Note: This post is all about optimism. Please check your reality at the door.
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It’s getting closer and closer to the start of the year, and I’ve been drinking too much Kool-Aid. I know most “reasonable” people are predicting mediocre records (6-6, 7-5). But the more I read about this team, the more excited I’m getting for the season, and the more optimism I have. Most of our team’s “weaknesses” are really only unknowns, they could turn out bad, or they could turn out great. Below is my optimistic take on some of these weaknesses, as well as a game by game pseudo-analysis.
This is what most people bring up as our biggest weakness, and it’s hard to argue with. It’s true; we are likely to be starting a true freshman QB. However, I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people expect.
1. The best QB is going to start. Worst case is Sheridan, who should be improved from last year. More likely is that Forcier will start, which means he’s at least better than Death. He’s most likely several steps above Death, with Robinson as a buffer between Forcier and Suicidal Kittens.
2. Forcier (and also Robinson) are tailor made for this offense. They can run and throw, 2 things our QBs couldn’t do last year. There should be much less overthrowing of wide open receivers this year. There should also be fewer sacks due to both QB mobility and an improved offensive line.
3. Forcier came to school early, and has had more time to learn the system than a typical true freshman. It’s true that spring practices are only a few weeks, but that’s as much time as Three and Sheridan had to learn the offense last year. While that doesn’t sound that great, the difference is that the whole offense was learning the offense last year, and this year Forcier has an entire team with experience that can help him learn while there’s no contact with the coaches.
4. Forcier is not a normal true freshman. He’s been groomed since birth to be a QB. He’s had a personal QB coach. He was homeschooled, and given time out of class to work on football. He’s Todd Marinovich without the baggage. That experience is more than most true freshmen have coming into college. He’s probably closer to a redshirt freshman in experience.”
5. Forcier seems to have already earned the respect of the offense. Read this from Maize n Brew’s coverage of Big Ten media days. “Ortmann admitted to some initial trepidation about the youth at quarterback, but Tate Forcier's play in early practice and in the spring game dispelled those concerns. What struck me about Ortmann's comments about Forcier, was how mature Tate seems to be. There haven't been any issues regarding cockiness or entitlement. Forcier isn't afraid to admit a mistake, ask a question, or talk to someone when signals get crossed. As a result, the freshman has earned the respect of the Line and the Offense and has taken on a leadership role far earlier than even the most optimistic fan could have hoped for.”
Horrible last year. Shouldn’t be horrible this year. Should even be good if they stay healthy.
1. GERG: When Schafer was hired last year, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of him, but learned he was the DC for Stanford’s upset of USC. So it was a “meh” hire to me. When GERG was hired this year, my initial reaction was “Syracuse sucks.” But I quickly rationalized that he’s going to be DC, not HC, and looking at his resume, he’s been a very impressive DC.
- Fundamentals: GERG is emphasizing tackling, the most basic part of playing defense. Doesn’t matter if you’re in the right place if you can’t tackle. (Could also say that it doesn’t matter if you can tackle if you’re not in the right place, but a good and experienced DC will get his people in the right place). I remember reading once that Schafer didn’t emphasize good tackling. I’ve tried to find a like to that, but the best I can do is this comment from Dstamper22. Now I don’t know if that’s true or not, but if it is, then it explains a lot of the defensive issues last year.
- More from Maize n Brew’s coverage of Big Ten media days. That entire post made me think the defense will be loads better. One quote for those who don’t want to check out the whole post: “Stevie mentioned that during 7-on-7 practices, the defense didn't like how things were going down. So Obi Ezeh, Donovan Warren and Brown looked at one another and said this has to get fixed. As a result the secondary and linebackers started getting together to go over film, position assignments, and breakdowns in an effort to clarify things. Brown said the group goes in together, watches film, and reviews their assignment successes and failures. This film room communication has paid off as the group is now commincating better on the field. As a result, Brown told me the back seven is now on the same page. From an outsider's perspective, the fact that the coaches aren't involved in this at all is a testament to the dedication of the players and their desire to get things right.” This is something that great teams should do, and shows that they’re coming together to play as a team.
