The Year of Magical Thinking

By Ramzy Nasrallah on February 19, 2013 at 2:30p
44 Comments
Carr, Schembechler, Hoke, Crisler, Rodriguez, Kipke, Moeller, Oosterbaan, Ferbert, Elliot, Yost

Rich Rodriguez survived for all of three atrocious seasons in Ann Arbor. 

As hideous as his Michigan legacy will always be viewed, his final campaign in 2010 was not without some merit: The 2010 Wolverines finished sixth in the country in total offense. Denard Robinson, whom Rodriguez recruited, became the first QB ever to both rush and pass for 1,500 yards en route to winning the Silver Football as the B1G MVP.

And Michigan football, which quietly began its atrophy during Lloyd Carr's twilight, finally appeared to be turning the corner despite stubborn, holistic flaws on defense. Rodriguez took a 7-4 record into Columbus but lost The Game and his only bowl appearance by a combined score of 89-21.

Yet despite its conclusion coinciding with his termination, Rodriguez's third season in Ann Arbor was easily his finest. Third seasons in Ann Arbor almost always end up that way.

And even though it was his best, Rodriguez's 2010 was still the worst-ever third year among all Michigan coaches.

That's largely because the precedent is absurd: Rodriguez lost six games in his third season, and so did Fielding Yost, Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan, Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr. Combined.

A third year at That School Up North generally translates into a championship, a win over Ohio State or both. If there isn't a title of some kind adorned to Year Three of a Michigan Man's tenure then something has gone catastrophically against the grain of history, as was the case with Rodriguez.

THIS IS BULLSHIT1971: Woody takes exception to Darden's INT; kills yard marker.

About six months from now Brady Hoke will become the 10th man to coach a third season in Ann Arbor. He and the rest of Michigan's stakeholders are wholly uninterested in finishing second in the Legends Division for a third straight year.

His predecessor didn't even do that. Rodriguez not only had the worst third season ever, he left Ann Arbor with the worst winning percentage in school history.

That history is worth revisiting, because the Wolverines have generally been terrific – and frequently, unbeatable  whenever their coach lasts three seasons: Gustave Ferbert was the first one to make it that long.

His teams went 24-3-1 (the tie was a 0-0 game against Michigan's alumni) including an 8-2 campaign in 1899, which was his final season coaching anywhere. 

His Wolverines shut out every team they beat that year, so including its own alumni, Michigan blanked nine teams in Ferbert's farewell. He then quit coaching and left Ann Arbor for Alaska to pan for gold

A couple of seasons after Ferbert, the legendary Yost arrived on campus. While the Wolverines didn't lose a single game for any of his first four seasons, Michigan won 11 games in his third without allowing a single point.

Yost terrorized Michigan's opponentry for a quarter century before taking the AD job in Ann Arbor. His third replacement, former player Kipke (who has now graced 11W's pages twice) stayed long enough to get that Year Three bonus, which produced an 8-1-1 record and a Big Ten title.

MAKE A PLAY, HERBIE. IN SPACE, IF POSSIBLE.1992: Herbie leads OSU to one of Michigan's three non-wins.

That single blemish in 1931 was a 20-7 home loss to Ohio State and the tie came against the pre-Big Ten Spartans, so by fan standards there was still plenty to complain about. Regardless, Kipke's third season was a championship season.

Crisler followed Kipke and in his third year the Wolverines went 7-1, finishing #3 in the final AP poll. Michigan's only loss was a one-point heartbreaker to eventual national champion Minnesota. The season finale was a 40-0 laugher in Columbus.

INTERMISSION: At this point in Michigan football history, the Wolverines are 34-4-2 in their coaches' third seasons.

SPOILER: Four of the next five coaches are going to end up in Pasadena in their third seasons.

Oosterbaan – yet another Yost player and arguably the greatest Michigan athletic department figure ever – took over for Crisler and won the national title in an undefeated first season. His Year Three was a relative disappointment: Michigan only won the Big Ten and beat Cal in the Rose Bowl.

THIS WAS SUCH FUCKING BULLSHIT1997: Andre Weathers accepts a gift touchdown.

Bump Elliott, the man whose mediocrity begat the Schembechler era, went 6-3 in his third season. Sometimes you have to take a step backward in order to go forward, and until Rodriguez arrived Elliott had the lowest winning percentage in Michigan football history.

