A couple of days ago I compiled Hoke's win-loss record, looking specifically at road v. home v. neutral site and the differences between the Vegas line and the actual win differential. I was curious, though -- and maybe this was prompted by a comment I saw somewhere -- how other successful coaches at our rivals had fared recently. That is, was Hoke's downward trend normal? Abnormal? Is there, in fact, a normal?
Here are the results (click to embiggen):
- Hoke is most like Meyer: a string of victories at the start with a slow (inevitable) decline, although Meyer was able to string together an amazing 24-0 start at Ohio State.
- Kelly and Dantonio are more similar: a difficult first year followed by a fairly consistent improvement in overall record.
- Rodriguez is a real outlier: he never really got about .500, so never showed the overall improvement that Kelly and Dantonio did.
Hoke's downward slide looks ominous. What if we look on the brighter side, however, and project a 9-3 season, with losses to Michigan State and Ohio State but victories against the rest of the schedule? We get something like this (I'm not projecting the other coaches' records here):
That looks significantly better: essentially Hoke would be neck-and-neck with Kelly at the end of his year four, with a better overall record than Danotio's first four years. That's not bad.
Even if we project an 8-4 season this year -- say we lose to Penn State under the lights -- the overall record ain't too shabby:
The question, then, may be: is Hoke better than a .700 career coach? The difference between .700 and .750 is pretty palpable. Lloyd's career record was .753, Moeller's was .758, Bo's was .796 (at Michigan only for the latter two coaches). The scene of college football is significantly different now than it was in the 1970s and 1980s, but it's probably fair to say that Michigan fans and alumni reasonably expect to win 3 out of every 4 games, even if we were never happy with Lloyd or Moeller's tendency to drop the occasional game to undermatched opponents (a loss at home to an unranked Illinois in 1993, my first year at Michigan, still stings a bit).
There's no doubt that the end of last year and this year is a bit of a trough for Michigan football: we're rebuliding, not reloading, despite the addition of Peppers. At least that has to be the positive take, anyway; the negative take would be that in the coming years the slide continues, and Hoke's line on the graph above will cross Dantonio's in 2015.
My overall take is more positive than I thought it would be when I started: if Hoke can hold serve this year with a 9-3 record and continue to bring in top talent, then there is a good case to be made that things will rebound. If those things happen, then on paper Hoke and Kelly look awfully similar, and I think that we probably think that whatever Kelly's many faults, he's got Notre Dame football on the right track in terms of the on-the-field performance.
Yet as I type those sentences about Michigan they seem awfully optimistic... far more optimistic than I currently feel.
EDIT: Per the suggestion by LandonC in the comments below, here is Hoke's ten
year game rolling win percentage vs. Kelly's, Dantonio's, and RR's: