Wild Optimism

Submitted by MichIOE01 on August 18th, 2009 at 1:06 PM

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.


Freshman QB

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.


Offensive line

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). 


Western Michigan

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.


Notre Dame

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. 


Eastern Michigan

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.


Delaware St

After The Horror and Toledo, we can’t look past anyone.  However, we should win this game.  We are a much better team.


Penn St

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.



August 18th, 2009 at 1:11 PM ^

A lot of these weaknesses (and corresponding analysis) presumes each unit will remain healthy. Even wild optimism should account for depth problems. Otherwise, you're right - UM can do some damage in the B10 this year if we are firing on all cylinders.


August 19th, 2009 at 2:51 AM ^

I would assume that "wild optimism" would assume no injuries to any player who could theoretically play any kind of a remotely significant role this season.

I mean, isn't that the point of wild optimism? Otherwise, you're flirting with being "realistic."


August 18th, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

I love unbridled optimism. I would plus 100 for you if I could, but one will have to do. It's great to see a reason why UM could win every game. Never has the possibility of the 2009 team going 12-0 looked so doable. I still think 9-3 is more like it, but thanks for making 9-3 not look like it is unreachable, even though I know you aren't actually predicting an undefeated season.

If they somehow made it to ten wins this year, it would go a long way toward shutting up the critics.


August 18th, 2009 at 1:32 PM ^

that some guru out there doesn't anoint Michigan as a sleeper team that goes 9-3 and contends for the B10 title. I'm not expecting anything better than 7-5, but a year ago many were predicting 8-4. If anything, you have to be more optimistic at this point of the summer, than most were a year ago.

If you pick Michigan to go 9-3 and they do, you're a genius. If they don't, someone might mention it, but then it's forgotten.


August 18th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

There's a difference between optimism from the context of, "Last year we were 3-9" vs. "In our last game we shredded Florida and media darling Tim Tebow in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicated."

Last year, collectively, we got punched in the gut. We don't want to have that happen again this year. So if I am wrong, I'd like the team to be better than I thought. We are hoping that the team is better, but moderating our expectations a bit (to protect ourselves).


August 18th, 2009 at 1:54 PM ^

I love the optimism, terrific post. I only call out two particular parts of this post.

ND - their offense should be pretty hard to stop (assuming their O-Line gives Clausen and the running game a shot.) They have pretty explosive, play-making WRs. I do agree though, we spotted them 21 points, otherwise we likely win last year.

Wisconsin - someone (befuggled) listed out Wisconsin's season records, which indicates a pattern of Wisconsin's success, followed by mediocre or bad seasons. (check the comments section.) http://mgoblog.com/content/throw-wisconsin


August 18th, 2009 at 2:21 PM ^

Speaking of optimism, point spreads on the WMU game are ranging from 8 to 12.

The last time I bet on a Michigan team, they won the game but I lost on the points to Virginia in Lloyd's first game.

I haven't been as tempted since then as I am right now. Is it because I'm overly optimistic or because I think I know a lot of things about the 08 team that few in the betting masses can appreciate. Such as:

6 OLs to start the season, one with meaningful PT.

#s 1 and 2 RBs hurt through the first third of the season, leading to little Sam in the impossible role of feature back.

#s 1 and 2 TEs turn out worthless, putting another true freshman on the field by October.

The worst QB play in my lifetime as a Michigan fan. (To be fair to Threet and Sheridan, see above, of course.)

So, yeah, I'm with you on the optimism and I don't think the above points are merely the concoction of a weak rationalization.

I see a blowout over WMU. Following that, I think we have to temper expectations and, as somebody else mentioned, expect injuries.


August 18th, 2009 at 2:22 PM ^

i thought i checked all of my reality at the door until i read the game-by-game breakdown which elicited a dave letterman one finger in the collar "ha ha... eeeeee.."

i think this may be because i had a similar rationale before last year's season and, well, yeah. it's like puking up one of your favorite foods and then you can't even think about it without getting a little queasy, but it bums you out because man, i know i like that food... that's what i just went through.

but hey, kudos on the optimism. i loved the first part. i much prefer to look at unknowns as things that will make the season more exciting rather than potential horrible awful suckings.


August 18th, 2009 at 2:50 PM ^

also had to deal with a very inexperienced O-Line.
Better conditioning ( additional year of eeee-Barwis ) and experience should give any of the QBs much more time.