If you're dwelling on the exceptions, Hoke is not trending that way. He already has as many conference wins in two seasons as Elliott had in five. He equaled Rodriguez's entire three-year total in 2011.

Elliott was more of a reset button. Kind of like Rodriguez.

Following Elliott, Schembechler went undefeated in his third season, beat Ohio State and reached the Rose Bowl. After Bo, Moeller went undefeated in his third season, tied Ohio State and won the Rose Bowl.

And following Mo, Carr went undefeated in his third season, beat Ohio State and won the Rose Bowl.

Those three coaches who followed Elliott went a combined 32-1-3 in Year Three. Only a one-point loss to Stanford on a field goal as time expired in the 1972 Rose Bowl kept all of those men from going undefeated in their third seasons.

Carr's 1997 team won a share of the final title that preceded the BCS. All three post-Bump played the Buckeyes in relatively famous games: Woody destroyed a yard marker following an acrobatic game-changing interception by Thom Darden, while Ohio State tied Michigan in 1992 to temporarily halt the Wolverines' winning streak against them at four.

And that 1997 game, in which Michigan rushed for 42 yards on 42 carries while scoring just a single offensive touchdown was one of the most painful losses in Ohio State history, Charles Woodson's closing Heisman argument and one of the top games of the decade.

So Year Three at Michigan has not only been unkind to the rest of the Big Ten, it's been especially cruel to Ohio State.

This happened. It can't be erased.2010*: Like Bump Elliot's 50-20 loss in '61, another Year Three anomaly.

Hoke is very well aware of what he has lined up for the upcoming season: Roster management and attrition have almost completely expunged any evidence that Rodriguez recruited without bothering to realize he was at Michigan, not West Virginia.

Notre Dame, Nebraska and the Buckeyes all come to Ann Arbor. Manageable roadies include UConn, Happy Valley, Evanston (every B1G program's favorite home game away from home), Iowa City and that hour drive from Ann Arbor to East Lansing.

Most importantly, it's his third year. That means a lot more Hoke guys and far fewer RichRod ones stolen from Bowling Green or Purdue.

Michigan is no longer in transition mode, which may admittedly contribute to its historical Year Three success – aside from, you know, just being Michigan. Hoke has recruiting momentum, better roster fit, the invaluable vengeance narrative and favorable scheduling all on his side for 2013.

Only Elliott failed to win the Big Ten and beat Ohio State in Ann Arbor in his third season. Every single other Michigan coach who had the same opportunity came away with nothing less than the conference title, and that's just about the only acceptable outcome for the Wolverines three seasons removed from its failed experiment with RichRod's spread and Greg Robinson's 3-3-5.

There's only one big obstacle blocking a typical Michigan Year Three: Urban Meyer's typical Year Two.

44 Comments

Comments

beserkr29's picture

If it was anyone but Devin Gardner at QB for Hoke's team, I'd be massively concerned.  Right now, I'm concerned, but excited to see how the defense and offense Ohio State will have in Urban's second year will coalesce.  Should be fantastic to watch.

81Alum's picture

"There's only one big obstacle blocking a typical Michigan Year Three: Urban Meyer's typical Year Two."
And a fine year two, Urban's going to have. We'll win The Game: Hoke=Elliott

JeffCoBuck's picture

While I appreciate the research on TTUN's third year success (and the shower you probably had to take to wade that far back into the scUM), that was all happenstance, hypotheticals that occurred over a number of years regarding different, cumulative individuals.  We have the guy, RIGHT NOW, who has proven his second year dominance, and I'll take that over a bunch of guys from the PAST who have no bearing on this year's Game.  Urban Meyer FTW.

btalbert25's picture

Michigan could end up in Pasadena this year and still not be the B1G champ.  The Rosebowl has been a nice consolation game for the rest of the B1G in years where Ohio State has gone to the BCS title game. 

btalbert25's picture

I'm ok with a Wolverine team not being the B1G champ or national champ, but winning the Rosebowl.

GlueFingers Lavelli's picture

Excellent read as usual Ramzy. I think Michigan is heading the right direction, and I don't think a 9-10 win season is out of reach for them this season. I think losing Denard is a blessing in disguise. Gardner is more suited to run that offense until Super Shane arrives.  Losing guys like Kovacs, Roh, and Demens will hurt a little, but I think the new crop of defensive talent will be better led by Jake Ryan. Their pressing issue now IMO is that defensive line.  I'm glad Michigan is getting back where they are supposed to be in the B1G.... 2nd place.... it's better for the conference that way.

