How far we’ve come; how far to go

Submitted by RJWolvie on November 28th, 2018 at 6:32 AM

Michigan football these last 4 years are best 4 years’ record since 1997-2000. (Look it up) And we were a flat-out dumpster fire, losing to everyone not just rivals, for all but 1 year of the last 8.

JH’s record against the better teams in Big10:

PSU 3-1, Wisky 2-1, MSU 2-2*, Iowa 0-1

 OSU 0-4, ND 0-1, Bowls: 1-2

This bowl game looms pretty large: 2-2 looks much more like on-track upward and 1-3 seems much more like “among the better of the rest”.

Look at that record against better teams and overall again, and compare: Excepting 1997, this IS, sadly, “back”. We ARE back, if we mean that literally. 10-3/11-2 has been our cap except that one year in 1997 for 50+ years.

So, what we really mean is we want to be better than “back”, and specifically we want to be competing for championships every year like we used to do (when only OSU & UM were consistently any good at all, and OSU was not so far ahead of the rest of the Big, tho occasionally stumbling, as they are now). And: damn straight! those should be our goals.

And we have a long way to go yet for those higher goals, obviously. But, “Harbaugh should go” b/c 0-4 vs OSU and “hasn’t won big game”? Personally, I think that’s insanity; willfully blind to just how low we were before he got here, what exactly UM has done since at least 2006/7, actually. He was hired to turn that shit-storm around and start competing for championships again. Part I: accomplished. Part II: long way to go (almost competed for a moment here this season, but that was apparently a mirage). And besides: fact is, JH & UM is the best we’re ever going to have, so if it isn’t good enough, nothing will be. If JH goes, UM will regress.

Anyway: is it disappointing we aren’t farther on Part II yet? Sure. But, you’re kidding yourself if you thought we we’re anything other than a dumpster fire since at least 2007, and you’re forgetting that we were only ever a 10-3/11-2 peak team before that, except that 1 magical year. We want more now, and we should, and we want to beat our top rival again (more often than just when they’re a sanctioned basket case), and we should.

So long way to go for Part II: offering Klingsbury a pile of $$ to take OC from Hamilton & McElwain (& JH) would be a great start on that.



November 28th, 2018 at 8:16 AM ^

I have to say here, people on here are becoming entirely too entitled in terms of thinking they have the market cornered on what is “acceptable” content and what isn’t.  Saturday was a tough loss, some people want to discuss how they see it and what to expect going forward.  If you don’t, fine, but nobody is forcing you to read this blog or this specific post, let alone comment on the quality.  If an OP says “Fire Harbaugh - discuss!” he should get bombed and the mods will take care of it.  


But the only thing worse than bad OPs is lurkers who exist only to slam other posters who want to have a discussion. I think a better question right now for the Board entirely than “should I post this” is “is there any reason for me to slam this poster.”   We’re all pissed about this entire week but let’s let people process it how they want to if they aren’t hurting anybody.


November 28th, 2018 at 6:51 AM ^

Great perspective! 10-3/11-2 seasons should be successful in the eyes of most or all fans. But isn’t it amazing how much a loss/win over Ohio State moves the needle? It does for me. While I am extremely disappointed about last week, one must keep a good perspective.


November 28th, 2018 at 11:48 AM ^

I share your frustration, but your response is off-target factually in a couple of ways:

1) No, these 4 years with JH are _better_ than any four-year stretch since 1997-2000. I.e., you have to include the (one) undefeated season to get to a better four-year stretch. So, literally, objectively: better than Lloyd Carr post-NC.

2) And there are not many (any? I didn't pour over those records too far back, but by impression) 4-year stretches before 1997, excluding that NC year, that have better record either. So, like I said, factually: we are very literally & rather exactly "back" to where we were, excepting 1997, and except that 0-4 v. OSU & regularly competing for championships. Big exceptions.