August 18th, 2009 at 4:52 PM ^

I was one of those 9-3 guys from last year, but I was shocked we were so bad. This year will be more indicative of what Coach Rod and his schemes and the players will do; I think of this as year 1a.
This is my first year going to an OSU game, whew hew!! Unbridled optimism has us UNDEFEATED at that point with a 1 loss OSU team, LET'S GET READY TO RUUUMMMMMBLE!!!

Durham Blue

August 19th, 2009 at 12:36 AM ^

on their W-L prediction about last year, anyway? Nobody. The most important thing Michigan has in its favor this year as opposed to last year is an experienced and fairly well established OL. These are the guys that will set the initial blocks to give the speedsters room to run. Cut the turnovers in half (this shouldn't be much of a hurdle, right?) and Michigan will be just fine offensively. The statement game will be ND. Win that one and stay relatively healthy and Michigan should easily blow past 6 wins.


August 18th, 2009 at 5:35 PM ^

...is definitely not the offense. We are sitting so much better this year on that side of the ball that I'm just not worried about it (barring Tate pulling a Brady and blowing a knee in the first quarter against WMU). Good analysis above on O-line, QBs and the rest...but for me, it's all going to be about the defense this year (okay, not ALL but mostly)...that's where the story will be told. Surely GERG will have us in much better shape than last year heading into the season...right? right? (Stanford? Really? That's where we went to find defensive coaching talent?).

The King of Belch

August 18th, 2009 at 6:57 PM ^

I agree with you and said it last year many times while a Scout poster--and of course got BOOM ROASTED. One friggin' game--the upset of USC, and a pretty good track record at--WMU???????

Does not a job like Michigan warrant. Sorry, bad call. I'm still not sold on Tall as DL coach, either--and he does not recruit.

The King of Belch

August 18th, 2009 at 6:52 PM ^

As they say, if you aim for nothing, you'll hit your target every time...

I agree with you on your assessment of GERG's impact. I have compared his hiring to Nebraska and Bo Pellini. I may be overly optimistic myself, but positioning, tackling, being authoritative, and getting players to buy into what you want them to do is HUGE. I believe GERG will have as much of a measurable intangible impact as he will on the field. Like you, I was skeptical on Shafer (alhtough the horrid offense certainly added to the defensive futility), but I was also skeptical about the impact of the D-Line, which in my opinion, hopes rested heavily on largely underachieving players.

One of last year's defensive problems (I pulled this right off the pages of this blog, can't remember the poster who said it) was a switch from cornerback-reliant pass coverage to safety-reliant pass coverage--without, obviously, the solid safety play to accompany it. I believe GERG takes us back to cornerback-reliant pass coverage--so at least that is a part of the scheme that players will be familiar with, and it utilizes the better talent we have at CB.

I disagree on UM's ability to win shootouts this year. It is too much to expect of a young quarterback and skill players to keep things going for an entire game. I see UM's offense facing a mixed back of blitzes, nickle packages, and base defenses that will confuse young Forcier. He will need skill players to step up mightily, and outside of Minor, there really hasn't been an indication of that happening yet. Another reason I don't see them winning shootouts is I just don't see any shootouts happening. I think we'll see much ball control, heavy reliance on the running game (unless it's shit), and the fact that it will take Forcier about half the season to really become comfy as a starting QB in college football.

On the Forcier optimism--a couple of points come to mind. First, UM's defense will probably be anything but dominant. It's been awhile since UM had a defense that could generate turnovers. Will he have many "short fields" to work with?

Also, there are no receivers on the team who can or have realized their potential to be, game breakers, or go-to guys such as Braylon Edwards. I feel we may have a good stable of guys who can get open and catch the ball, but do we have guys who will fight for jump balls, steal passes from DB's, break tackles? I don't know.

Game speed and the no huddle: The offensive line returns intact--but again, with a true freshman. How will he react to game speed, changing defenses, movement by the defenses, etc? There is just no way to know. Forcier may be tailor made for RR's offense, but he is by no means a so-called "super" recruit (well, and that may be a good thing--no pressure), and again, is a true freshman, spring enrollee status notwithstanding.

Depth: Any optimism must be accompanied by concernes over depth. There simply is NO depth and no room for error on either side of the ball outside of running back.

Major Optimism: Barwis. I know, I know--Barwis Porn. Barwis brings UM up to snuff (and better than a lot of others) in S&C. There is no question his hire was as important as RR's. Conditioning WILL make a difference. This, though, is Year 2--when the real dividends begin to mature. I know I said it last year--Year 1 was going to be tough, and the players might actually be worn out during the season, and I think they were. Now, with many in Year 2, and a talented and seemingly hungry freshman cast (look no further than the pictures of Will Campbell for proof) who KNOW what Barwis is all about--and this team will be faster and in better shape, and that will have a difference.

