What's the Michigan sports-related hill you're willing to die on?

Submitted by Caesar on February 21st, 2018 at 7:17 AM

Worded differently: what's an unpopular view that you feel very strongly about for Michigan athletics? Gut-feelings are at home here, but bonus points are awarded (not actually awarded) for some evidence. Examples include stuff like, "Harbaugh is overrated," &c.



February 21st, 2018 at 7:50 AM ^

The offense was one year away. All they ever talk about is the offense and how it would have been BIG12-esque. They really believe that we would have put up 42+ points each game and could have won shootouts all the way to a National Championship.

I always bring up the defense and they always go back to "Look at [insert BIG12 team with a crazy offense here] and how they only needed a mediocre defense to be contending".

What makes me sad as I'm typing this is, now we're saying "We only need a mediocre offense to be contending". It's been a helluva decade.


February 21st, 2018 at 8:27 AM ^

Don Brown’s defense is so good they gave up 42 to penn state last year.
RR’s offense was predicated around an athlete that can run and make a ~50% completion rate. Denard was fantastic but far from the only athlete of his kind. Pat White and Khalil Tate come to mind. Lamar Jackson, Manziel, JT Barrett, Baker Mayfield (walk on) prove you can win with a QB who can blaze on the ground and only be semi decent through the air. We are hoping Shea can help in that way, provided he wins the job, even if his speed is a notch below those guys


February 21st, 2018 at 10:02 AM ^

but his BC defense's held FSU (w Jameis?) in check a couple of times. But your point is valid that UM hasn't necessarily shut down an elite offense mostly because they haven't played that many.  Compared to Durkin, I'd say they did better overall v. OSU but still ended up weakening in the 2nd half just not as bad as 2015.


February 21st, 2018 at 1:22 PM ^

I think the 2015 team was just worse overall compared to 2016, but I agree Brown's defense was better that Durkin's.  But my larger point was that UM's defense hasn't really shut down anyone truly dynamic, which is probably true for most teams.  


February 21st, 2018 at 10:12 AM ^

A couple years of offense S&P+ for discussion:

2017 Wins: #54 (Air Force), #60 (Purdue), #98 (Indiana), #100 (Cincinnati), #108 (Florida), #113 (Maryland), #120 (Minnesota), #126 (lol Rutgers)
2017 Losses: #7 (OSU), #10 (PSU), #41 (Wisconsin), #88 (South Carolina), #92 (MSU)


2016 Wins: #18 (PSU), #47 (Colorado), #49 (Wisconsin), #66 (MSU), #67 (Indiana), #74 (Hawaii), #86 (Maryland), #114 (Illinois), #117 (UCF, though they hit harder than their ranking), #125 (lol Rutgers)
2016 Losses: #2 (FSU), #23 (OSU), #78 (Iowa)


So... one good win with Don Brown at the helm against a top offense (PSU in 2016)?

We can argue semantics about games we should have won but didn't, and sure we can blame the offense (deservedly in most cases), but assuming some law of averages, we should have a couple more wins against elite offenses if we really do have a track record of shutting down teams like that. And we don't.


February 21st, 2018 at 11:25 AM ^

So you have to win the game for it to count as shutting down the opposing offense? Is that your logic?

Because in 2016, Michigan held OSU to 100 first half yards, 17 points in regulation (7 was a pick 6, 7 was a drive starting at Michigan’s own 13, and they had a field goal they earned)

That’s shutting down the opposing offense. Quite an elite one at that (top 25 in the metric you chose)


February 21st, 2018 at 12:24 PM ^

But... you do play to win the game. By definition the defense did not do enough to win (JT on 4th down exempted). It’s a bit unfair to say but it’s a results business.
If we were a true shut down defense, I think we would have had a couple more wins the last few years. As it stands, I think we have an incredible defense that needs an offense to be passable to win. We’ve seen that for as good as the defense has been the last two years (and thank goodness it’s back from the depths), it cannot win in spite of a mediocre or worse offense when going up against a great offense.

Toe Meets Leather

February 21st, 2018 at 12:48 PM ^

So one real drive resulting in 3 points in regulation isn't good enough? The result of the game is only representative of the team as a whole, not individual parts. By your logic, a running back with 200+ yards and multiple TDs in a game did NOT have a good game if the team didn't win.

