Slow Meltdown Up North

By Joe Beale on November 3, 2010 at 1:00p
Pretty spooky, eh? Halloween in Ann Arbor

The season started out with so much promise: a convincing win at home in the opener against UConn, a surprising road win against Notre Dame, solid victories against UMass and Bowling Green. But fans and observers could see trouble coming when Michigan struggled to shake off a mediocre Indiana team. Still, at 5-0 the Wolverine football team seemed on the verge of greatness with a dynamic quarterback vying for the Heisman and an offense that was clicking on all cylinders.

But it has been all downhill since then. A stiff upper-cut from "little brother" Michigan State in the form of a 34-17 beating at Ann Arbor took the wind out of the sails of most fans. Another home loss to Iowa made it clear that this team was not a contender for the Big Ten title, but there was still hope among UM fans that at the end of the season, they could hold their heads up proudly and look back with fondness on a pretty good showing. But then they took a sobering trip to State College, PA.

Against the Nittany Lions in a night game seen by half of the country, Michigan's defense was pushed all over the field and slow-starting Penn State RB Evan Royster was the beneficiary on his way to 99 first half yards rushing. PSU went to halftime with a 28-10 lead and was never seriously threatened after that. While UM's star QB Denard Robinson made it respectable in the 2nd half, the Wolverines ultimately faded in a 41-31 loss. Adding insult to injury, the Lions were without starting QB Rob Bolden and had to go with former walk-on Matt McGloin. McGloin proved he could torch Michigan's secondary as well as everyone else has by throwing for 250 yards and a TD with no interceptions. He also ran for a TD. After the game, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez admitted "We're doing a good job of making a lot of quarterbacks look pretty good".

In fact, UM's defense has been making a lot of offenses look good. The Wolverines currently sit at 106th nationally in total defense, just ahead of San Jose State and behind East Carolina, giving up over 440 yards per game. They actually improved their average against PSU, giving the Lions "only" 435 yards of total offense. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has earned the hatred of UM fans everywhere, and as the picture above indicates, some are taking it the point of extreme mockery. Ever-hopeful Michigan blogger Brian Cook is now calling the case for keeping Rodriguez "tenuous", meanwhile another blog site "Maize and Go Blue" has charted a "RichRod-ometer" that is almost to the point of boiling over into a coaching change.

At the beginning of the season, I figured that Michigan would probably have to win 8 games for Rich Rodriguez to keep his job after winning 3 and 5 the past two seasons respectively. But when I looked at the schedule, I couldn't find 8 victories. I gave them the first 5 games charitably, but then I penciled in 3 losses to Iowa, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. That would mean the Wolverines would have to win 3 out of 4 against MSU, Penn State, Illinois, and Purdue. Well, we know what happened in the first two of those games. So now, in order to get to 8 wins, they have to sweep Illinois and Purdue (not a sure thing by any stretch), and then somehow knock off either Wisky or OSU. Anyone like those odds?

While I would love to see them shatter Wisconsin's bid for a share of the Big Ten title, I have no confidence that they will get it done. And of course, I think they will be crushed by the mighty Buckeye juggernaut. I also think they lose to Illinois this week, which leaves only Purdue. That game is on the road, on natural grass that will surely slow down "Pacnard", and so that one is doubtful as well. I think 6 wins is the best they can do, and that is the optimistic forecast. 

So what do you think? Is RichRod gone after this season? Will he save his job by winning 6 or 7 and firing Robinson (Greg, that is)? Is there any way that the Wolverines can pull it out against Wisconsin? Are you grinning with glee over their plight? Well, I think I know the answer to that last one.

As for Michigan fans, I wouldn’t be surprised if, at the end of this season, you find a few of them composing mournful soliloquies like this one*:

He should have been fired hereafter;
There would have been time to hire someone else.
Next game, and next game, and next game,
Creeps in this losing pace from week to week,
To the last tick of the stadium clock;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty defeat. Out, out, brief scoreboard!
The season’s but a bowl-less shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the field
And then is heard no more. It is a film
Watched by an idiot, full of angst and profanity
Signifying nothing.

* Apologies to William Shakespeare, or Edward De Vere, or whoever wrote the plays.


Comments Show All Comments

Corey Carpenter's picture

There's no way Michigan can conitinue down the Roch Rod path, he is gone after this year. It would be different if improvement has been shown, but they are talking about the same problems that has plauged him for the last 3 years.

BucksfanXC's picture

There's plenty of reason to keep him around next year. He might be there best shot for next season. There will be a drop off no matter who they get to come in and replace him, if he stays, the Offense stays the same with the same or better players, the Defense improves, even mildly, and they get 2 or 3 more wins.