And like I also said, we want more now, and should want more, damn-rightly so, and most-especially including that beating OSU more than rarely when they're under sanctions and competing for championships part. That's Part II.

I'm just hopeful that progress continues on into Part II now, and not regression on Part I.


November 28th, 2018 at 7:09 AM ^

1. I agree with most of what you’re saying, except for labeling 10-11 win seasons as “sadly” being back. If you’re averaging double digit wins each year, you’re a top ten program, borderline top five. I know that we want to average closer to 12 wins a year because we want to play 13, 14, 15 games, but 11 win seasons will never be sad in my book.

2. The blaming of Pep and clamoring for Kingsbury has become so fucking bizarre. Our offense improved over 60 spots in S&P this year. Despite having two guards that Warinner coached into functioning OTs, and despite having all true sophomores at WR, arguably the best one of whom broke his foot before the season, the offense was objectively good all year. We just scored 39 points in Columbus, an amount that has been good enough to win every game but 2 under Don Brown. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why Pep is drawing so much ire after that game.

Edit: and Texas Tech finished two places below us in S&P offense this year. So sure, pay Coach Ryan Gosling a butt load of money to come in and make the offense no better to replace the guy you think is bad because you can’t get one year with O’Korn and freshman receivers and Drevno out of your head.

2nd Edit: To give some landmarks to better compare the offense against OSU to the rest of our games, S&P (which removes garbage time for anybody making that claim) had our offense's performance against OSU at 65th percentile, which bests our offensive performances against MSU (61%), Wisconsin (55%), Notre Dame (40%), and Indiana (29%). We were 3-1 in those games obviously.

Our defense's percentile performance was 7%, which is 62% lower than our second worst performance on the year (69% at Rutgers). 


November 28th, 2018 at 7:25 AM ^

I don't think it's so much the point the offense is bad, but it's predictable.  Also,  the play calling is what people,  including myself,  are up in arms over.  With that talent,  imagine what could happen with proper exploitation of defenses and a completely functional and good line.  I was thinking this morning about rondale Moore,  and was like damn, he'd be eligible and experienced when Michigan would need him. But then i also thought,  why would he go to Michigan when it's not necessarily known he'd be used appropriately. 


November 28th, 2018 at 9:31 AM ^

I think the predictability falls squarely on JH and his philosophy. "We are what we are, we're going to do what we do and we think we're better than you and you won't be able to stop us" is an attitude that comes from the head coach, and honestly, he's been right. No one however expected the defense to be so impotent, and if it weren't so badly torched, our offense would have been plenty effective. 

Prince wasn't The turnstile we hoped for, the secondary wasn't dominant or even competitive like we've been accustomed to, the linebackers got abused.

The D got punched in the mouth, didn't react well, and by the time the injuries started piling up there was nothing left to do. I can't explain it, and I don't think you "luck" your way into being the #1 defense in the country, but maybe they were inflated a bit?

Reggie Dunlop

November 28th, 2018 at 9:41 AM ^

Going back to the Airing of Grievances thread from a couple days ago, mine is absolutely when idiot fans bitch about "play calling". (No offense, but you're a football idiot compared to the coaching staff, so am I)

You don't hate the play calling, you hate the results. Like when Michigan opened up on Saturday with an 8 yard run, then followed it up with a play action pass that resulted in a sack. All over this board, people whined about the play call. "Why don't you keep running?! You just gained 8 yards!"  Well, if the pass play resulted in a 15-yard completion, nobody would be complaining about the "play call". I guarantee you if they ran the ball on that 2nd down and OSU blew it up for a loss of 3 yards, those exact same people would be furiously typing the same sentiment - "Why would you run again! Friggin' Harbaugh! So predictable! They're expecting run on 2nd and short! You have to play-action pass to our 5-star receivers!!!!" 

It's the result you hate. Not the play calling. Seeing an unsuccessful play and then retroactively concluding that the decision to run that play was stupid says more about you than it does them.