I would also argue that any truly great team (National Champion/CFP caliber) has to have at least a mediocre offense/defense if the other side of the ball is actually elite. Is there an example of a great team that won in spite of a less-than-mediocre offense/defense?


February 21st, 2018 at 8:07 PM ^

To me, when up against elite offenses. The OSU game was an incredible defensive performance. We followed that by giving up 33 to a better FSU offense.
Here’s to hoping we close the gap between offense and defense this year, otherwise we will keep living in the past. I doubt we are debating this if the team was in the playoff or NY6 last year.


February 21st, 2018 at 10:22 AM ^

Just to be sure this revelation doesn't slip past him.

Do we really think JT Barrett was Heisman worthy? Pat White? It's as much an award for an offensive coordinator as it is for the individual. These guys were in the discussion because the system fit their abilities and masked their weaknesses. Either of those guys would get murdered if you put them in a pro-style offense. RR had a system that made athletes successful because he played to their strengths, mainly letting fast guys be fast.


February 21st, 2018 at 11:54 AM ^

I fully grant and accept that. My point was that I don't think it's enough to encapsulate RR's entire offensive in/ability to one OSU game.

I posit most of the board would take RR's offensive output in a heartbeat (scheme notwithstanding, and minus RR himself) if we had Don Brown's defense with it. Yet I also think the board would rather have the current state of affairs - a very respectable defense with an offense that's kinda been butt lately. At least recently we are pretty convinced we are merely consistent QB play away from this team going to the heights we aspire to. The roadmap for UM's ascension is there, whereas with RR the roadmap had him incapable of hiring an appropriate defensive mind and/or recruiting the right players to fit.

Interestingly, the 3-3-5 sucked under RR yet seemed awesome when ran recently by DB, but that helps when Hurst, Gary and Winovich are the first 3.


February 21st, 2018 at 10:01 AM ^

Fine.  They also scored 28 against Wisconsin, 28 against #17 Iowa, and 17 against #15 MSU.  And this was also with a LOT of young guys on offense.  You know the next time Michigan scored more than 14 points against MSU?  2015.  

There are a lot of things to ding RR for, but his offense 100% works and would have worked at Michigan.  Now, you might not want to win games 45-42, but that's always been his MO and there is something to be said for a guy who can manufacture top offenses with mid-level talent.


February 21st, 2018 at 1:40 PM ^

That game against Wisconsin got to 24-14 and 31-21 late into the 3rd quarter.  Yes it was was blowout, but Wisconsin didn't "let up" until well into the 4th quarter.  MSU was 10-17 at the half.  Iowa was a bit out of hand early.

Again, people are shitting on the offense under RR despite starting a bunch of first and second-year players.  Of course, the next year under Al Borges they had a top-20 offense, and if you are willing to give Borges credit for that then go for it.  I'm not going to.  The offense was rounding into shape, but the defense was garbage and that held them back.  


February 21st, 2018 at 11:01 AM ^

...because we scored 7 points against OSU because of turnovers.  If you look at the yardage and drive charts, you'll see we moved the ball well until we were too far down and couldn't recover because we had to throw the ball. 

Also, we only scored 17 points against MSU because our kicking game was awful. 

I'm not excusing RR, but I'm saying that the offense showed the potential that was fulfilled the next season.  The defense and FG kicking game was a whole different story and I'm not dying on the "he just needed Casteel" hill.

Watching From Afar

February 21st, 2018 at 8:59 AM ^

I did the math a few years ago and it boiled down to (roughly) this:

Michigan's offenses under RR could beat up on bad to average teams. However, when they ran into PSU, MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, on average they scored more than a TD less per game and lost by an average of mroe than 2 TDs (including the upset over Wisconsin that was 95% defense). I think they averaged over 100 yards less per game as well.

His offenses weren't "1 year away." They were 1 year away from being, probably, capable of scoring with a good opponent, but not great. Without a big improvement on defense (like they got under Hoke and Mattison) Michigan would have still gotten crushed by top Big Ten competition the following year.The 2011 season might have resulted in 1 less loss to Iowa just based on the offense, but that season's sechedule was ridiculously easy because they avoided PSU and Wisconsin, and got a Luke Fickel OSU.