Trust me, if I'm Dave Brandon, I'd have fired him Sunday morning. But I'm not, I'm an opposing teams fan who wants him to stay around a few more years. One more at least.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

tomcollins's picture

They have improved from one of the worst offenses to one of the best in 3 years.  There has been improvement.  Just not any on D.

I'm willing to take bets from anyone who thinks he is gone (on the condition they beat Purdue) after this year.  RR will be the coach for Michigan on Feb 1, 2010 so long as they beat Purdue.

Matt's picture

Agreed, Rich Rod is going nowhere so long as they beat the fighting Danny Hopes.  That's good enough for 6-6 (with outside shot of beating the Zooker for 7-5), and they will be faced against hapless bowl opponent to go 7-6.  Rich Rod will clean defensive coach house and keep fine tuning his system.  If they ever get even an average defense in place, Michigan will be dangerous.  The benefit of Rich Rod's system is that they need not go after the blue-chip, pro-style recruits that every other top 20 program is after -- Michigan can make due with tweener speedsters who don't add value to a pro-style program, but who create the mismatches in the Rich Rod spread. 

RBuck's picture

If they go 6-6 what do they get? The Motor City around the corner? Does the MC bowl even still exist? Not enough to save Dickrod's job.

Long live the southend.

BuckeyeSki's picture

Beef o' Brady's Bowl....or some greazy pizza pie bowl

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

tomcollins's picture

Taking bets if anyone wants to, will need an escrow, though.

ScarletGrayMnA's picture

Does 6-6 even get them into a bowl since they have a win against an FCS team?

yrro's picture

With the number of spread teams out there, is this really true? There seems to be a lot more hype every year around the spread type quarterbacks than the pro style ones, at least.

ATL Buckeye's picture

Agrees with Matt whole -heartedly here. There is a shot against the Zookers cause although they have an improving offense, its still developing (although I thought the same of PSU). I think you can check off Purdue as a win. If UM wins 7, he stays.

Also, how quickly we forget how good the UM defense was last year. If they had that unit there now with a fine tuned offense, UM would already be at 7 wins. Don't get me wrong, I HATE them like any other Buckeye, but UM can ill afford to suffer more of a drop off with another coach that brings in a totally different philosophy....just ask Notre Dame that question.  

Joe Beale's picture

We forget how good UM's defense was last year?  Is that the same defense that gave up 34 points to ND, 33 to Indiana, 30 to Iowa, 35 to Penn State, 38 to Illinois, 38 to Purdue, and 45 to Wisconsin? Yep, I forgot how good they were, in the same way that I forgot about all the passionate nights I spent with Erin Andrews.

M Man's picture

I'd like some of Tom Collins' betting action, if anybody takes him up on it.  I'd be shocked if David Brandon replaced Rich Rodriguez.

Michigan's offense is pretty much top 10 in the country, by any one of the innumerable ways that one can measure offensive production and efficiency.  And they are doing it almost without a single senior; that is to say, virtually all Rodriuguez recruited-and-coached products.  All coming back for another year, or two, or three.  Rodriguez even gets unusual personal credit for Denard Robinson, insofar as he successfully recruited Denard as a QB, when the likes of Florida were offering him as an "athlete."  Read:  "DB and kick returner."  It is what sold Denard on Michigan and Rodriguez.

In routine weekly operations, Rodriguez is devoted nearly full-time to his offense.  It shows.  For good and bad.  In games, he has very little interaction with DC Greg Robinson.  He generally stands about 30 yards away, watching the opponents' offense from their backfield, while Robinson is just behind the defensive line of scrimmage, doing all of the defense's signalling.

Michigan's defense is the most unthinkable disaster in modern school history.  There was a notoriously thin crew of DB's and LB's left over from the Carr era.  Then it got worse with the idiotic move by CB Donovan Warren to early-enter the NFL draft.  Where he went undrafted.  Thereafter, the number 2 CB, 4/5-star Boubacar Cissoko was dismissed from the team.  Naturally, when FS Troy Woolfolk was moved to fill the now-awful hole at CB, he dislocated his ankle in the last week of summer camp.  After that, uh, things got really bad.  Ohio star recruit DB J.T. Turner left the team.  And to top it off, now there has been an injury to the best remaining CB, J.T. Floyd.

If the Buckeyes had activated Jason Bourne to destroy Michigan's defensive backfield, he would not have produced any more devastation.

There have been other defensive injuries.  Hopefully all healed, when we travel to Columbus after Thanksgiving.