Dustin Fox was our leading tackler as a corner.... because his guy always caught the ball.

toledobuckeyefanjim's picture

It could be the Super Shane that got whipped by Cleveland St. Ignatius that is running the Wolverines' offense in the future. You just never know.

acBuckeye's picture

I've seen Shane Morris throw a football. Am I the only one who thinks "Meh?" 

AngryWoody's picture

Was not impressive at the AA game. His stock fell a pretty fair amount after his senior season. To be realistic he seems like a 50/50 shot at being a really good quarterback. Only time will tell.

Our Honor Defend!

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

The AA game isn't always a good wat to judge a player. But just going by his highlights I can't see what the big deal is.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

BED's picture

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

Earle's picture

That actually looks like the hand is tossing your head into the air.

Italics are for emphasis.

BED's picture

Who says it isn't!

http://www.dramabutton.com/

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

GV9's picture

The story of early M star running back and coach Gustave Ferbert is historically intriguing.  I found a follow-up which gives as much information as could be hoped for in this write-up by James Tobin: http://www.lsa.umich.edu/UMICH/alumni/Home/LSA%20Magazine/LSA%20Magazine...  
Sounds like the claims of Alaskan Gold riches for Ferbert were greatly exaggerated, but quite an adventure nonetheless.   

toad1204's picture

If Marotti needed reading material for the pre weight room work outs, he's got it now.

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02... 

carence's picture

Thanks Ramzy for making my computer screen throw up!

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

TSUN really played their own alumni in 1899?  Is that even legal?

Class of 2010.

BuckeyeMark's picture

More importantly, can we get the NCAA to investigate this as a possible violation?  It's not like they are busy investigating North Carolina for all their corruption or doing much at Thug U in Miami...

BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Michigan can have the Rose Bowl... the Bucks will be in the BCS championship winning a crystal football...

Ahh Saturday's picture

Gardner might be more suited to what Hoke wants his team to do, but he isn't nearly as explosive a player as DRob was. So, although the personnel might fit the offense better, the offense will be easier to defend. 

Hovenaut's picture

Hoke back for thirds.

That statement has likely been used before.

"Success...it's what you do with what you got" - Woody Hayes

Dougger's picture

Ramzy I'm nervous for a game that's 9 months away!!! 
and I like it.

I like football

Dean's picture

Lumpkin shows up twice in one day on 11W!

BED's picture

God, I hate Michigan.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

Doc's picture

Don't worry God hates Michigan too.

"Say my name."

M Man's picture

It's a pretty favorable schedule for us:
2 0 1 3
Date               Opponent [home games in CAPS]
Aug. 31      CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Sept. 7       NOTRE DAME
Sept. 14     AKRON
Sept. 21     at Connecticut
Sept. 28     Bye Week
Oct. 5        MINNESOTA* (HC)
Oct. 12      at Penn State*
Oct. 19      INDIANA*
Oct. 26      Bye Week
Nov. 2       at Michigan State*
Nov. 9       NEBRASKA*
Nov. 16     at Northwestern*
Nov. 23     at Iowa*
Nov. 30     OHIO STATE*
 
On paper looks much like the schedule for Hoke's maiden 2011 season. (11-2.) 
And Ramzy; about Rodriguez recruiting...
Some of the real jewels of Michigan's 2013 player personnel are owed to Rodriguez.  Taylor Lewan, recruited out of Arizona; Devin Gardner, a five-star Detroit kid (Inkster HS) recruited as a dual-threat QB for Rodriguez's spread; Drew Dileo (an unknown Louisiana recruit that Rodriguez mined as an uncut diamond when no other big schools called); Jeremy Gallon (a Florida recruit who is probably Michigan's most reliable returning receiver, and who was wisely redshirted by Rodriguez); Jake Ryan from Westlake and Cleveland St. Ignatius who was one of those 3-stars who turns into an All-American.
I'd try to make the point about there always being a lot of attrition in any coaching change and that it should not be mistaken for bad recruiting.  But you guys seem to be the exception that proves that rule, so I won't try too hard.  In any event, the whining about "Rodriguez recruiting" (and there's probably more of it in Ann Arbor than in Columbus) is challenged by the reality.
One big weak spot for us might be with the vulnerability of Devin Gardner.  Gardner is no Denard, which may be good in terms of how often he'll get whacked during a game.  But if Gardner were to be unavailable, we get into Russell Bellomy (he of the Nebraska clusterfuck) and then Shane Morris, a true freshman who will not enroll early and who will have had just three weeks of college football when 2013 opens.  We have no Kenny Guiton; at least not one who is visible yet.