November 28th, 2018 at 9:50 AM ^

This really is an excellent point.  We are all guilty of this.  Every time Higdon got stuffed for a 2 yard game, my wife and I kept shouting "stop running Higdon up the middle" but when he popped the same run for 5-10 years, we liked the play.  Same was true of the passing game - "stop throwing to Gentry, he keeps dropping crucial passes" replaced "why don't we throw to our 8 foot tall tight end more" because those same plays just didn't connect.  


November 28th, 2018 at 12:05 PM ^

True enough. I tend to think it's the line play also: winning in the trenches and good blocking makes everyone a play-calling genius because everything works; bad blocking & every coach is an idiot, with bad calls, horrible plan, who got out-coached because nothing works. Works that way on defense too: why couldn't Brown adjust to fact that only way to stop OSU is pressure Haskins without blitzing your LBs who have to stop the crossing as it comes over the middle & then he they are quite mortal even awful at times, but we couldn't get pressure at all, even blitzing backers.

We also tend to ignore the other team: OSU hadn't played CLOSE that well in the trenches on both sides all year, but of course against us they would like the #2 team in the country that everyone thought they were pre-season and not the basket case they looked against MSU.

Michigan Arrogance

November 28th, 2018 at 7:37 AM ^

I agree here. People claiming they want more passing ignore the 2 picks thrown in the 2nd half. People who want more RPO ignore that the OSU D was backfilling (or whatever you call it) with a LB or S to account for the QB keeper on the read AND that the OSU LBers have been shit all year.

That plan offensively was fine. A couple 2nd downs set on fire could have been avoided with a different play call - that's legit (but hindsight) criticism, IMO, but that also was breaking M's dendency so is at least understandable (tho if you're obvly good with "doing what got you there" then go all in on that -not half way). 

The bigger problem on offense was Gentry having a complete garbage day. Just a total disaster. 2-3 big drops that hit him in the hands and either flat dropped or that LBer made a good scrape (but damn it was in his hands). OL wasn't that great either.

Defensively - the combo of 1) the OSU team playing their best, most focused game. 2) Gary and Chase being about 70-85% which exasserbates 3) that the DTs are just guys not dudes led to 4) NO PASS RUSH AT ALL leading to 5) OSU being able to excecute their crossing routes vs our man2man. Go ahead and complain about playing more zone - but that's not a magic wand that fixes #4 which is what we saw after the middle of the 1st Qtr. TLDR: it was a snowball affect defensively.

The last thing I'd mention is the overall talent issue (but from a depth perspective). OSU at their worst has better athletes on the field - look at their Tr FR 3rd/4th WR getting 2 TDs on our S #3 CB. They have speed and athletes down to man # 80 we have that down to man #40. that shows. Higdon had been a very good back, but he's not dynamic, not great speed, not great power, not great vision - he's a good solid back but just a guy, IMO. Jimmy's and Joes are closer but not quite there. 


November 28th, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

The talent gap was much wider between Michigan and OSU in 1969 but somehow Bo won that game and closed that gap in 2 to 3 years. There will always be a talent gap as long as Michigan fails to win the B1G and reach the playoffs. Face it, the top kids want to win a national championship and play in the NFL. Most of the top recruits do not think Michigan is such a team and will go to Alabama, OSU. Clemson and Georgia. I think we are in a much better place since Harbaugh's hire and 10 wins season are great compared to being near .500. I think Harbaugh will do his best to accumulate talent and and build depth and one of these seasons, may be next season, we will beat OSU at home and this may help us decrease the talent gap.



November 28th, 2018 at 10:08 PM ^

"The talent gap was much wider between Michigan and OSU in 1969 but somehow Bo won that game and closed that gap in 2 to 3 years."