Greg Robinson was basically Rich Rodriguez's third (or fourth or fifth) choice as DC.  The concern that Robinson must be replaced is real.  Rodriguez's well-known first choice was his WVU DC, Jeff Casteel.  Who has once again put an outstanding defensive team on the field for the Mountaineers this year.  We're asking for "Jeff Casteel" for Christmas this year.  The notion that Rich Rodriguez is on the verge of being fired is not real.

original buckeye's picture

Typical UM logic--give RR credit for the offense, place none of the blame on him for the defense.  He is still the head coach, right? 

M Man's picture

It is Rodriguez's responsibility to get fixed, no doubt.  It is not really his fault for the extraordinary problems of injuries and inexperience on defense.

One of the big concerns on defense for Michigan has been the play of the Linebackers.  This year, Greg Robinson took over as the Linebackers' position coach, in addition to being the DC.  It was supposed to help.  It hasn't.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Gotta give you credit, as you have more patience and understanding than I would have in the same position. 

A few  points, though: 

First, RR at WVU was able to get a handful of borderline qualifiers, including defensive athletes, into the program every year who were unable to attend some of the big time programs. Basically, he could free ride off the talent evals of top SEC schools, etc., whose interest in a guy was like a shortcut for the likes of RR. Now, he's lost that crutch.

Second, his offense seems to be better at producing pyrotechnics ealry in the season and/or after 4 week bowl breaks, than it seems to be at producing week-in, week-out in tougher late Oct/early Nov. conference games - BE or BT.

Btw, there's more to offense than piling up yards. Lloyd Carr did let things slide, for sure, but his offenses in 2003 and 2006 - just off the top of my head - were better than any RR Michigan offense with no question in my mind. Those LC offenses were diverse, with well-rounded NFL talent that could win different styles of games under different conditions, and carry a defense at times.         

KenK's picture

Healed or not, it won't make much difference, JT can just about play "name that score" for this game.

RR has done a good job of steadily improving the offense. My hesitation from saying "great" job, is that it is overabundantly D-Rob centered. The offense hinges on him (a very talented hinge, no doubt) so if D-Rob goes down, the UM offense isn't quite as explosive.

Regarding defense, I lay this at RR's feet, because a) he recruited very heavily for his offense, and b) he has shown some piss-poor decision making with Coordinator hires. Even if UM's defense was somewhere in the half-assed to decent range, that would be worth a couple more W's this year.

RR will be back, and should be back next year. As a matter of principle, a coach should be retained for a full recruiting cycle, four years. However, after thsi season, RR needs to dump all defensive coaches and start anew.   

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

M Man's picture

Saying that Rodriguez "recruited very heavily for his offense" is objectively untrue.  I could do a very detailed breakdown for you, but the 2009 recruiting class was 11 offensive players (including Forcier, Denard, et al) and 10 defensive players, most particularly including 6 defensive backs.  (Plus one placekicker.)

And the 2010 recruiting class featured 10 offensive players and 16 defensive players, including 7 defensive backs.  (Plus one punter.)

Actually the original blog-post, by Joe, was pretty fairly close to the mark, in characterizing the Ann Arbor Torch & Pitchfork Society's restless mood.  People can't wait to get rid of Greg Robinson.  (Fairly, or not.)  Not so much Rodriguez.  Still, what are the internets for if not to write thousands of words about why coaches should get fired and who should replace them?


KenK's picture

M Man, UFR, I admit that I spoke in error regarding the recruiting numbers.

And yes, the internets do serve their purpose for ranting, raving and venting.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

M Man's picture

No problem.  Some of our own fans operate under the same presumption.  And in fact, we've had more than our share of problems with a few of the critical defensive-side recruits.  Enough so that it's caused additional concerns about position coaching on that side of the ball.  J.T. Turner from Massillon in particular was a real mystery to me.

tomcollins's picture

I'm betting that RR does not get fired if he beats Purdue.  I give no action if they lose that game.  I think we agree.

buckeyedude's picture

I have a $50 bet with a UM fan co-worker(made last February, after all of the bowls were over) that RichRod would get the boot after UM gets shellacked in C-bus.

How shall I spend my winnings?



BuckeyeChief's picture

Please Dear Almighty Father GOD,


As a long time Buckeye fan, I beg you to keep Coach Rod around as the Man in charge of the scUM program, with an eternal 5-7 record and a yearly loss to my beloved Buckeyes.


Thank you, your humble servant,


"2014 National with it!!!"

