focus on Michigan's national competitiveness (vs. LSU, OU, USC and Texas, etc.)

b.) costly admin hesitation to upgrade athletic facilities to the 21st century.

c.) general complacency (lack of urgency) in the Michigan football program, reflected in the S&C program, the offensive philosphy (score as little as possible), defensive philosophy.

d.) Lack of accountability for wins and losses. Failure of the UM HC to force "continuous improvement" culture within the program, and for example, demand better performance from OC and DC.

e.) Seniority Rewarded Before Performance.

I too am optimistic about the future, because I'm the camp that says finally a new HC is dusting off the cob webs and breathing in some new energy into the program. I think RR and Michigan will struggle again in 2009, but the team should demonstrated gradual improvement. It has been this way at every single job RR has worked. Why should we expect it to be so much different at Michigan?

The only things that might prevent RR from reaching success at Michigan is RR himself and his own thin skin, or the lack of patience of the UM AD. I'm more worried about the former.

Phinaeus Gage

January 7th, 2009 at 3:25 PM ^

Talent, talent, talent. RR, Tressel, PC at USC, Les, Meyer . . . all great coaches with differences in philosophy. What separated them this year? Talent. Don't forget, the great LSU coach struggled this year also. No quarterback. Had McCoy played for OSU insatead of a freshman, Bucks would have won that game.

Look at the '97 NC team. All eleven starters on that D played in the NFL at some time. A majority of the offensive starters made NFL squads. Could a different coach have taken that team to a NC? My bet is yes.

Currently, we have how many projected NFL players on the 2 deep? And how many does OSU, LSU or USC have?

As far as play calling, coaching, etc. Did anyone see USC? On 3rd and 1, they ran off tackle. On 3rd and 12, they ran a square in for 15. The majority of the plays I saw them run, M ran with Lloyd. Their plays aren't incredibly innovative, they just have more TALENT!!!!

One more thing: would we mention how much of a failure OSU was in BCS games had they made that fourth down tackle a half yard sooner? That was the difference in the game. Break the whole thing down, and it comes back to a half yard. These teams are so close, a small break makes all the difference! Make that tackle a split second sooner, and Tressel is great again!

Shock G

January 7th, 2009 at 6:29 PM ^

The biggest difference in your parallels and your argument is this .. you keep reiterating that many of the the things you see here in response to your post are similar to or the same as the arguments made in defense of Carr. However, since 1998 Ohio State has won a MNC and played for two more. Michigan has won none and played for none.

In 11 years of BCS games then Ohio State is playing for a BCS Championship once in every 2.72 years while Michigan is at ... well ... zero.

Consider this since Tressel's arrival in 2001 and there has been 8 seasons. At that clip Tressel is playing for the MNC once every 3.75 years while Michigan is still at zero.

In Tressel's 8 seasons he has finished 83-19 a winning percentage of .813 and has won 5 Big Ten Championships.

In Carr's best 8 season stretch he never won 83 games (his best stretch was 78) and in all his seasons only won 5 Big Ten Championships with none of those coming in his last three seasons.

Perhaps Tressel has benefited from a weaker Big Ten but at the same time that would be a benefit shared by all Big Ten members.

You mention recruiting and I would argue Tressel either finds the gems or does a heck of a job coaching it up. Malcolm Jenkins was an obscure 2/3 star, Laurinaitis was a 3 star, Krenzel who he won a MNC with was a what, Robiskie was a 2 star. He brings in his fair share of studs like Ginn, Beanie, Pryor, but he generally does more with 3 star talent than most.

OSU is going to remain relevant provided they deviate from predicatability which with a guy like Pryor on the field (who went 8-1 as a starter in his first collegiate season [Boeckman technically gets the start in the Fiesta Bowl]) and the recruitment of speedsters into the fold like Posey, Lamarr Thomas, Jamall Berry, and others.

My mind can be changed if Tressel managed to not make it back to the MNC, not win a Big Ten title, and put some Heisman finalists into the fold in the next two (maybe three) years Pryor is in town.

MGoEOD

January 7th, 2009 at 7:10 PM ^

Yeah, the more response I get the more I regret using the term "decline". I was mainly using M's decline in hindsight to see any similarities. The excuses I'm referring to are the "well, if so and so were healthy" and "everyone has a down game against a weak opponent" etc. which seem valid. I'm just saying in hindsight that M shouldn't have needed Hart to beat App St. Their backups should hold a 20 point lead against Ball St. etc. OSU shouldn't need Beanie to bury Troy and Ohio University or to even keep it within 30 points of USC.

I guess the more appropriate question is have they reached a ceiling under Tressel? Believe me, I am by no stretch of the imagination insisting OSU is declining. After all Tres has only been there 8 years and has had tremendous success. He just hasn't gotten over the hump.

This year's team was THE team. 4 BCS games (2NC) and 4-0 against Michigan. You know they were up for the Fiesta Bowl but for some reason they still can't do it. Why? Have they peaked...?

Shock G

January 8th, 2009 at 8:14 AM ^

Peaked ... I don't think so.

The 2007 team as an example was picked to finish 3rd in the Big Ten by most and yet still played for an MNC.

The biggest area of struggle for the Buckeyes moving forward is offensive line development. I think the likes of Brewster, Shugarts, and Adams are a great step in that direction as all came in very highly ranked and Brewster started at center for a majority of this season as a frosh.

The 2006 MNC I think you're dealing with an intangible in that OSU believed nobody could beat them, they got high on the hog, and walked in under prepared both coaches and players.

The 2007 MNC let's face it they didn't belong there yet.

But believe me there can be a big game stigma. Previously it was Tressel couldn't win night games at OSU. Now he wins most of them.

With the talent in place I believe OSU is playing for an MNC or at least in the discussion the next two years. Excluding potential early departures OSU is returning 15 starters and has the depth to easily plug a person in to but all of 2 of those spots without losing a step.