Year of the Dog: Michigan Coaches in Season Four

By Ramzy Nasrallah on April 2, 2014 at 11:15a

Boston's Revenge


History doesn't win football games.

Tradition doesn't win football games. Merit doesn't even always win football games. Last year Bret Bielema didn't win football games either, but we karmically digress.

Brady Hoke is now in his fourth year of running the football program in Ann Arbor and its history suggests he should be coming off a traditional Michigan third season triumph: Fielding Yost, Harry Kipke, Fritz Crisler, Bennie Oosterbaan, Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr lost a grand total of six games combined in their third seasons. All but Moeller - who won back-to-back B1G COY awards - are College Football Hall of Famers. Merit.

Well, Hoke's third Michigan team lost six games all by itself. His Wolverines ended 2013 on a slide where they dropped five of six with that one win being 2013's best terrible game; the triple-OT victory against a Northwestern team in free-fall and fake bloody uniformz. There is only one other Michigan coach who lost six games in his third season and he's currently the head coach in Tucson.

That guy didn't get a fourth year. Hoke has survived failing to meet Michigan's daunting expectations and he can probably thank both the Tucson guy's brief tenure - and the guy who fired him - for any latitude vis a vis outcomes. Year 3 at Michigan had a mystique until the current coach and his predecessor, eh, kind of sullied it.

Since those third years in Ann Arbor almost always used to end in Pasadena - often without any unsightly blemishes, either - you can correctly assume those seasons were especially unkind to Ohio State. However, with its angina-inducing 42-41 win in Ann Arbor last November, the Buckeyes now have a two-coach winning streak in the Michigan coaching fraternity's most celebrated season.

AK45 was Tom Brady's big spoon prior to Gisele.

Year 4 at Michigan - at least where the Buckeyes are concerned - isn't quite as celebrated: Moeller's Wolverines trounced a flat, pre-defeated Ohio State team, which occurred during an era when Michigan took great pleasure in destroying Thanksgiving every year. Prior to that, Bennie Oosterbaan did it in 1951. It was Woody Hayes' debut in the rivalry. 

You would have to go back to pre-World War II to find another Michigan win in Year 4, which means you're talking about an era when the Buckeyes and Wolverines met in middle of the season.

(If you're curious about how the father of Michigan football fared in his fourth year, Fielding Yost defeated Ohio State 31-6 in an October game that was sandwiched between contests with the Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons and the American Medical School) (Bragging rights never die) (But all of those guys did long ago).

Crisler, Bump Elliott - also a College Football Hall of Famer - Bo and Carr failed to beat Ohio State in their fourth seasons. All but Elliott finished those campaigns with just one conference loss - Crisler's was to national champion Minnesota; his Wolverines tied the underdog Buckeyes in Ann Arbor.

So it's not though Year 4 is some sort of cursed season for Michigan coaches; it's that Year 3 is the year in Ann Arbor when you're expected to have everything humming, and now both Rodriguez and Hoke have conspicuously failed to deliver on that historical promise. Even worse, Hoke does not appear to be very close to reconciling last season's disappointment as his offense has seemingly rediscovered the fountain of youth.

The Wolverines will likely be a fringe ranked or also-receiving-votes team once the stupid preseason polls are released. They open at home against Appalachian State almost seven years to the day of fledgling Big Ten Network's first-ever game broadcast. Mildly humorous and condescending revenge jokes, highlight reels Michigan fans would like to see shot into the sun and negative energy will abound - all part of Dave Brandon's continuing branding adventures.

Michigan will win its opener, since Appy State is kind of lousy now. So are Miami, Utah and most of its other opponents. If expectations in Ann Arbor were to run the Rutgers/Maryland/Indiana gauntlet then things might be sunny on the horizon; the problem is that Michigan's history begs for higher aspirations than quelling the death rattle of conference bottom-dwellers.

Year 3 in Ann Arbor is when you're expected to have everything humming, and now both Rodriguez and Hoke have conspicuously failed to deliver.

There are roadies at South Bend, East Lansing (like last year - that's a fun hiccup), Evanston and Columbus. There's also a bye prior to the hatefest with Sparty (like last year - that's a fun hiccup). Its three toughest games are away from Michigan Stadium, which is exactly where Hoke's Wolverines have played their worst football. Sweeping the Irish, Sparty and the Buckeyes - hard to do in any season and never accomplished in Year 4 - isn't all that likely to happen, which smites the expectations yet again.

This isn't lost on Michigan fans, who in many ways are exactly like us in that our programs were built largely by Ohioans, we both have a deep adoration for deceased coaches and we constantly use historical barometers to gauge the present. Stop cringing; it's true.

What's also true is that Michigan's offensive line cannot play worse in 2014 than it did last year. Unproven latent at tailback and wide receiver just means the scouting report is incomplete. And Michigan's defense, despite losing its tackles, should be quite decent. This Year 4 semi-tradition isn't smooth, but it isn't a mandate either. 

History doesn't win football games. It doesn't lose them either.


Comments Show All Comments

osu07asu10's picture

1.) Thank you for rewarding me for being the first drunk to check 11w on a Tuesday night (Wednesday morning)...