Johnny Ginter's picture

aaannnddd michigan loses another starting corner

yrro's picture

He has done a rather impressive job with the offense... or, I should say, Denard Robinson has.

Too bad they brought him in to win football games, not to have a good offense.


You can make as many excuses as you want for bad luck and empty cupboards and what have you in the secondary, but that does not excuse *Michigan* have the 89th ranked scoring defense in the country. *Central* Michigan is only ranked 55th. Western Michigan is better as well. I don't care how bare the cupboard was from Carr's last recruiting class, you should be able to find warm bodies at Michigan that can do better than those teams. As a head coach, you *have* to identify that problem and bring in bodies. 

Three years to work their way up to Carr's worst years is considered an improvement and a reason to keep the head coach? I just don't get it.

KenK's picture

He couldn't cover anyone if he had a blanket, so from a skills standpoint, no great loss. However, I'm sorry to see the kid get injured, and hope he has a full & speedy recovery.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

btalbert25's picture

Even with the drastic improvement of the offense, the team has really not improved.  I guess going from 3 wins in one year to potentiall 6 wins 2 years later is improving, but shouldn't a team whose offense goes from worst to top 10 gain more than 3 games?  I guess keeping him around does give a shot at the best record possible next year, but is 7-5 or 8-4 really worth keeping him around to flounder around that mark.

They've had bad luck on defense with D backs getting hurt and not qualifying for enrollment, and transfer, but seems like everytime one of the guys went down the response was well he was a bad locker room guy, he never proved much to begin with, or he really wasn't the answer at that position.  So, I have to wonder, would the D have been any better if all those guys were still around?  According to the Michigan faithful the answer is no.

So, is keeping him around for a couple 7-5 or 8-4 seasons really worth it?  Is the goal to be like Michigan State or Northwestern every year, or do you want to be MICHIGAN.  I just don't see this guy bringing them back to those lofty heights.  I don't know.  I may blow it up and start over again if I was running the show and take my chances.  There is no guarrenttee that they'll experience the same kind of losses that they did when Carr left the program.  It just takes a bigger man and coach than DickRod to make a winner out of what he is left with.  Some coaches can adapt their system to the players they have. 

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

You are spot-on with the UM fabase's reaction to when players (save the Dorsey kid) transfer or otherwise flameout: "he wasn't very good anyway". Well, that seems to be a problem in and of itself, right?  Look, the bottom line is that he has had three recruiting classes to field a winning team and has failed to do so.  And by winning, I don't mean over .500.  I mean a team that will undoubtedly make a bowl game and finish in the top 3-4 of the big ten, something he has not been able to create as we stand here today. 

Somehow, in reading UM fans' defense of the defense, they have been lead to believe that you cannot have a decent (not great) team without a bunch of four and five year guys.  Not true at all.  Why can't guys that have been in the program for three years not be able to help the team?  I have news for them, you are unlikely in the future to start all seniors and redshirt juniors. Furthermore, defense is the side of the ball where freshman and sophmores can and do contribute on teams all across the country every year.  If your QB can help you in year two, why can't a linebacker, defensive back, etc?

Many of their fans, certainly not all, are simply rationalizing his shortcomings because they don't want to face the reality - RR has not been able to do what they all thought he could.   

M Man's picture

Yeah, here in Ann Arbor we just don't care about the future success of Michigan football the way that, say, "ULTRABUCKEYEHOMER" does.

fyi, I just finished posting on this board that the sudden departure of one Ohio kid in particular, J.T. Turner from Massillon, was a mystery to me.  I didn't rationalize anything.  I asked if anybody knew more about the story.  I don't, and I'd like to figure it out.  In fact, I wondered if maybe there was a position coach issue, with all of the D-back problems we've had.  It's not something we want to overlook.  It's the kind of thing that's making a lot of people "up north" scream for a sea-change on the defensive side of the ball with a new Defensive Coordinator.  ASAP.

You'd be hard pressed to find anyone even remotely associated with Michigan who wants to waste time with any "defense of the defense."

Ultrabuckeyehomer's picture

M Man, I certainly don't profess to care more about the Wolverines improvement more than you, or any other UM fan.  And, my post qualifies the rationalization that I feel is taking place. Namely, not all fans have bought into the theory that the lack of improvement has been out of RR's hands.  All I was saying is that there are more than a few apologists out there prepared to argue that RR had almost no ability to field a competent defense. Admittedly, the apologists are probably dwindling by the day after the PSU game.  However, I'm sure people are busy at Mgoblog creating graphs to demonstrate all will be fine and that lloyd is the great satan. 

