Is the 2016 team better than the 2006 team? Do you expect a big drop off in 2017?

Submitted by bo_lives on December 6th, 2016 at 11:20 AM

Obviously the Orange Bowl will give us more info. But before the season started, I felt uneasy about calling this "the year" and Brian's prediction of 12-0. I got on the hype train pretty quickly of course, but in hindsight I don't think this team was as talented top to bottom as the 2006 team. A Jim Harbaugh/Don Brown coached 2006 team would have walked away with the Big Ten Title and the National Championship.

This is not my attempt at a hot-take. I do think year's defense was better than the 2006 defense. But in 2006 we had NFL caliber impact players on offense AND defense. This year's offense was a bunch of question marks. A Borges recruit at QB with no track record? (and later, we found, no viable backup in O'Korn) A hodge-podge of mediocre runningbacks and an offensive line that grew up under Funk? Compare that to the Henne/Hart/Long/Manningham/Arrington supersquad of '06. Coming into this year, the only NFL caliber player on offense we had was Butt, and I think it's a testament to the offensive genius of Harbaugh that this team ended up scoring more points than any Michigan team of the modern era.

We were clearly hoping for a '97 repeat, where an insane defease carried a mediocre offense. That could have happened, but the team was done in largely due to bad luck vs. Iowa and OSU, but mostly due to the offense's inability to show up when the defense put it in position to win (plus the fact that Urban Meyer is no John Cooper). The defense lived up to the hype--giving up 13 points @ Iowa and 17 points @ OSU should win you those games 9 out of 10 times with a solid offense. I don't buy into the idea that the defense simply fell apart late. Michigan could have salted the games away with long 3rd and 4th quarter scoring drives, but that's not what we got.

For these reason, I don't think 2017 portends as big of a drop off as anyone imagines. There will be plenty of question marks on defense, but like 2015 OSU it's hard to assess the second string when they're only playing in gargabe time. The offense will have question marks too, but if Speight pulls off a Rudockian bowl game the only game on the 2017 schedule that truly scares me is the one at Camp Randall, which will likely be a night game. My prediction: 11-1 and we beat OSU, Raback it.

EDIT: My argument is that the 2006 team was overall more talented than the 2016 team is. The 2016 defense beats out the 2006 defense, but the 2006 offense had the big guns. You put Harbaugh and Brown at the helm in 2006 and Michigan goes 13-0. We beat OSU 53-23. Brown doesn't get fooled by OSU's 4 and 5 wide reciever spreads that obliterated our secondary.


James Burrill Angell

December 6th, 2016 at 11:27 AM ^

In many ways the same... we had high hopes that got dashed by Ohio State in epic battles in which we came up a little short. As Harbaugh said, they don't write songs and tell stories about teams at Michigan if they don't beat Ohio.  Conversely, this team has a chance to be different than '06 if they win their bowl game and go out on top as opposed to '06 where they essentially dropped their final two.

At least for us early 90's grads, getting the series back from FSU after the beating they doled out in 1991 would be a little something. So in differentiating between '06 & '16, winning the bowl will be a factor. That said, much like '06, we'll always wonder what would have happened if we beat Ohio State.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:29 PM ^

What in the tarnations are you talking about?!? Who is speaking said chatter?? Michigan has never had a better coach than Harbuagh in the modern era. He wants to beat OSU more than anyone and he is more likely to do that than anyone not named Saban or Belichick. He may lose to OSU next year, but that won't change my opinion of our coach one bit.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:46 PM ^

Never had a better coach? Surely you jest

Harbaugh hasn't won a national championship, a big ten title, or even a fucking division title. So save the platitudes.

The fact of the matter is that we need to beat OSU.

I have witnessed 1 win in my adult life (2004). The 90s are abstract to me.


December 6th, 2016 at 3:49 PM ^

What else do I have left?

"The greatest coach in the Michigans modern era" could be 0-3 vs Ohio.

I'm hopeful for the future, but it's getting old counting moral victories and future successes

Winchester Wolverine

December 6th, 2016 at 1:59 PM ^

2011 doesn't count? And note he said "modern". He's kinda right, Harbaugh is the best modern coach we've ever had. What you're seeming to forget is that Jim is the only coach in America with the ability to be consistently elite, save Meyer and Saban. It's also his 2nd year. So give him a minute, dude. It's kinda difficult to start beating cream of the crop teams right away.