The King of Belch

August 19th, 2009 at 8:46 AM ^

I forgot about the O-Line, thanks!

And for Wild Optimism 2--I think Michigan is going to clobber Western and Notre Dame out of the gate. I predict a 4-0 start. No sugarcoat, great pad level, fluid hips (surprised the boys at WLA haven't picked this up out of the Scout lexicon)--high ceiling, low floor, and playing with the hand down.


August 18th, 2009 at 8:35 PM ^

"But this game is at home" just doesn't do it for me. Juice did awesome last year against us. We don't know how much better Gerg is than Schafer. Just because he emphasizes tackling doesn't mean we will make 100% of our tackles. We are still a pretty young team. While there is no game that we don't have a chance in, we probably won't be amazing.


August 19th, 2009 at 12:40 AM ^

next for that matter but I would love for a little luck to roll our way and somehow win 10 games this year by winning a few games we are not supposed to JUST TO SHUT EVERYONE THE *UCK UP! Even if this extra luck took expectations ridiculously high and we fell to 8-4/9-5 in 2010 and people got pissy again cuz we reached. It would make my decade just simply because going from 3-9 to 10-2 would let everyone know Michigan is MORE than alright and the ship has been steered to complete safety & that the hatred everyone has been spewing at us while we were down can be looked at with a cocky smile even quicker than everyone expected. Just a nice thought to ponder. Thanks for the enthusiasm! DAMN I CAN'T WAIT TIL KICKOFF!!!


August 19th, 2009 at 4:48 AM ^

And if all of the sudden we improved that much by next year I would be a happy HAPPY camper, but I just don't see it if I had to make a guess one way or the other. But if we are in the title hunt next year alot of people will be proved wrong faster than they expected, and oh what a beautiful thing that would be!


August 19th, 2009 at 9:51 AM ^

I could use a little extra kool-aid once in a while... Who cares exactly how or why, I also think UM will start off 4-0 this year. From that point it will be easy to secure a bowl for the winter, and that will make this season a strong step in the right direction. I am still thinking that the team goes 9-3, and that Tate has an amazing year. We have, over the past few months, gone over ever little detail of the team, schemes, starters, recruits, and so on. Now that all the rational arguements are about spent, we can move on to more of a "we will beat everyone" point of view. Go Blue!!!


August 19th, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

with losses to PSU, Iowa and Illinois. I think we come into the OSU game 4 1/2 point underdogs and we beat them giving Penn State an outright big ten championship where they beat the piss out of USC. The big ten will go 6-0 in bowl games. Michigan will beat Clemson in '07 Florida type shootout and every will shut the Fuck Up about how much the big ten sucks.
In 2010 we will have a '06 rematch with OSU where we win on a last second touchdown catch by DG on a trick play reminescent of Boise state oklahoma, where he tea bags the whole OSU secondary. Then we will win the NC by turkey slapping Nebraska all over the field.


August 19th, 2009 at 12:31 PM ^

with losses to PSU, Iowa and Illinois. I think we come into the OSU game 4 1/2 point underdogs and we beat them giving Penn State an outright big ten championship where they beat the piss out of USC. The big ten will go 6-0 in bowl games. Michigan will beat Clemson in '07 Florida type shootout and every will shut the Fuck Up about how much the big ten sucks.
In 2010 we will have a '06 rematch with OSU where we win on a last second touchdown catch by DG on a trick play reminescent of Boise state oklahoma, where he tea bags the whole OSU secondary. Then we will win the NC by turkey slapping Nebraska all over the field.


August 19th, 2009 at 3:04 PM ^

even a few degrees, could tack on a win or two for Michigan.

1.) Higher YPP (yards per play) on 1st and 2nd down. Teams with 8 wins or more typically kill this.

2.) 27% 3rd down conversion success rate
I will be utterly shocked if this does not improve dramatically, less due to Tate and better throwing accuracy, but more due to item 1.

As for the irrational exuberance, I love it. Just like "real estate never goes down in value" and "now's a great time to buy!".



August 19th, 2009 at 7:18 PM ^

This just isn't true: "Fumbles are most likely a random occurrence." By that logic, Mike Hart is as likely to fumble as Martavious Odoms. Sorry, don't buy it. Fumbles must be improved more than randomness would suggest.


August 19th, 2009 at 9:53 PM ^

I'm pretty sure that as a team they average out; sure, it may be more likely that Martavius fumbles than Mike Hart, but it isn't much more likely (except for outliers) that one particular team will fumble more than the average. They're have been studies, I think Brian has quoted a couple.