My guess is the above is what you think to be true. However, it is completely false and Bump and Co. actually had a shit load of talent in Ann Arbor when Bo arrived. How much? Bo inherited more future AAs than in any other five year period in Michigan history. Just think McKenzie, Deirdorf, Mandich. That is three OLmen that went on to become not just AAs, but NFL HOFers,. One of those didn't even start in 1969. Wasn't even on the two deep. 

This is not meant to vilify the nature of your post, merely to provide facts. 


November 28th, 2018 at 9:33 AM ^

This is spot on. What was evident from that game is from a talent perspective, OSU had a gear that we didn't have. When challenged by being the underdog, they put it together and played their best game of the year. 

Our game plan defensively was arrogant as much as it was shit. We assumed we could hang with their offense at its best without coming up with a specific game plan. That was wrong. 


November 28th, 2018 at 10:10 AM ^

I don't think this completely holds up.  Particularly when you say that the "plan offensively was fine" but then pivot to the 2nd downs that were "set on fire."  When you run an offense that is exclusively reliant on staying in front of change and staying on schedule, setting 2nd downs on fire is the very definition of a bad offensive plan.  It is not so much Harbaugh's offensive "philosophy" as it is the actual play-calling within that philosophy. 

If you are going to run a version of a ground and pound body blow offense, you can't waste downs with completely unimaginative play-calling particularly when you are statistically a disaster on 3rd and long.  People sometimes compare Michigan's play-calling to Lloyd Carr these day, the only problem a lot of times it that it is akin to bad-Lloyd Carr without the few really consistent and productive wrinkles that made that Carr's offense semi-successful. 

Our wide receivers are fantastic, they are one of the better parts of our roster.  There have to be ways to get them the ball with room to work.  We completely scrapped wide receivers screens half way through the season, we seemingly don't have a hitch in our offense.  I don't think we ran an end around after the Wisconsin game.  It is though Harbaugh wants to rely on gaining 4 or 5 yards on first and second down but has a total of 2 plays in the play book designed to get those yards. 

There are certain parts of a game where you just cannot shit the bed offensively.  During the first possession of the 2nd half, after the defense got a huge stop coming out of halftime, Joel Klatt said "Harbaugh has not coached a more important half that he is about to coach," and offense proceeded to run Higdon-Hidgon-terrible Higdon screen that is appears in precisely nobody's third-down playbook.  Punt.  We could have taken the lead on that possession.  That cannot be a 3 and out.  Perhaps it can be against Michigan State or Wisconsin.  It can't be against OSU.  Against teams like OSU, Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, a 3 and out right there means you lose that game.  Those are the teams that this program aspires to beat. 

I don't think most reasonable people who are criticizing the offense believe the entire offense needs to be scrapped, but I don't think anybody who says the play-calling isn't and has not been a problem is being real about it.  It can be a problem without wanting to scrap the entire system. 

As a whole body of work, would the people who are defending the scheme and play-calling against criticism be satisfied with a rollout of the exact same thing next year?  I think if you think 10-2, no BIG title game, and the Peach Bowl against Florida is good enough and you are happy with that, than you would think that the same-ole will do just fine.  Maybe it is.  Even during the "good old days," that is pretty much what we were.  I guess I will just say I don't think we are ever beating Ohio State with it or making a legitimate run at the national championship with it.

Michigan Arrogance

November 28th, 2018 at 4:39 PM ^

re: 2nd downs set on fire.


We're talking about 2-3 play calls out of 45-50? Again, if we're going to go down the dumbass "let's bitch about playcalling" road, which I think is hindsight-aided bullshit to begin with, then IMO 2nd down should consistently be a down where you don't destroy what good you did on 1st down and making sure that 3rd down is short/reasonable.

IOW, think about a run on 1st down that gets you 5-6-7-8 yards. so 2nd and 2-5 to go. Calling a long drawn out pass there (which happened in the 1st or 2nd drive of the game) is too big a risk IMO b/c if you're sacked, not only dowes that put you in 3rd and long but that erases the good you did on 1st down - fucking up 2nd down essentially sets 2 downs on fire. 

