Sunday, September 2, 2012

When Will Michigan Be Michigan Again?

I write this piece with a bit of disappointment, some anger, but mainly a lot of annoyance.  Not at Michigan's blowout loss against Alabama with a final score of 41-14, but of Michigan's fanbase.  Not for those that traveled all the way to Dallas or truly rooted for their team last night, but for all the so-called "fans" out there that immediately turned on this team and notably, quarterback Denard Robinson.

I've seen and witnessed numerous examples of this and I'm sorry if this sounds like a rant (it pretty much is one), but people need to step back and look at this game from the outside.  Sitting in the stands at the Big House (I went to the student viewing event), I was surrounded by people who immediately were yelling that Denard was doing "horrible", "isn't" a quarterback, and about how he need to "just run it more".  Now, I'm well aware that people are going to complain when things are going badly.  Usually more out of frustration than anything else, but the one thing that I kept hearing that pushed me over the edge was that Michigan needed to "be Michigan again" if they wanted to beat Alabama.

With Michigan's rich history, this sounds pretty logical, but I think we need to take a step back and look at the details.  If last year's 11-2 Sugar Bowl winning, Ohio State defeating, and Nebraska crushing team wasn't a Michigan team, then what is a Michigan team?  Of course, few fans think any of Rich Rod's three teams were "Michigan" teams, so let's go back to the Lloyd Carr years.  Now, this may come as a bit of a shock, but here are some basic stats on Lloyd Carr's 13 year tenure at Michigan.

  • 8 - Number of Teams Without A Big Ten Title
  • 2 - Number of Teams That Won A Big Ten Title (Not Shared)
  • 10 - Number of Teams With 3 or More Losses
  • 8 - Number of Teams That Failed To Reach A BCS or Equivalent Bowl
  • 2 - Number of Teams That Won A BCS or Equivalent Bowl

I chose these numbers because I think it gives us the best comparison to Michigan's 2011 squad.  Most people believe that Lloyd Carr coached "Michigan football", but when we actually break it down, not that many teams during Carr's tenure achieved what Brady Hoke achieved in year one.  Even the 1999 team that won the Orange Bowl lost to MSU and didn't win the Big Ten.  Of course, the 1997 team easily beats the achievements of the 2011 team, but if the 1997 team is the standard for "Michigan football", then Bo failed every season and Carr only had 1 year that met the requirement.

This is not a post aimed at ripping on Lloyd Carr or Michigan's former coaches.  I respect Carr's tenure and he did a great job at Michigan, but when you break down the numbers, it's not too hard to see that the 2011 team's accomplishments stack up pretty well against the majority of his teams.  Even if you use Hoke and company's stated goal for the program, Big Ten championships, only 5 of Carr's teams did that and only 2 didn't share their title.  Of course, I only mention this because from 2011 on, it's impossible to share the Big Ten title.

I like the statement about getting back to "Michigan football" because I love what it stands for, but in my opinion, we were back to Michigan football in 2011.  Of course, like I said, you can use a different standard like Big Ten or national championships, but the results are not going to look very good for most of Michigan's former head coaches.  We don't know how good the 2012 team will be, but people need to look at the 2011 season closely and look at the game against Alabama.

Michigan lost by the score of 41-14 against Alabama.  Not exactly the result Michigan wanted, but why don't we take a look at what the "best" teams did against Alabama.  Here are some stats that I consider pretty relevant to Saturday night's result.
  • 1 - Number of Times Alabama Allowed More Than 14 Pts Last Year
  • 8.2 - Average Pts Scored On Alabama Last Season
  • 5 - Number of Times Alabama Scored 40+ Pts Last Year
  • 34.8 - Average Pts Scored By Alabama Last Season
  • 6 - Number of Ranked Teams Alabama Faced

There's no need to explain that Alabama was good last year, but it is important to point out this in order to reference and compare to Michigan's performance on Saturday.  I say this because a lot of people are using Michigan's loss against Alabama as a reason Michigan is not "Michigan football" right now.  Do I think Saturday night was a game of quality "Michigan football"?  No, I do not.  Not because Michigan lost or because we used a quarterback that can run the ball, but because Michigan committed mental errors that cost them the game on both sides of the ball.  Players dropped passes, missed blocks, committed penalties, and missed tackles in all the phases of the game, something fans seem to be forgetting.