AngryWoody's picture

In any event, the whining about "Rodriguez recruiting" (and there's probably more of it in Ann Arbor than in Columbus) is challenged by the reality.

 
Trust me, we weren't whining about anything Rich Rod did.

Some of the real jewels of Michigan's 2013 player personnel are owed to Rodriguez.  Taylor Lewan, recruited out of Arizona; Devin Gardner, a five-star Detroit kid (Inkster HS) recruited as a dual-threat QB for Rodriguez's spread; Drew Dileo (an unknown Louisiana recruit that Rodriguez mined as an uncut diamond when no other big schools called); Jeremy Gallon (a Florida recruit who is probably Michigan's most reliable returning receiver, and who was wisely redshirted by Rodriguez); Jake Ryan from Westlake and Cleveland St. Ignatius who was one of those 3-stars who turns into an All-American.

Yeah, he was great. You all should bring him back.

Our Honor Defend!

Jim's picture

As a fellow Michigan fan, I'd have to disagree with your statement about us getting lots of talent from RichRod's tenure.  Your list, once you get past Lewan, has a few solid players, with emphasis on "few".  Half a dozen or so starters just don't make it.  At this point in time, the lines would typically be replete with top notch players from RichRod's tenure.  That hasn't happened.
Well written piece, but I am a bit skeptical, notwithstanding some of the favorable parts of the schedule.  As was noted, we have no depth at QB, the most important position on the field, although if Miller went down, I wonder just how good OSU would be.  I remain of a mindset that Michigan may start coming of age in 2014, but more likely in 2015 simply based on two years of  excellent recruiting and the length of time it takes to develop linemen.  Having said that, I see no team on the schedule that can't be beaten now that Alabama is behind us.
 

-1 HS
M Man's picture

There's this thing; it's called Blowback.  Before you can have Blowback, you have to have something that, well, just blows.
The remark that "RichRod" was stealing his recruits "from Bowling Green or Purdue" is a comment that just blows.  And I supplied the Blowback, thank you very little.
The three basic Rodriguez recruiting classes -- 2008 through 2010 -- were ranked 20th ('10), 8th ('09) and 10th ('08) nationally.  Carr's last two recruiting classes -- 2006 and 2007 -- were ranked 12th and 13th nationally (with Carr getting credit for recruits like Ryan Mallett, Donovan Warren and Justin Boren in that period).  Michigan's interior lines in 2009-11, which by your theory ought to have been "replete" with talent from Carr's last class(es), weren't.  Rodriguez inherited not a lot beyond Brandon Graham and David Molk.  Hoke inherited Lewan and Jake Ryan.
http://www.annarbor.com/sports/um-football/a-look-back-at-michigans-last-five-football-recruiting-classes/
And by all accounts, Rodriguez's later recruiting years were hurt by the NCAA investigation, and the persistent long-running rumors of his firing.
Returning to Ramzy's line about stealing from Purdue and Bowling Green, I can think of one notable Michigan "steal" from Purdue; Roy Roundtree.  I can also think of one OSU "steal" from the MAC; Zach Boren.

Poison nuts's picture

Love that last sentence....that really tied the room together. I see OSU obviously having a very good shot at the B1G championship game & then the possibility for the NC game. I think, like most here, next year could be a special one. What I'd like to not happen is playing that team 2 weeks in a row...

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

penult's picture

There's only one big obstacle blocking a typical Michigan Year Three: Urban Meyer's typical Year Two.

I see another obstacle: this is superstition at best.  The thing with UFM's year two thing is that he is the same person and it has happened this century.
 