The alternative I'd go with is a run or short screen or slant that can get the 1st but at least won't get you going backwards. So that's a Run, Run, so at worst 3rd and 5 (assuming at 5 yards gain on 1st and at worst getting nothing on 2nd down).

That's all great until you are scouted suck that the D knows you're running on 2nd and 2-5 to go. Have to break tendencies on occasion


November 28th, 2018 at 10:36 AM ^

My biggest issue is with how some players seem to be utilized. Wish DPJ, Collins, and Black could get more targets. With those 3, Martin, Perry, McKeon, Gentry, and Eubanks I also see no reason why Jake McCurry is in the game, let alone being targeted on third down on a play that seems designed to get the ball to the player running his route. On that note, I REALLY wish Chris Evans was utilized more in the passing game. Dude is a matchup nightmare for LBs, and slippery as hell in the open field. Gentry also needs to get his head out of his ass and become the 6'8" 260 lb terror he should be. That said, JH and the offense appear to be on the right path, and anyone wanting JH gone, or even a drastic offensive overhaul is crazy. Also, this is probably like my 20th post in the 7+(?) years I've been on this site, but I just feel like sharing the fact that I'm 20, have seen minimal Michigan football success in my life, have been trapped in BPONE for a majority of my fandom as a result, and I CANNOT FUCKING WAIT UNTIL HARBAUGH BEATS OSU AND STARTS WINNING CHAMPIONSHIPS. I want to beat OSU so bad and every year, without fail, they crush our dreams in the most heartbreaking fashion and the BPONE just grows deeper. :(


November 28th, 2018 at 8:02 AM ^

It was a two score game at multiple points in the 4th quarter. This game was hardly out of reach when you have the defense that we have.

That was nearly the only issue here. The defense that makes every game winnable collapsed like a house of cards. When you beat your season average for points scored in the biggest game of the year and still lose the offense isn’t the issue.

Ghost of Fritz…

November 28th, 2018 at 5:09 PM ^

In reply to this post and several yours above.  While I almost always find your posts well thought out, here I have to say I believe that you off base...

There is no single reason for the D collapse .  One of the leading reasons, however, is that Day/Meyer MADE IT COLLAPSE. 

How?  Day and Meyer had a great plan from the first snap to exploit the weaknesses they saw on film.  When Brown adjusted, they have counter-adjustments already gamed out in their heads that they quickly deployed. Intelligent and always ready with a counter. 

Pep/JH?  Not so much.  Very little to indicate that they entered with a solid plan to exploit weaknesses in OSU's D.  With only a few exceptions the game plan and play calling was the same stuff we had seen for the prior 5 games.  

IOW, Day/Meyer seemed to have done a much better job than Pep/JH of figuring out how to create certain mismatches, exploit those mismatches, and thereby get the ball in the hands of his many talented skill players.

In large part this is because the entire theory of that Day/Meyer do on offense this year is predicated on scheming mismatches that get guys the ball in space for YAC. 

The Michigan offense is not really about scheming mismatches.  It is based in wearing down the opponent, controlling the clock, and thereby keeping the D rested.  So it is not that surprising that Pep/JH did not seem to have a bunch of stuff that schemed mismatches, or counters when it turned out they could not run on 1st and 2nd down effectively. 

A lot of the people complaining about the offense (me included) believe that the game demonstrated a flaw that has been there all year--that the 'body blow' theory is inferior to the 'scheme mismatches and get the the ball to talented guys in space' theory in games against the best opponents. 

Works fine against most teams.  But it is inferior against loaded roster teams with offenses that are very intelligently mismatching you on D (like OSU).

An offense premised on scheming mismatches and on getting the ball in the hands of talented players in space does not have to be a passing spread.  Can be done from a mixed offense. 