February 21st, 2018 at 9:19 AM ^

I completely agree. I was happy when Rich Rod was fired and didn't think he would work in the long run. I think the evidence from Arizona further proves that. The guy had good offenses but when someone had him downloaded, they ate his lunch time and time again.

Like I said, this isn't my hill I'm dying on but I know plenty of guys that it is. I need new friends.


February 21st, 2018 at 9:34 AM ^

Would never argue that Rich Rod was the guy, but I think people really forget about the other factors at play in the 2009 and 2010 offensive numbers. Everyone seems to forget how absolutely horrific the special teams were those years.

Our special teams would consistently force our offense to start at our own 10 or 15 yard line and leave Tate/Denard with 90ish yards to go on every drive. The field goal kicking was also terrible. It cost us the Purdue game in 2009 and certainly didn't help Denard in 2010. 

Not trying to make excuses, but is it really that crazy to think the offense slowed down when it had to drive 90ish yards consistently against good to elite defenses?

Watching From Afar

February 21st, 2018 at 12:01 PM ^

I won't necessarily disagree (because I'd have to look some of those stats up like average starting field position and such) but then I'd say if his offense was "1 year away" while his defense wasn't, nor was his special teams, then Michigan was screwed either way. They weren't going to win games driving 90 yards over and over again against good defenses. and keeping up with their horrible, putrid defense.

RichRod was/is a good offensive coach. But like others have said, once he got "downloaded" it was pretty much over. His margin of error was so small on offense because he had a defense ranked 113th.

And even with the bad starting field position taken into account, I would assume that is a constant thing that occurs against most/every opponent. So again, they could drive 90 yards on Indiana and Purdue, but when it came to Wisconsin, they couldn't. Field position remaining constant, they couldn't do what they did to bad teams against good teams.


February 21st, 2018 at 9:55 AM ^

His last year at UM, their offense was a top-20 unit after being around 100 his first year.  The next two seasons they sorta coasted on his talent but still didn't score a bunch of points against anyone (everyone remembers 12-10 MSU, 6-13 ND, 6-29 MSU, 13-17 Nebraska, etc.).  

To me, all Michigan did was trade in a bad defense for a bad offense with Hoke.  The "big improvement" on defense coincided with a drop in offensive gameplanning and performance as the RR recruits cycled out.  Yes, Hoke had one good year because the defense took a step up (and was helped with immensely unsustainable turnover luck and short-yardage stop rate), but then the offense lost all of its flair and dynamics and then Devin Gardner, one of the more talented QBs to play the position at Michigan, spit up his spleen for the next 2 seasons.


Red is Blue

February 21st, 2018 at 10:11 AM ^

"Michigan's offenses under RR could beat up on bad to average teams. However, when they ran into PSU, MSU, OSU, and Wisconsin, on average they scored more than a TD less per game and lost by an average of mroe than 2 TDs (including the upset over Wisconsin that was 95% defense). I think they averaged over 100 yards less per game as well."


You're telling me that the average production went down against better teams?  Isn't that expected?

Watching From Afar

February 21st, 2018 at 12:06 PM ^

Yes, it's supposed to happen. My point being Michigan's offense wasn't some juggernaut like everyone says it was. Their defense was bad, their offense was good, not great, and their special teams were terrible.

So when you take a step up in competition and your offense goes belly up, while your defense is already getting obliterated, you're screwed.

His offense might have been "1 year away" from being good against good competition, but it didn't matter because his defense was 113th. Marginal increase in offensive output combined with similar defensive output still puts Michigan at 4-6 losses a year depending on the schedule if they run into Wisconsin, OSU (non Fickel), PSU, and MSU plus a good OOC team and some random drop against the likes of Indiana or Iowa.


February 21st, 2018 at 1:45 PM ^

At a different school, in a different environment.  But when you hire a HC and he asks for you to bring along his DC and instead you quibble over $250k and force him to hire a different DC he has no relatonship with, then yes, that's relevant.  It's almost like a decade-ish between the two makes a difference.