Edit: this diary is not meant to be taken as a homer-rific prognostication of making or winning the playoffs, but only looks to dissuade the notion that Michigan cannot reach or win the playoffs solely because of the QB situation.
As many of you may have noticed, Michigan has been ranked inside the top 4 in quite a few national “way too early” Top 25 polls. Of course, if Michigan were to finish in the top 4, that would mean that we would be competing in the 3rd edition of the NCAA football playoffs.
Many jimmies across the land have been rustled (and many revenue-friendly clicks generated) because of this lofty ranking bestowed upon Michigan football in these meaningless pre-preseason polls. This playoff prognostication has driven any or all of the following reactions in the Michigan community, in no particular order:
Meanwhile, other fanbases be like
One of the reasons that I see cited most frequently that Michigan should not be ranked so highly is because we will be breaking a new quarterback (and we don't even know who that quarterback will be). Admittedly, this does feel like a pretty valid reason to expect that Michigan will not reach the very top of the football post-season. Because of this, I've decided to investigate a simple question: ignoring other factors, has having a first year QB historically prevented teams from making the national title game?
I’ve compiled a list of the national champions and runner-ups from each of the past seasons from 2000-2015. The list includes starting quarterback, whether or not the quarterback was a first year starter, and if so, what year the quarterback was at in that point in their career. Behold:
|Year||Name||QB||1st yr starter?||Year||Name||QB||1st yr starter?||Year|
|2000||Oklahoma||J. Heupel||N||FSU||C. Weinke||N|
|2001||Miami||K. Dorsey||N||Nebraska||E. Crouch||N|
|2002||Ohio State||C. Krenzel||Y||RS JR||Miami||K. Dorsey||N|
|2003||LSU||M. Mauck||Y||RS JR||Oklahoma||J. White||Y||JR|
|2004||USC||M. Leinart||Y||JR||Oklahoma||J. White||N|
|2005||Texas||V. Young||N||USC||M. Leinart||N|
|2006||Florida||C. Leak||N||Ohio State||T. Smith||N|
|2007||LSU||M. Flynn||Y||RS SR||Ohio State||T. Boeckman||Y||RS SR|
|2008||Florida||T. Tebow||N||Oklahoma||S. Bradford||N|
|2009||Alabama||G. McElroy||Y||JR||Texas||C. McCoy||N|
|2010||Auburn||C. Newton||Y||JR||Oregon||D. Thomas||Y||RS FR|
|2011||Alabama||A. McCarron||Y||SO||LSU||J. Jefferson||N|
|2012||Alabama||A. McCarron||N||Notre Dame||E. Golson||Y||RS FR|
|2013||FSU||J. Winston||Y||FR||Auburn||N. Marshall||Y||JR|
|2014||Ohio State||C. Jones||Y*||SO||Oregon||M. Mariota||N|
|2015||Alabama||J. Coker||Y||SR||Clemson||D. Watson||Y||SO|
Huh. Exactly half of the teams competing in the National Title game over the last 16 years were using first year starting QBs. Interestingly, 10 first year QBs won the national title, while only 6 lost (and 5 of those were facing other first year starters!)
Also interestingly, many or most of the guys on the list were not perceived as "big-time" quarterbacks. The data seems to indicate that even younger first year QBs can, in fact, play in, and win the national title, but will probably be an athletic QB in a high-powered spread offense, so that will not apply to us.
Michigan seems to have most other pieces in place going into the year - we have what looks like a dominating defense (LB questions notwithstanding), solid-to-great skill position players on offense (Chesson, Butt, Darboh, PEPPERS), and a pretty solid, if not overly deep or dominating offensive line. Our QB options do not look like absolute stars, but they don't need to be, if the above data is taken into account.
In conclusion, yes, it is entirely possible for a team to not only make, but win the national title with a first year starting quarterback, and not necessarily a star quarterback. There is a lot of historical precedent that bodes well for Michigan in 2016 in terms of the quarterback situation.
This is an admittedly over-simplified analysis, only intended to disprove the notion I've seen across the web that our QB situation will prevent us from making the playoffs or winning it all this year.
That's all I got, but for those of you who read this far, here's an unrelated bonus gif (one of my absolute favorites of all time):