It’s been discussed: Fumbles are most likely a random occurrence, and are likely to not be as prevalent this year. A huge improvement will follow just from this.
This was a major weakness last year, though to be honest not many people still consider it a weakness. We have everyone back and healthy. They’ve had a year in the system. Toward the end of last year they actually looked good. I truly believe that this will be the most improved unit on the team. And since O-line is the base of any offense, our entire offense will be better even if no other areas improved (which they obviously have).
They were a very good MAC team last year. Many are expecting them to be very good this year as well. However, they lose most of their defense, and their receivers. The main reason they’re expected to be good is their QB. But it takes more than a QB to win. UM has more talent at every position, and is starting to play up to the level they should. The main reason to worry here is that it’s the first game and there will be some rust. However, that applies to both teams, so WMU’s offense will be rusty as well, thus reducing the effectiveness of the only thing that they have going for them in this game.
Jabba the Weiss is still their head coach. As bad as we were last year, we probably win that game if we don’t spot them 21 points off turnovers. ND lost their last 4 games against BCS conference opponents last year. The only reason for their hype this year is that they spanked Hawaii, and they have a soft schedule.
Good luck to Ron English. I really hope he does well at Eastern. But he doesn’t have much to work with this year. This should be one of the 3 easiest wins this year, along with Delaware St and Indiana.
They lost Kellen Lewis, who was their only offensive threat. They have no offense or defense. Last year’s UM team could probably win this game.
Great write up from Doc Saturday. Read the “Regressing to the Mean, Parts 1 and 2.” I’ve never understood why everyone is so high on MSU this year. Yes, they had a good record last year, but they weren’t that good. I’ve predicted to several Sparty acquaintances that their record this year will be worse than last year. UM can definitely win this game, and the players really want to shut Sparty up.
Tough one. At Iowa. Iowa’s a good team. But if UM comes into this game on a roll, this is winnable. Iowa will have a good defense, but UM should have a good offense.
After The Horror and Toledo, we can’t look past anyone. However, we should win this game. We are a much better team.
Another tough one. Penn St is good. However, it’s at home, and we’ve pretty much owned Penn St since they’ve been in the Big Ten. They lose a lot on their O-line, which could hurt their offense more than people expect. They’ve got a great defense, but if we can put some points on them, which we should be able to since our offense should be humming by this point in the season, then we can win this game.
It’s at Illinois. Illinois should be a good team. Most of their offense returns. It’s a good offense. However, luckily for us, their best player is very erratic. Juice has good games and bad games. If he’s on, then they score a lot. If he’s not, they’ll struggle. Can he be as good as he was last year? Probably not. Plus their defense is looking very suspect. This could be a shoot out, but we should be able to win a shoot out if we have to.
New Head Coach. Brand new offense, in terms of personnel and scheme. Many players returning on defense, which will have to carry the team until the offense comes around. Sound familiar? We should win this game. Purdue wouldn’t be that good even with Tiller still around.
Bret Bielema might be a worse coach than Charlie Weiss. Wisconsin has gotten worse each season he’s been in charge. The offense has 1 player that might worry anybody, John Clay. Otherwise it’s the type of offense that national media people (wrongly) point to as a “typical Big Ten offense.” Their secondary might be ok, but they don’t look that good on the front 7, so UM should be able to run on them and put up some points.
They’ll be good as usual. But this is at home. If UM comes into this game with a decent record, then they’ll believe in themselves and have a good shot at winning this game. The OSU offense will basically be Terrelle Pryor. If he lives up to the hype, that will be a good offense. However, if our defense has finally solved the running QB problem, then we can contain him. Their defense will be good, as usual, but our offense should be good too, and this is the type of offense that has been able to put point on OSU. UM gets up for the game, they can definitely win.