Reality Check - UM Football Has Been Mediocre by "Blue Blood" Standards ...for 20 Years

Submitted by alum96 on October 14th, 2013 at 8:15 AM

Preface:  (a) I am prepared for the downvotes and hate messages and (b) this has little to do with the Penn State game and more to do with the now years of sweating out games with the likes of UConn / Akron and knowing a typical game versus a program like Purdue or Illinois is now a sweat it out game with a >35%+ chance of a loss.

I cannot remember the last time we had a servicable OL that did not require a superman QB to create offense.  I am sure it was 2007 but it sickens me to see we have a MAC level OL - whatever the age - with an All American holding down 1 of the 5 spots, and a theoretical NFL pick at another.  It sickens me that this is not a 1 year issue, or a 3 year but with the youth of 2014 will be a year 7 issue.  At Michigan. 

We have let the Big 10 down, and our biggest rival down.   It is not just since Rich Rod got here, but aside from one special season, and a few other very nice ones, UM football has been quite "average" (I don't know the right adjective and I know the board police will attack whichever adjective I use so insert your own) not for 6 years but 20 versus our "pedigree".   5 Big 10 titles, outright or shared in 20 years.  Wisconsin has more in that time.

Being a statistic geek I took a look at the top programs in all time wins, excluded the Harvard/Yales and added in Florida and we don't compare very well at all for the past 20 years.  By that I mean 0, 1, or 2 loss seasons. [i.e. my ARBITRARY signal of what  would indicate you have a pretty damn elite team, allowing for 1 screwup a year - it's a basic eye test, not science]  We have been consistently meh (insert your adjective here) - and well below our rival OSU who both share a very average conference for about a decade now.   We laugh at Notre Dame here on so many levels but frankly we have become Notre Dame North.  For comparison sake, the previous 20 year period, we had 13 seasons of 2 losses or less; we had an elite program.

Since 1993, the # of years UM has lost less than 3 games: 4.

We sit here on our boards and so many are all high and mighty and mock Notre Dame.  Yes they have only had 2 of less than 3 losses in 20 years.  Somehow they have been even worse.  But what a lame yardstick at this point.  Hey we are better than Charlie Weiss and Bob Davie - yippee.

Our rival?  They are making us look pathetic.  OSU with 12 years of 2 losses or less.

  • PSU with a "over the hill Paterno": 6
  • Nebraska: 8
  • Texas: 7
  • Oklahoma: 7
  • USC* (*cheaters): 9
  • Florida: 11
  • Georgia: 5
  • Tennessee: 6
  • Bama: 6

Aside from consistency over 20 years most of the teams above had 4-5 year periods of super elite status where they were "dominant", before cycling back down.  Unfortunately while we got our 1 NC, we also have not had that sort of "consistent elite/feared for a # of years".  Georgia is probably the only other one along with our friends in South Bend.

Our recruiting classes have, aside for maybe 2-3 years out of 20 been consistently top 10ish.  We tsk tsk at Texas for doing less with more but the reality is many of us (myself included) are living in glass houses as we have been doing the same.... or one could argue less with the same.

I get caught up in the day to day and week to week analysis as much as anyone, but when you really sit back and look at the big picture it has been a relatively mediocre era, thankfully to a degree covered up by a supernova in 1997.   Just very frustrating to analyze and compare to what Ohio is doing - we are not in the same conversation anymore. Hopefully our "cycle" comes soon (latter 2010s) but it's been a long time waiting for it.



October 14th, 2013 at 8:24 AM ^

is the problem, and all of the Borges apologists on here will not face the music and will constantly blame the lack of execution...the constant under-center dive runs are not working...all the other stats don't mean much, we have decent talent but a terrible play caller who refuses to adjust to the talent he has...this is also on Hoke as well for allowing these bad play calls week in and week out...GERG was also an easy scapegoat because he was forced to run a bad defense by RR...the problem is Borges, and until he is gone/changes his playcalling nothing will change other than the sheep on this board blaming Devin/Fitz/anything else other than the guy calling the dead-wrong plays

Red is Blue

October 14th, 2013 at 9:09 AM ^

Sure, but absolving Borges (saying it not on him) is wrong. It is on Borges and it is on Hoke provide guidance or make a change. What I took from your comment was you want Hoke to micromanage. You need to give the folks that work for you some ability to make decisions. If the decision are not in line with your philosophical approach then you point that out and make clear your expectations. If after that, you still having issues, you make a change.