December 6th, 2016 at 2:29 PM ^

Next year's schedule is shaping up to be tough all around.  Florida, Cinci, Air Force is hardly a given 3-0. At Penn State and At Wisconsin are two tough games.  At least we got MSU and OSU at home.


But I think we see major improvements on Offense and less of a dropoff on Defense next year than most are expecting. We are gonna have Speight in full late season mode plus an extra month of Harbaugh spice, with talented running backs, wide receivers, and TEs.  The O-Line is obviously a question, but they weren't all that great this year anyway.


December 6th, 2016 at 2:59 PM ^

Do we want Speight in full late season mode? I'll take mid-season mode when he was tearing up Maryland, Illinois and MSU.  Oh wait.  It was Maryland, Illinois and MSU...hmmm.

Kidding aside, I do expect Speight to be very good next year, even with the occasional wtf throw/decision, but QBs need time and RBs need holes to do anything.  I'm not sure I see how we see major improvements on offense when we lose both OTs and a G that played well this year.  Newsome probably isn't going to be a starting entity if he's even able to play at all.  We're likely going to be counting on some highly talented but very young true freshman.

Unless we get Najee Harris, all our skill position groups will likely take a step back, at least to start the season.

The defense will have some very good players, and I agree that they should be very good still. Probably not a huge step back.  But the offense...I don't see how it's even as good as it was this year, let alone better.


December 6th, 2016 at 3:10 PM ^

Take a look at the youth we will be playing with next season. How many freshmen and sophomores are going to be pressed into playing time. I'd take 9-3 a year after losing 18/22 starters. It's a likely rebuilding year. Temper your expectations a tad. Harbaugh hasn't even had two full recruiting cycles, so we aren't at the point of reloading quite yet.


December 6th, 2016 at 2:12 PM ^

Bo didn't win a national championship. And Harbaugh has only had 2 years to try for a Big Ten Championship. He is undoubtedly the best coach we have had since Bo. And he is on an upward trajectory. I agree that I want to see a win against OSU next year, but if we go 11-1 that's still an increasing win total.  OSU has a massive leg up on Michigan in terms of recruiting.  If it takes until the 4th year for Harbaugh to notch his first victory I'm going to be patient.

James Burrill Angell

December 6th, 2016 at 4:35 PM ^

As much as I, you, EVERY Michigan fan and I'm sure Coach Harbaugh, WANT to beat Ohio State, I don't think next year is any more necessary than any other year.  When you talk about "it MUST happen" what is the end game? Certainly not removing Harbaugh. There is absolutely no one available or who will be available in the foreseeable future who could do more than him.

Plus, I think its pretty well presumed that next year will be some kind of rebuilding year.


December 6th, 2016 at 11:27 AM ^

I know I'll probably get bombed for this, but given that hindsight is 20/20, I do wonder if we would have been better off having Peppers on offense full time. If he'd committed to it, I think he'd have been one of the best running backs in the country. Instead our offense lacked any real explosiveness all year. I can't help but think of the wise words of Mr Miyagi. Either do Karate yes, or do karate no. If do karate so-so, then squished just like grape.


December 6th, 2016 at 11:30 AM ^

I'd have rather the coaches integrate Peppers into the main offensive schemes as opposed to giving him his own extremely simple package.  Teams figured out how to shut down the "pepcate" pretty quickly but Harbaugh kept running it.  It got to the point I was let down when Speight would come off the field and Peppers would come on because I knew we were looking at a wasted down.


December 6th, 2016 at 12:35 PM ^

See, this is legit criticism of Harbaugh's playcalling. 

It never made sense to me why they used him as a wildcat QB as opposed to just lining him up at RB. I get the concept of "Now its 11 on 11!" but you lose the possibility of a Speight throw. Not to mention, there were times that we had Speight line up as a WR, which...means it was no longer 11 on 11. 

Or why they didn't teach him to run the Denard play. Are you telling me that against OSU if Peppers had lined up at QB and taken a step or two toward the line then fired a pass, that receiver wouldn't have been wide open? 