Last year, in the national championship game, Alabama completely dominated #1 and undefeated LSU.  LSU had beaten Alabama earlier in the year (largely because of Alabama's kicker), but could only manage 92 yards of offense against the Crimson Tide in the rematch.  92 yards of offense.  Denard Robinson alone had 227 yards.  Our offense did better than LSU's did against Alabama without a doubt.  Let's not forget LSU's offense scored 40 points against Oregon, 47 against West Virginia, 41 against Florida, 45 against Auburn, 41 against Arkansas, and 42 against Georgia.  The defense was the strength of LSU's team without a doubt last season, but they scored 40+ against two BCS bowl winning teams.  That's saying something.

So where am I going with all of this?  Last night's game was bad.  I completely understand, but that doesn't mean Michigan football is dead or needs to "go back" to its old ways because frankly, those ways didn't get the results that people are demanding of this team.  Alabama is a deep, experienced, and well-coached team that has been filling its roster with over-signing for years.  We don't even need to mention the 2 national titles in the last 3 years.  They're very good and I'm not even sure how many of Lloyd Carr's "Michigan" teams would have been able to beat them.  I don't think I need to mention the last time Michigan was in the Rose Bowl and lost 32-18 against USC.

I have a ton of faith in Brady Hoke and I truly believe that Team 133 is going to be one to remember, but one loss against a very, very good team doesn't mean Michigan can't be "Michigan" this year or in the future.  Why do I say that?  Because I think Hoke can build a Michigan team that's even better than the Michigan fans knew under Lloyd Carr.  He just fielded a young team with severe depth issues against the reigning national champions and did better than LSU did last year.  I'm not going to be happy with the result, but fans need to sit back and realize that just because Michigan plays with Denard Robinson or loses to Alabama doesn't mean we aren't on the right track.  2011 was not a fluke and I'm confident we will know that by the end of 2012.


  1. This might sound crazy .... but i dont think we played that bad .... Denard's passing was fairly decent .... We lost on both lines .. our skilled guys played a ok game.. that o-line is probably the best in the nation .. well coached veteran unit, that crushed our young d-line.... WE will get better ...idn... we might see them again...(ALABAMA) Gotta funny feeling this is still gonna be a good year for the Maize and Blue..

  2. You took the words out of my mouth. I've been preaching that since everyone had RR head on the chopping block. All the Michigan fans screaming "we need to get back to Michigan football." You know winning Big Ten Titles and National Championships. I love that you wrote this. It summed up all my thoughts and feelings. I to think Hoke is building a powerhouse program with the talent he is getting right now and it's just a matter of time. People forget what this coaching staff did with a defense that was one of the worst in college football in 2010. One season later, with the same players, and it was like night and day. They did that with below avg. players for the most part. Wait till these guys get their own players in there. Even tht school in Columbus is gonna have a hard time handling Hoke's teams by then. Go blue! True Blue! Wake up fans. Stopping being ignorant. Thanks for the great article.

  3. RIGHT ON, Thomas. This piece echoes everything that I have been saying for the past few days to talk some of these so-called 'fans' off of the ledge. SOLID piece. Everyone should read.

  4. Hear, hear! Great read! Thanks for bringing up the LSU game. I remember watching that game and LSU couldn't get past midfield for most of the game. Here's another stat...LSU who's known for their defense gave up 384 yards to AL (234 passing; 150 running) to Michigan's 431 (199 passing; 232 running)...not much worse. AL's passing numbers could've been less since Avery got picked on after Countess went down early and AL's O-line is better than last year (rated #1 in the country).

    I give AL all the credit for executing their game plan to near perfection. If Michigan had done the same, it would've been a more respectable loss. Spotting 14 pts on TO's to an NFL-caliber team just doesn't cut it. I know AL eased up in the 2nd half, but take away the 14 pts and Michigan is down 20-14 going into the 4th qtr (obviously, hypothetical). Michigan will use this as motivation and will bounce back from this. GO BLUE!