October 14th, 2013 at 9:18 AM ^

ok, this can go one of two ways for Hoke. He can micro manage Borges, or he can step away from the power scheme that I am sure he has a lot to do with and allow Borges to open it up like he did the end of 2011. It is silly for all of us to sit here and blame Borges relentlessly when we all know in the end it is on the head coach. He can simply tell him one way or another how to manage the game. I Have been in management for 10 years and I never micro manage until its neccessary. The time is now for Hoke to handle this.

On the other hand none of us really know how they manage anything. I can sit here all day with and blow hot air, but its irrelevant. My opinion is that Hoke is very hands off and not versatile enough to take over if he had too. This is a slippery slope for him, because as Borges does what he does it reflects on Hoke.


October 14th, 2013 at 9:49 AM ^

so you are now talking out of both sides of your mouth...whose to blame? Borges calling the plays or Hoke not telling Borges to change the play calling??? You cannot sit there and blame Hoke and then say he cannot call plays....Borges is the problem as well as Hoke, but it is clear that Borges is given the green-light to call whatever he as a manager, you either micro-manage him or remove him from his position....Hoke is responsible for the Lloyd ball decisions to punt, Borges is responsible for the Lloyd ball power runs that simply do not work

Blue Blue Blue

October 14th, 2013 at 5:24 PM ^

Hoke is starting to remind me of Frieder.......a great recruiter, a lousy game coach.

How lousy?  The strutting around the sidelines is a clue.  He needs to have a headset on and have input into the offensive play calling. 


In the "real world" a guy like Borges, with tons of good jobs (but none for very long) would be considered a journeyman, not a guru. That Hoke leaves him to operate the offense is a poor commentary on Hoke.  Last year, he let Borges convince him Russell Bellomy was ready to play, so perhaps Hoke doesnt want to see the truth.


He can get away with leaaving the defense in the hands of Mattison, who we bought from the NFL.  But Borges is not Mattison, and does not have nearly the resume.


My impression is that your average 14 year old with PlayStation expeerience could have done a better job fitting an offense to Denard, a unique talent Borges made do ordinary things.


But now its Year 3, which is all RichRod got, and RichRod at least left some talent behind. 


October 14th, 2013 at 10:41 AM ^

I completely agree, it is not Borges fault we lost.  It starts from the top with Hoke.  Hoke is the one making stupid discussions near the end of the game and throughout the various overtimes.  I happen to agree with Hoke on punting at the end of the regulation, as I am always nervous with our kicking game. Hoke and Mattison always preach to us the fan that we dont want to get beat deep and this is why we play off in the secondary and guess what happens.  You let a freshmen QB to drive 80 yards on you in less than 30 seconds.  HOW. Then you get a chance to win the game with a field goal. then you dont even try to go for a first down you just play as conservative as possible just kick the fileld goal. This is not Borges, this is direction from Hoke and if it isn't Hoke should be asked for it and held accountable for it.  Hoke always said he makes decision at the end of games.  He again gets a chance to win the game with just a field goal and a third and one. Hoke plays conservative again just to kick when his kicker is struggling.  After this game, I feel Hoke let the team down and lost the game for us.  No one dares to ask Hoke in his presser the hard questions, why did you not go for the first down when you see that your kicker is struggling to make it a little closer.  Why not try to score a TD and get away from all this kicking ps. Not sure about Hoke anymore, he is an average coach at most at this point.