December 6th, 2016 at 1:00 PM ^

I was waiting for the peppers throw play.  Especially once Iowa decided to sell out and had everybody crashing down hard when he was in at QB.


The coaching staff had the best athlete in the country and in our final three games he only managed 17 yards on 10 carries.  That is on the coaches not putting him in a position to succeed, but rather hoping that his athleticism alone can make a difference.


Totally disappointed in the fact that over 40% of his rushing yardage and 2 of his 3 TDs came against Rutgers.  Honestly, McDoom and Chesson end arounds were more effective plays than Jabrill Peppers read option keepers or Jabrill Peppers QB sweeps.


December 6th, 2016 at 2:22 PM ^

Explosiveness was lacked because the coaches preferred Deveon to Evans despite the fact over the entire season and hundreds of data points Evans consistently produced at a higher rate.  Guess they saw something I didn't.  And wow did Chesson's last season look like a dud following his junior season or what?


December 6th, 2016 at 11:54 AM ^

The offense moved the ball enough to win every game we played.  

Explosiveness wasn't the problem.  Execution in plus territory was the issue.  Who knows how the Iowa game turns out if we're up 14-0 in the first quarter or if we don't fumble going in for the score against OSU.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:26 PM ^

Considering we got the ball back very quickly, deep in OSU territory due to the fake punt aftempt, and then promptly scored, I don't think that fumble mattered much. If we had scored, the resultant OSU drive probably plays out a bit differently starting at the 25 instead of the 2, and even if it did play out the same, we'd have gotten the ball back near midfield instead of just outside the red zone.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:57 PM ^

There's a difference between scoring a lot and being explosive. This offense scored a lot, especially against inferior competition. Rarely, however, did they rip down the field in three plays, or get a brilliant play from an athlete to score a 70-yard TD (that Pepper run at Rutgers is the only play of this type I can remember, and that turned into a Hill vulture TD). 

Michigan only rarely connected downfield, generally doing it just enough to gain the defense's respect, except in the two losses and the Colorado game. They weren't fielding a bunch of guys that were TD threats every time they touched the ball.

We thought Peppers or Evans could be that kind of guy, but it never really panned out that way.  And that was a problem in games against Iowa and Ohio State where an athlete making just one huge play for us could have turned the game. 

One big play late in either of those games and we're in the playoff. But we didn't have the explosiveness to do it.


December 6th, 2016 at 3:26 PM ^

Peppers wasn't even the best defensive player on our team, let alone the conference. He was our best player. Our MVP. Our most versatile athlete. None of which means he's our best defensive player. What makes Peppers so great is his impact on offense and especially special teams. He may have won the award, but he's not the best defensive player. He's a very good defensive player, but not the best.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:26 PM ^

I mean he didn't sign here to be a full-time RB so I don't even know if that was ever on the table. RB is basically the worst position for pay/longevity in the NFL.

I do think he was more effective playing RB/slot than as a QB. I really didn't understand the coaches giving up the benefits of decoy Peppers by pretty much only playing him at QB down the stretch.


December 6th, 2016 at 11:31 AM ^

If we beat FSU (we should) we will wind up with the same record. We will have scored more points and I would say that this defense is a little better (that defense was incredible though). So yes, 2016 team was better than 2006. 

I do not expect a drop-off in record next year. I think we will take care of Florida in game 1. After that the schedule is actually very manageable until the final two weeks at Wisconsin and OSU at home. However, by then our "young team" will all have the experience of upperclassmen. I think we will go 10-2 again next fall, but 11-1 would not surprise me.

Two years from now should be another epic team.

Space Coyote

December 6th, 2016 at 11:41 AM ^

But I don't think they'll be as dominant.

I think the 2017 schedule sets up much more like 2015 schedule, where there are likely fewer blowouts and more trip up and tricky games.

Florida is returning a lot. They return everyone save Appleby (Purdue transfer) on offense and only lose two backup WRs off their offensive two-deep. On defense, they'll probably lose a couple guys early to the draft, but only lose probably one player from each level of defense. Neutral field game, first of the season, tricky.