JH has to reverse engineer his offense (and D, but that is another post) to beat OSU.  The kind of offense he will need to compete with OSU is not the same kind of offense works just fine to beat MSU or Wisconsin, or generally to get to 9 or 10 wins. 

The kind of offense he had in 2018 is not really the best device for keeping pace against OSU.  It has to evolve. 

He needs an offense that has answers when he is in a game where 1st and 2nd down runs are not working.  He need an offense that is good when playing from behind.  He needs an offense that will better utilize DPJ, Nico, Black.  How can he get so little production this year from the WR corps position group?  JH has an accurate passer.  Even accurate on the run.  Scheme to use those guys more effectively.  Get the ball to DPJ on the run, etc., etc.

JH has recruited a lot of talented skill players on offense.  But he uses most of them only a few times per game.  Why?  He's stuck in his 'body blow' theory.  He needs to blend in a lot more 'scheme mismatches and get the ball in the hands of ALL of my play makers' theory.


November 28th, 2018 at 8:31 AM ^

They do matter - OSU was going for the style points win.  They kept their starters in and the gas peddle floored on offense - this we all agree on.  You think they put the scrubs in on defense to give up cheap scores?  If you think that, you're not a very bright person.

Michigan scored 39 against OSU's starting defense.  Personally, I thought it could have been more had they gone aggressively outside at the start of the game, rather than when they were down 21-9.  That is the issue that can be discussed offensively, not the scoring of points late in the game.


November 28th, 2018 at 8:44 AM ^

21-6. And the fact we were able to move the ball easily once we opened up the passing a little bit shows what could've been if we came in from the opening bell trying to put up a points. 


Ohio is terrible at pass defense. We shoulda went 4 wide out if the shotgun like Lloyd did against Florida. Instead Harbaugh came with the same stale gameplan and didn't switch until it was 35-19 and even then the offense lacked any sense of urgency.


If Michigan ever wins the Big Ten it's not going to be behind a grind it out offense that Hope's the D never has a bad game. 


We have Black. DPJ, Collins and senior Perry. Why are you throwing to Gentry off a 7 step play action?




November 28th, 2018 at 8:59 AM ^

The offense scored 13 points on the first 9 drives of the football game OUTSIDE of the 1 play, 9 yard drive off the muffed punt at the end of the half. They didn't get it done against an Ohio State defense that is mediocre at best.

The 20 points scored in the 4th quarter were essentially in prevent garbage time and aided by some questionable penalties. The last TD when the team was down 30 was when the game was long ago decided.

You can think the offense improved this year (which it did) and still think the offense IN THIS GAME played poorly (which it did)


November 28th, 2018 at 8:53 AM ^

Kingsbury had two different quarterbacks injured this year and was still almost able to make a bowl game at a talent deficient school. Kingsbury was the author of the Johnny Manziel offense and coached up Pat Mahomes. The guy absolutely knows how to coach offense and we probably don't have a shot at getting him because so many NFL teams want to snatch him up. 

It's not just last year's offense that was bad, 2015 was anemic for 2/3rds of the year and in 2016 it cost the best defense in Michigan history a spot in the playoffs and the big ten championship. 

This offense scored 13 points in 3 quarters if you take away the post muff touchdown. That is absolutely not going to get it done against any elite team. Kingsbury or someone like him would install the type of offense that wins National Championships, as even Saban understands at this point. 

Unless you want to wait until we recruit an entire NFL caliber offense (which good NFL teams would use to run a spread anyway) in order to beat elite defenses, we need to modernize and move to a spread. 


November 28th, 2018 at 10:09 AM ^

We ran a decent amount of spread 11 personnel formations, but we primarily went two tight ends out of the pistol. When I say spread, I'm talking about no huddle, looking to be explosive on every play, not just hoping your 1 play action bomb per quarter, getting the ball to playmakers in space, optioning off defenders either through zone read or RPO, outsmarting opponents, not just out-executing them.