October 14th, 2013 at 11:27 AM ^

In all fairness the big catch to Robinson on the final drive of regulation was covered.  That was good coverage, not a great throw by Hackenburg, and Robinson went up and made a play against a DB 5" shorter than him.  What are you gonna do?  Hemingway did that against ND and V-Tech.  Should we have been more aggressive and got a field goal, maybe, but Gardner also allowed the delay of game call.  A lot of negatives happened, it's not all on the coaches. 


If we went for the kick and missed it, we'd be pissed about that too, calling for Borges/Hoke to play the odds and not be stupid playing against a freshman QB.  I don't think Hoke is conservative.  I've seen him go for it on 4th, I've seen him go for the blocked punt, etc.  He is considering the situation...playing on the road in a difficult place to run the offense with a QB that has made a lot of mistakes, going against a freshman QB on the other side.  That's a logical choice.  No problem there. 


The circumstances are frustrating, but the choices are logical.  I don't like them.  I wish we had a confident/capable QB (Morris, Speight, etc.), offensive line ('13 recruiting group), pass rush (Charlton in the cupboard and Hand probably otw), shut down DB (Peppers otw) etc. to lock the end of the game down, but we're not there yet.  The solutions are there, we just need more time.  It's the players not the coaches.  And, the effort is there from everyone and that's all you can ask for.  As Hoke's recruiting classes, particularly on the lines, begin to become upperclassman, I beleive it will make all the difference.


October 14th, 2013 at 8:55 AM ^

I would give you 10,000 pts of upvote if I could.  Borges is the new GERG, except this time he has an equally incompetent sidekick named Funk.  The only difference between Hoke and RichRod aside from the goodwill with Blue nation is Hoke's recruiting.  Both of them have fallen prey to hiring incompetent coordinators to whom they have given autonomy on the other side of the ball.

MI Expat NY

October 14th, 2013 at 9:51 AM ^

As much as I loathe talking about RichRod, it wasn't just GERG alone that ruined the defense.  The entire defensive coaching staff, aside from maybe D-Line coach, were pretty bad.  Mattison didn't come in and turn the worst defense in Michigan history into a pretty decent one with schemes alone.  Coaching also improved dramatically in the back 7.  

I think something similar is going on with the offense.  In three years, who has performed above his talent on the offensive sisde of the ball?  Maybe, Gallon?  Nobody is being coached up on that side of the ball right now.  I think it's time for a wholesale change in the offensive coaching staff.  FWIW, I think this will automatically start this season with a Fred Jackson retirement.  


October 14th, 2013 at 9:57 AM ^

but GERG has done just fine down in Texas seeing that they beat up Oklahoma...granted they almost lost to ISU, but GERG was forced to run the 3-3-5 that Dick Rod still runs (and fails terribly with) at Arizona....Michigan needs a competant OC, the defense is ok and has actually done a pretty damn good job that past couple of years

MMB 82

October 14th, 2013 at 10:16 AM ^

has Casteel (his 3-3-5 guru at WV) now working with him at Arizona. Only in year 2, I imagine they'll have the defense up to at least WV levels in the future. But agree that Borges doesn't seem to be imaginative/adaptable. Also wonder about Funk, but it seems to me we haven't had a dominating OL in nearly a decade. I remember we seemed to have trouble running the ball even during the last 4-5 years of the Carr era [insert pic of entire OSU DL getting past OL toward Hart here].


October 14th, 2013 at 11:17 AM ^

Only in year 2, I imagine they'll have the defense up to at least WV levels in the future.

I'm not sure about that.  The Pac-12 has some very talented offenses, a lot more than the mid-2000s Big East had.  


October 14th, 2013 at 11:21 AM ^

I've said this before: GERG may not have been the solution but he was not the problem.  The problem was RR's insistence on the 3-3-5, a defense neither Shafer nor GERG wanted to run.  Not only did we suck as they struggled to implement that as our base defense, it affected our defensive recruiting as opposing schools pointed out that few NFL teams use the 3-3-5.




October 14th, 2013 at 11:26 AM ^

is because of inadequate coaching we turn highly rated recruits into average to below average players. At some point, prospects will see this and stay away from Michigan.