Michigan luckily has Purdue after Air Force, but Air Force takes prep work because of their weird offense and is always a potential trap game. I'm not convinced Cincinnati is terrible either, and depending on who their coach is, could at least put up a fight. The point being, I don't expect Michigan to lose either to Cincinnati or Air Force, but those teams won't give Michigan what is essentially a break.

B1G play essentially starts after the bye with MSU, @IU, @PSU (who returns a lot). Then ends @Wisconsin (returns a lot) and OSU (returns a lot).

So the schedule has a lot more variance than this year. Yes, Michigan could win every game on the schedule, and at least OSU is at home. But @PSU and @Wisconsin is tricky. I thought Michigan in 2016 was essentially 11-1 +/- 1. 2017 feels like 10-2 +/- 2.


December 6th, 2016 at 11:59 AM ^

Florida is going to lose a lot on defense. They'll lose both corners, Wilson and Tabor, Cox and Brantley (JR) along the DL, Davis and McMillian at LB, and Marcus Maye at S. Those are some key players on the strength of their team.

They return a lot from an offense that has been spectacularly bad. So it's the old "at least they're older-bad?" thing. I don't expect them to improve under McElwain/Nussmeier.

I think Florida may be a closer game than the talent of each team would indicate, but I do think we will win by double digits. As for the rest, I agree. While I expect double digit wins again, I don't think 9-3 would be horrible given the youth and schedule (depending on who the 3 losses came against).

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Leaders And Best

December 6th, 2016 at 12:09 PM ^

The schedule could line up well for Michigan.

Florida actually loses a lot of defense. Not official yet but most Florida insiders expect Tabor, Quincy Wilson, and Caleb  Brantley to all declare for the NFL Draft. This is on top of losing Jarrad Davis, Marcus Maye, Joey Ivie, Daniel McMillian, and Bryan Cox. Florida is going to lose around 7-8 starters on defense so they are going to be young there like Michigan. They return a lot on offense, but their offense has been so bad, I am not sure what difference that even makes.

Michigan's two toughest games are at the end of the season: @Wisconsin and Ohio State. That lines up pretty well for a young team that should have a lot of time to mature before playing those games. I think @PSU in the middle of the season will be a challenge. That is probably going to be their Whiteout night game.


December 6th, 2016 at 1:18 PM ^

You're right.  They do have a few senior 'starters' out.  The catch is these guys have been out an extended period.  Their replacements have been starting for quite a few games.  So while their depth chart from the beginning of the year shows about 5 senior starters, their depth chart for the second half of the season has only had 2 senior starters on it.  So they do lose a number of players after this year, but their replacements have gotten a lot of experience this year.

Leaders And Best

December 6th, 2016 at 1:32 PM ^

They missed 2-3 games at the end of the year. Davis returned for the SEC Championship Game. But they played most of the season. It is about the same amount of time Jourdan Lewis and Taco Charlton missed at the beginning of the year.

They do return some talented underclassmen who got some run this year like CeCe Jefferson, Alex Anzalone, Jordan Sherit, Jabari Zuniga, and David Reese. But those players they are losing are pretty significant, especially if Tabor, Brantley, and Wilson declare for the draft.

Space Coyote

December 6th, 2016 at 11:43 AM ^

But I don't think you're giving this team enough credit. Darboh, Chesson, Butt, Cole, and maybe even a couple OL will get drafted more than likely.

As far as the better defense, I think the 2016 team has more depth and less weak spots, but I think the 2006 had better individuals. I think Woodley, Branch, Harris, Hall are better college players than Taco, Glasgow, Gedeon, Lewis. But 2006 didn't have a Wormley, or Hurst, or Stribling to match the depth, even in the starting unit.

Also lost on the 2006 team was that Michigan essentially had half an OL. Long and Krause was a very good left side, but Riley and a young Mitchell was a pretty weak right side, probably weaker than any single side of Michigan's OL this year. But Henne in 2006 (if he had left he would have been a top 10 pick I think), Hart, Manningham, Breaston, Tabb, Minor, Mesko, Rivas; there was some really good talent on that side of the ball that was better than this 2016 offense, which really doesn't have the capability to be dominant in any facet of the game against top level defenses (2006 could be dominant running left or throwing at various times even against great defenses).