RR took over a program that was hardly moribund at the time he was hired and has turned it into a borderline bowl team.  The fact that so many fans are willing to accept that is astonishing, IMO.



buckeyedude's picture

I saw a bumper sticker on a car here in Ohio last summer that read:



"In Rod We Trust"


I find that incredibly hilarious!



Buckeye_Mafia's picture

As much as we ache for Michigan to rebound and be a powerhouse in the Big Ten, I personally love it. And I am content with them being the bottom-feeders of the conference taking an annual beating Bulgaria our Buckeyes. I enjoy them sucking and us pounding them annually. And not seeing them in a bowl game makes me happier too, them I don't have to pretend to want them to win "for the conference."

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

BucksfanXC's picture

I don't get this, "We want Michigan to be good again so there is respect to The Game" crap. Beating Michigan feels good, even when they suck, losing to Michigan hurts, even when they are good. I don't care if ESPN or the rest of the world pays attention to The Game or any other tOSU game, I still will.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Matt's picture

At one time, Minnesota was a national power that consistently competed for national titles and player accolades.  Beating Minnesota meant something back in those days.  But that was 50 years ago.  Now, Minnesota is a joke of a program and Ohio State's annual thumping of the Gophers is presumed.  Tell me, did you get pumped up for last week's Minny game?  If Michigan deteroritates into a Minnesota style-program, as you would apparently have them do, Ohio State beating Michigan will have no more cachet than Ohio State beating Minnesota in the present day.  You, my friend, have the historical perspective of an 11 year old girl.

BucksfanXC's picture

Minny might have once been a "good game" every year, but that didn't make it a rivalry. Let alone, The rivalry. I did not get pumped for the Minny game, that does not translate to me not getting pumped for future Michigan games against Minny-esq-Michigan teams, which is exactly what I said, in not so many words, in my original post.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Matt's picture

It does equate to that if you want to see Michigan develop into a so-called bottom feeder.  Did you bother to ask yourself why Michigan-Ohio State developed into the Rivalry in the first place?  Do you think that development was magic?  It happened because Michigan was a pretty good football team.  As in, the most winningest program of all time.  It happened because Michigan beat Ohio State mercilessly for the first two decades of the Rivalry, implanting that seed of desire for us to beat them just as badly.  It happened because of the 10-year war, wherein both Ohio State and Michigan were national powers and consistently competing for the Rose Bowl.  Michigan also owns a 57–43–6 lead over Ohio State in the series, although Ohio State owns the slight edge in the modern era of college football, depending on how you gauge the start date of that era.  I have no patience for the HURR HURR DERP Ohio State fans who lack any sense of history of the rivalry and why it continues to be great.  If Michigan degrades into a laughingstock program, we will look elsewhere for a worthy rival.  But this discussion is academic, because Michigan won't degrade and they will be back, whether under Rich Rod or someone else.

RBuck's picture

One point you guys might want to consider is that beating a hapless scUM team every year does not help in the BCS computer ranking.

Long live the southend.

buckeyedude's picture

So what? We have Nebraska and a championship game starting next fall. Piss on 'em if they're going to hurt our SOS.



BucksfanXC's picture

I agree completely that they will be back, RR will either turn the ship around in a short amount of time, or someone else will, and it won't take more than 3yrs. The players they field today could beat us in the next two years (probably not this year, and it depends on what we lose to the NFL after this season).

But I am well aware of the history of the rivalry. I grew up in Ohio, my grandfather, his father and anyone from my family that went to college went to OSU. I now live in Michigan, have for 10yrs and have flown an OSU flag outside my house since the day I moved in. I've had to defend my fanhood of the rival school because I lived 20mins from the Big House. I may not have lived thru the 10-year war, but I made sure I knew all about our history, our record (in all sports, as UofM fans like to bring up stupid shit like, "we own you in rowing" all the time), and how the rivalry started. OSU took several long years of beatings and I would love to return that favor. They didn't care if we sucked during those years (I understand that they also may not have cared about those games, it wasn't a rivalry for them yet). I won't care if they suck for decades. Again, I agree that they probably won't suck for decades, that doesn't mean I shouldn't want them to suck for decades. That's all I'm saying.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

buckeyedude's picture

I'm with you BUCKSFANXC. I don't really care that UM sucks. I'd like to see Ohio State keep giving them beat-downs on a yearly basis. I hope I live to see the day that Ohio State passes Misheegoon in the all-time vs. record. (one less thing for them to hang their hat on)

Although I was young during the 70s, I wasn't into The Rivalry like I am now. I DO remember the 90s(I wish I could forget them) though. I hope we continue to spank 'em for decades.