MM makes a good point about UM's schedule though.  (And I agree with you about RichRod's recruiting.  He's a good recruiter and developer.  The program was in decline and as Carr was leaving he set it back, way back.)

blueinsconsin's picture

Two great write ups (including the Urban Meyer story).  Michigan-Ohio State is going to be a great game, I can't wait.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

nickma71's picture

I don't think there was anything good in RichRod's third season. You can be a team that just isn't good, yet look good. Like Michigan in 2011 when they were 11-2, but a long long way from other 11 win teams. RichRod went 5-0 against 5 bad teams, including the Domers. Seems like Conneticut, Massachusetts and Indiana in there. And Bowling Green. Following the misleading 5-0 start, they went 2-6. I don't like RichRod because he disgraced the Rivalry. Although I did snicker at Michigan's predicament. And I enjoyed it.

blueinsconsin's picture

The 11-2 2011 Michigan team and 12-0 2012 OSU teams weren't that far apart.  Both teams had big weaknesses that were covered up by very weak schedules.  Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame are three programs that are eerily similar right now.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

The difference is, Ohio State played all of the top programs in the BigTen during their undefeated season. In 2011, M*chigan didn't play Penn State or Wisconsin.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

hail2victors9's picture

Except it was the 7-5 Badgers, not the Russell Wilson Badgers and 8-4 Penn State (the same PSU that lost to OU and UVA to start the season.  You know, the one that most predicted would lose 10 games?).  The games @Iowa and ND were as tough or tougher than the 2012 PSU and Wiscy.
Plus, what will your argument be after this season?  You drop MSU and NEB for Iowa and NW.
So, it remains, both schools benefited from soft schedules in their successful seasons, respectively.

Those who stay will be CHAMPIONS!
~Bo Schembechler

blueinsconsin's picture

Tom Herman just said in an interview, "maybe the most flawed undefeated team in college history." Please read:  http://www.cleveland.com/osu/index.ssf/2013/02/what_if_the_ohio_state_fo...
What Michigan did in 2011 and Ohio State in 2012 were very impressive.  Winning the Sugar Bowl and going undefeated are tough tasks, especially what the teams both looked like the year prior to these feats.  But again, both of these teams benefited from very weak schedules in those seasons.  Michigan lost to Iowa and Michigan State in 2011.  Ohio State beat Cal by 7, Michigan State by 1, Indiana by 3, Purdue by 7 (in OT), Wisconsin by 7 (in OT) and Michigan by 5.  Those losses by Michigan and close wins by Ohio State show that there was still major improvement needed by both teams despite having good records.

Not here to troll...Go Blue

BME_Buckeye's picture

Damn bro I hate to admit this but you just got owned. 
 

Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.

 

wibuckeye's picture

mgoblog challenging 11 Warriors, come on man, not even close.
 
http://mgoblog.com/mgoboard/michigan-coaches-their-3rd-year-eleven-warriors
 
Sounds to me like 11 Warriors (Score:2 Normal)
mGrowOld

Joined: 10/04/2010
MGoPoints: 12755 Sounds to me like 11 Warriors is quietly becoming a quality "MgoBlog" rival in many ways.  Despite our mocking of their fan base the posters there (by Ohio standards) are fairly intellegent and usally reasoned in their thinking.  Recently they scored the Brandon interview and now this excellent analysis.
Could this be the start of the second "10 Year War"?  Only this time we're fighting it on the Blogosphere.......
Read the comment section, (Score:2)
SAvoodoo

Joined: 01/10/2010
MGoPoints: 3002 Read the comment section, it's awful. The post may be well thought out but the responses are far from it.
 
Eleven Warriors - Best on the web P.E.R.I.O.D.
 

WIBUCKEYE

BED's picture

LOLOLOLOL:

"Roster management" (Score:1)
YoBoMoLloRoHo

Joined: 11/01/2012
MGoPoints: 795
11W had to insert this barb, although unfounded, in an attempt to avoid the clear differentiation with Urban.

Hoke has steadily rebuilt our foundation while Urban torched a group of non-performers over the last 15 months to open spots. He has always driven for short-term results over program solidification.

"Everybody wants to be a hero, so to speak.  But it takes everybody."  - Charles Woodson

Delusional scUM fan is delusional.

The Ohio State University, College of Arts & Sciences, Class of 2006
The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Class of 2009

sirclovis's picture

The arrogance/self-righteousness on the MGoBlog thread is unbearable...

cronimi's picture

There's only one big obstacle blocking a typical Michigan Year Three: Urban Meyer's typical Year Two.

On November 30th, an unstoppable force (UFM) will meet an immovable object (Jabba the Hoke). And the result will be like whoa....

rightfield's picture

There is a HUGE gulf between UFM's and Jabba the Hoke's  coaching resume and it will continue this year in "The Game". scUM will have to settle for 2nd place because we have the Urbanator and they don't.

Its good to be the king