Last year Bret Bielema didn't win football games either, but we karmically digress.


Ok, I will now read the rest of the article

CJDPHoS Board of Directors // Best friends with Homey Hache

The 0 is silent.

+15 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Ramzy - A+ on the article - It appears as though Hoke can recruit and motivate but coaching on the sidelines is where the game for him breaks down. So much talent he has brought in to AA however the schemes and formations they run are very predicable. I still think it's unfathomable how they had -48 rushing yards against Sparty.  

+2 HS
acBuckeye's picture

It's even more unfathomable that they had over 600 yards and over 40 points against our Bucks.

doodah_man's picture

Maybe Hoke should put on a headset?

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

+3 HS
Hovenaut's picture

My history reminds me they're still paying us back for the 90's.

And 1969.

And The Snow Bowl.

And all those wins over Ohio State's club squads in the early years (pre-automobile, pre-Chic Harley, etc) they still proudly boast about.

+10 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Too funny and true

Let's not forget that Tressell owns Michigan

+2 HS
bedheadjc's picture

What does M Man think? Love to hear his take....

Buckeye5000's picture

"Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons and The American Medical School"

I wonder if games like these are why Scum has the most wins all time.

"They open at home against Appalachian State almost seven years to the day of fledgling Big Ten Network's first-ever game broadcast."

I can't remember how that game 7yrs. ago turned out....maybe one of the SCum fans who frequent this board can enlighten me.


2014 Undisputed National Champions!

+3 HS
Buckeye5000's picture

Actually I did watch the game at the time and cheered my ass off when App. State blocked the field goal. And I have seen the ending quit a few times,

But thanks for your reply and the rundown of the ending of the game....I can never hear about it, see it, or be reminded of it in any way enough...I always get a HUGE smile.

Also I love to bring it up to the SCum fans just to remind them of their pain.

Again, thanks for your reply....SCum lost to App. St.....:-)

2014 Undisputed National Champions!

DC-town's picture

No um fan, but happy to share that walk down memory lane...

Lost to a team where at the time, 75% of college football fans didn't know what state the team was from, on a blocked fieldgoal from a kicker that was less 'rapey' than the recently graduated probably paid app state about 600 grr for that beating 

please give us that day again in sept-

'Piss excellence' -RB

Crumb's picture

AK45 was Tom Brady's big spoon prior to Gisele.

People often forget that big bad Brady was 1-1 against the Buckeyes and still wets his pants at the name Andy Katzenmoyer.

Boston's Revenge

I loved that game for Boston and the Buckeyes back in 98, when Boston scored his first TD sprinting down the sidelines pointing at that *ichigan douche who had made that stupid SI cover the year before was the best payback against that team up north of that entire decade. Suck it blue!!!


"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+2 HS
HattanBuck85's picture

Great article, Ramzy. You're one of the best in the business. Thanks!

"The height of human desire is what wins, whether it's on Normandy Beach or in Ohio Stadium." - Woody Hayes

+2 HS
buckeyeradar's picture

Thanks Ramzy nice write up. The only trouble is that it's over 200 days until the GAME. Right now I just want a healthy team on the field getting ready for some juice.

I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box but I'm one of the most colorful.

+1 HS
Oyster's picture

What is nice is the fact that after the firing of RR in his 3rd year, they will be hesitant to fire hoke after his 4th simply due to the national perception it will cause.  With a new OC, I will bet that he gets at least 2 more seasons to produce or they part ways.  If that is the case, Nuss will more than likely be gone either way.  If they turn it around, he will be a prime candidate for a HC job.  If hoke is let go, how do you justify promoting a member of the staff? 

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

Breakawayspeed's picture

Overall, I'd say heir football prospects for the short term, don't look very promising.  Hoke is in way over his head and this could be his last year if things go south badly.  I' am all in for a divided fan base in Ann Arbor over "should he stay or should he go?". Much like the end of last year but over the whole season would be fine with me.  However, no 42-41 at the Shoe this year.  They need to be stomped without mercy.     

+1 HS
OSU_ALUM_05's picture

I love being condescending to TTUN fans as much as everyone else, but I have a serious question about Hoke.  His career average winning percentage hovers around .500 or maybe just north of that (I didn't look it up).  I understand that coaches climb the ladder by starting small before going big.  However, Hoke wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire.  We took a chance on JT but the guy was DOMINATING small time football.  Urban DOMINATED at Utah before getting his shot at FL.  I just can't believe TTUN was that desperate to take a chance on a career .500 coach.  It's like .... hey, he doesn't win big on the small stage, let's get him some national attention, turn the lights up, pay him more money and demand that he show up with a .800 winning percentage .... oh yea, beat tOSU, MSU, ND, Penn St., Wisky, Brasky and win the B1G while you're at it.  The whole Hoke-to-TTUN process seems odd.  The guy can recruit (obviously), but something just doesn't add up.

Yeti's have feelings too.

+1 HS
buckskin's picture

That's what happens when 1. Your 1st couple of choices turn you down, 2. You have to have a Michigan man because the one before was so publicly not and 3. Your AD has more business background than sports.

buckeyedude's picture

An article made for MMan. Where he hiding?



Seattle Linga's picture

Head is buried in sand