Hoke is a good man and does recruit well. But he is above his head in coaching a high profile football program. He is the wrong man for the job and the longer he stays the program will continue to degrade. 


October 14th, 2013 at 2:23 PM ^

And yet, his record is 24-8.

This is not the record of a guy who is in over his head.

And lets not forget, he took over a program in disarray, its not like he's been coasting and running a good thing down.

I blame him 100% for the Penn State loss. I appreciate the emotional state this board is in. But I don't think we should make crazy, wrong statements such as yours.


October 14th, 2013 at 10:03 AM ^

is that he's shown flashes of innovation. Where did all those reverses to Norfleet from the CMU game go? It seems like our offense gets more vanilla each week. Maybe he's stripping it down to basics because of turnovers, but it clearly isn't working.


October 14th, 2013 at 11:31 AM ^

I really think we try to set up future opponents and purposefully play a little vanilla against teams we expect to win.  I see us being very different against the likes of MSU, Nebraska, NW, and OSU.  We seem to be very different in the second half versus the first half all three years.  Maybe we get to know our strengths/weaknesses better as time goes on and we adapt, but to some degree I think we do this on purpose to have vareity/unique plays against higher level conference foes.


October 14th, 2013 at 11:34 AM ^

Hoke will never fire Borges.  By the time Hoke actually begins to consider this as a viable option it would be too late.  Personally I don't see either happening as eventually our talent level, particularly our o-line will be good enough to hide Borges' weaknesses.  But, we are stuck with Borges as long as Hoke remains which will be a while unless we get a few 6-7 win seasons in a row which I don't see happening.  8 wins is enough to give him more time for 2 more years, at which point talent will take over and give us 9-11 wins a year.


October 14th, 2013 at 12:05 PM ^

... that David Brandon gets more involved.  He will not take failure sitting down.  Say all the crap you want about him, but he understands the importance of putting a quality product on the field and is not a passive observer.  

I don't know enough about football to say it is player X or coach Y, but I do know something is broken.  Hopefully, there will be plenty of pressure to fix it ASAP.  


October 14th, 2013 at 3:26 PM ^

Hoke will never fire Borges.

I don't understand why people make these kinds of absolute statements. Hoke and Borges have been together 4.5 years. People are acting like they were college roommates or something. If Hoke feels there should be a change, he may well make one. He shook up his staff at Ball State after he started poorly.


October 15th, 2013 at 1:02 AM ^

Strange. Right after a lenghy, well-written thread post about how the program has been mediocre for 20 years the first thing I see is "Borges is the problem." Playcalling in the last game was not good. No way around that, but calling our OC for the past 3 years THE problem (reminder, this is about 20 years of mediocrity) is unfair. We had offensive struggles before Hoke and before Rich Rod. Coaches have come and gone.

The gradual downslide of Michigan football goes beyond any individual.  This, I feel, is more attributed to a change in college football culture than anything else. The elite programs that have risen or have stayed at the top in the past 10-20 years have something in common, and it's that they have changed their way of thinking and approaching everything from coaching to recruting. Michigan, as far as the big picture goes, has stayed the same, and it's because our stubborn, arrogant fan base refuses to accept any change. 

We get all pissy when DB tries to change ANYTHING. This isn't the 80's anymore. College football is not an innocent game. Now more than ever we hear about schools offering illegal benefits to recruits and current players. Schools are doing whatever it takes to rise to the top. Michigan as an institution holds itself above that behavior. We are playing by a different set of rules than a lot of other schools. It's the Michigan Arrogance that's holding this program back. I'm not saying we should stoop down to the level of the people we hold ourselves higher than. I'm saying that I think we can't have both.

The point I'm trying to get at is that unless Belichick or Saban are on our sideline, we can't keep placing the blame on just one person, then expect our problems to go away once that problem is fired or retires. During RR, many turned to Carr as the source of the problem. Now we're seeing the same thing but RR being the source. We are a fanbase that, similar to Notre Dame, lives entirely in the past. It's time to move on from that, because the longer we keep holding on to the "glory days," the further away they'll get, and the more irrelevant they'll be on the recruiting trail.  We are on a slippery slope, and have been for a while.


October 15th, 2013 at 2:57 AM ^

Where do you see these Borges apologists? Have you read Brian's recap? Have you been reading the diaries, board posts, comments, or the rest of the Michigan blogosphere? Everyone is pissed at Borges, and most are also frustrated with Hoke. Who are you arguing with?


October 14th, 2013 at 8:26 AM ^

I can say that I agree to the terms above. I would like to add that we have yet anothe top 5 or 10 class coming in next year and arguably the best athlete in the country on his way. We need an athlete of peppers caliber on this team. We have talent yes, but its crucial we find that woodson esque game changer. This is still michigan and we will get past this.


October 14th, 2013 at 8:31 AM ^

I'm not going to downvote because I get what you are saying but, honestly, who really cares?  So a bunch of people expect perfection and the team rarely lives up to that; welcome to college sports.  UM isn't one of the consistent elite programs anymore, but I'd counter that all of the schools listed above have gone through, and likely will go through, far more ups and downs compared to UM.  And as you noted with USC and, I presume, OSU, they always have the potential for infractions and tarnished win-loss records that probably won't occur at UM.  This isn't a morality argument because I think those are crap, but sometimes what makes you Auburn or Miami for a couple of years bites you in the ass later.  I mean, teams like Miami, FSU, Colorado, Washington, etc. all had great runs during this timeframe but cratered due to incompetence, NCAA violations, and vagaries of the sport.  I'm not saying losing 3-4 games a year is fantastic, but I'd much rather know my team is a consistent winner than have to watch Colorado get their heads beaten in for years.


October 14th, 2013 at 8:38 AM ^

Football coaches (and others) often talk about the 80/10/10... 10% of the kids will do the right things, work, and lead.  10% will loaf, complain, and drag everybody else down (misery loves company).  The rest of the 80% will follow one of these two.

alum96 you are either a fantastically obsessed (and hence educated on M) troll or the king of the lower 10%.


October 14th, 2013 at 8:51 AM ^

I love when people lay out facts and are called a troll.  The first part of addressing a problem, is admitting it.  We have been mediocre VERSUS our small peer group.  I used a random measure, others can use other measures but in the end its Win v Loss to measure who is premier and who is not.  We are 2nd from last in that category per my arbitrary measure, and if you use the eye test it would hard to argue over 20 years you can move UM much higher on the scale.

You can put your head in the sand and avoid it and call names but that is not doing much.  Or join the chorus of "just wait until next year when it all gets fixed" which has been the status quo since 2006.   My main worry is in reading far too many comments on these boards this weekend, a lot of hard core fans are now in the "acceptance" phase of 4 loss seasons as this is just what it is, while holding out some fanciful hope that by the laws of nature it will stop being so "In 2015".  I sure hope so, but the now creeping acceptance of these results by more of the fan base, for a program who puts so much money and energy into football is not a great thing.  I don't have any easy solutions short of bringing Nick Saban here but it doesnt change the analysis.


October 14th, 2013 at 9:02 AM ^

Did you post this in the offseason, when optimism (as it always is) was highest?  Did you post it after Notre Dame?  Are you making an intellectual argument based on facts - this one building over the last 20 years -, or are you hurting from the poor play of the last few weeks and drowning in misery?  I posit the latter, which leads to my conclusion.


October 14th, 2013 at 9:33 AM ^

I thought the OL would struggle at the outset but be a few steps better by mid season when the "3 new guys" (whoever they were) would be better.  I thought the offense would be more pro style per the coach's goals.  I thought we'd be able to run running backs.  I didn't think this would be Denard's offense all over again.  We've had a very easy schedule and beaten one competent team.  We've struggled (mostly due to turnovers) against 2 piss poor teams.  The only part of this team executing and improving game versus game is the defense.  The special teams and offense have regressed.  The OL is among the worst I have ever seen at a Big 10 school, not to mention a OSU PSU UM type school.  It might be rivaled by last year's. 

Frankly I am amazed at how many points we can score with an arm tied behind our back but that goes to the natural ability of Devin Gardner who both gives and takes away.  If we only had a pro style QB rather than a guy who can create 20+ yards on any scramble, I think this offense would be in very bad shape.  And we have yet to play a defense with the team speed of Ohio or the stoutness of MSU.   Devin can still keep us in any game but the fact we are in year 3 of the Hoke/Borges era completely reliant on 1 superman to run an offense versus asking the QB to just be a QB... is saying something.  I thought we'd be far better by mid season not on how many points we score but on running a 2 dimesional offense.  I guess its the journey rather than the destination of this year's offense that is dismaying.  It doesnt look any differnet than 2012's offense.

After the ND game I thought Devin looked Vince Young-ish but it was hiding a ton of issues on the OL - he was scrambling for his life on almost every drop back and the run game still struggled.  And in retrospect that ND defense is not anywhere near to 2012's.  At this point I just feel sorry for Devin for what he is dealing with.


October 14th, 2013 at 11:31 AM ^

These are all reasonable - and frankly generic - frustations on the 2013 season so far.  They're fair and could have been - and were - listed over and over again in any of the snowflake threads.

What you're doing while standing in the fire is looking for gasoline and tinder, and in this post you've found some and poured it all over the board.  It's the act of someone who has a predisposition to wallow in pity, or of a provoking troll.  Your recent history of emotional rants and gloom provide additional evidence for both.

Admit it: if M had won every game so far by a score of 60-0, you would have not made this post.  Yet five games of 60-0 wins would do nothing to affect what you call 20 years of mediocrity.


October 14th, 2013 at 11:07 AM ^

I have to agree.  And this is why I down-voted.  Not because of the OP's sentiment, but because it doesn't take any sort of intestinal fortitude to post something like this after Saturday's game.  If this is how you've felt, then speak up and be the contrarian while everyone is more positive about the team.  Otherwise, live with it.  Hopefully, not too much of your personal happiness it tied to the success of the team.


October 14th, 2013 at 3:39 PM ^

He upvoted himself.

But yeah, too many people are willing to make all these sweeping bold statements and the "I've always known I told you so" posts after a really shitty loss, but somehow they either didn't know, or didn't step up to say them say, after the ND win when everyone was making Devin the #1 overall NFL draft pick next year.


October 14th, 2013 at 5:24 PM ^

The fact that this increase in yearly losses occurs over a roughly 20 year period indicates that it is not caused by any one coach, or AD, or even UM president. The shift may be due to an increasing acceptance of fewer victories by fans, alumni and boosters. In short, a culture change may be occuring which resets expectations from from one cohort to another. Reading from the comments, it appears that loyalty to the team is often being intepreted as accepting them no matter what outcome they produce. Those who argue for national championships are dismissed as hotheads or unbalanced or unrealistic. Those who argue that desiring a national championship is excessive may be right, but they have to consider another possibility- once 3-5 losses per season becomes acceptable, what is to stop the culture change from continuing to the point where 6-8 losses become acceptable? Where do you draw the line? What is to stop the process of culture change from continuing?


October 14th, 2013 at 8:46 AM ^

About 8 years ago at the end of the Carr era I read a quote by a Wisconsin player I've always remembered. When asked the difference between playing Michigan and Ohio he said, Ohio just plays harder. They hit harder and are just tougher than Michigan guys

That looks true to me too. Michigan can look incredibly soft at times. Hoke preaches toughness, but we just don't see it. To the OP point, no, Michigan isn't currently elite and hasn't been in a long, long time.


October 14th, 2013 at 9:00 AM ^

All football players in the Big Ten from 01-06 said the same thing. Specifically they said they would rather line up against Alan Branch and Gabe Watson than any Dlinemen from OSU. They made it clear to me that Branch and Watson had FAR more talent but "tired out and took a lot of plays off just going through the motion" (my classmate's exact words) whereas apparently OSU fought a lot harder and had much better technique. I thought this was a problem that would be immediately fixed under the next coach. I'm not sure it has been yet.