Rough Weekend

I have nothing particularly useful to say today, but since I was in Chicago for a conference this weekend, I didn’t have much time to spend in front of a television set, or a computer.

Which is good, as it turns out, because I am a University of Michigan alum.

I have been meaning lately to write something about Steve Phillips’ bad and ever-changing predictions about who’s going to make the baseball postseason. For example, two weeks ago he declared that the Yankees and Mets would both miss the playoffs. Then, one week ago, he declared the Mets a “lock” to win the division. Then they went out and lost four in a row to the Phillies.  (they’ve since steadied themselves a bit). He gave high praise for the Mariners pitching staff and offensive balance just before they lost nine games in a row and said the Yankees would not make the playoffs because of their pitching even though, on balance, it’s been slightly better than the Mariners’ this year.

But, making predictions of this sort is hard – baseball’s pretty unpredictable, especially over short stretches of games and the most honest answer, but not the most interesting one for television, is to admit that you have no idea what’s going to happen in the next six or four weeks.

So, why I am blabbing about predictions after having acknowledged that I am Michigan alum? If you answered “to change the subject” – you’d be partly right.

But, I also wanted to recount here what I said to some friends on Friday night, when they asked what I thought of Michigan’s chances this season. I made two general assertions:

a) Whenever Michigan is highly ranked to start a season, they always seem to disappoint. Conversely, they often do really well when they’re not expected to. The 1985 team, coming off the worst season of the Schembechler era, and with a relatively untested Jim Harbaugh at quarterback, finished the season 10-1-1, with a Fiesta Bowl win against a powerful Nebraska team and the No. 2 ranking in the country.

b) The 1997 team, which ran the table and won the national championship, began the season ranked outside the top ten, coming off a mediocre 1996 campaign and also with an unproven QB (Brian Griese) at the helm.

c) The 2006 team, coming off a dismal 7-5 2005 campaign, was a juggernaut – at least for the first eleven weeks of the season.

In any event, ever-the-pessimist, I predicted a four-loss season for Michigan, since this was not a year in which they would sneak up on anybody. Nothing scientific about that – just a feeling that, beyond the high-profile skill position players (and I’ve always considered Henne an over-rated QB), this team wasn’t as good as predicted.
2) I said that we had no defense, as far as I could tell, having lost the majority of our starters from last year’s team.

I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, predict that we would lose to ASU.

Everyone who lives in the state of North Carolina and follows sports knows all about ASU. They’re a great story – a two-time defending national champion in the division formerly known as I-AA – playing in a stadium about a seventh the size of Michigan’s.  They played NC State competitively in the 2006 season opener in Raleigh. So, I knew that they were to be respected. But feared? I didn’t see that coming.

As soon as I saw the final score, I thought about Lloyd Carr’s job status and that has become a major topic of conversation. On the one hand, Carr’s had a great record in twelve seasons at Michigan, including a national championship, and runs a relatively clean program with good graduation rates. On the other hand, he’s beaten Jim Tressel just once in six tries, and the program has re-contracted an illness that we appeared to have kicked two decades ago – the can’t-win-a-big-bowl syndrome.  Furthermore, there is a growing feeling that the Wolverines’ whole has been less than the sum of its parts the past few seasons.

Anyway – I’m not going anywhere in particular with this. But, there is a tendency to make too much out of one bad week in sports. It’s a historic upset, no question, and UM’s hopes of winning a national championship are, of course, dead (I never took those seriously, so this is not particularly devastating to me). But, the funny thing about all this is that Michigan could still win a weak Big Ten and play in the BCS. I’m not saying they will, because I have no idea what to make of them right now, except that they were, it turns out, obviously over-rated. But, having lost this week doesn’t necessarily tell us anything about what will happen in the coming weeks.

At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

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27 Responses to “Rough Weekend”

  1. J, I am sorry for your loss.

  2. J…goodness. I’m glad I didn’t see the game. The image of the blocked field goal will be burned on my brain forever. Conjures night terrors of Kordell’s 80 yard–in the air–Hail Mary in the Big House. Huge Michigan fan here. Driving out to Ann Arbor for the PSU game on the 22nd. My thirteen year old son Gaston is devastated but continues to see the glass half full because of Michael Hart’s ability. He also wants to win the Heisman as a Michigan qb one day.

    You just don’t know how many emails and phone calls I’ve received the last couple days, but I guess you off all people feel my pain.

    What do you think about Carr?

  3. Jweiler…..whatever you need to tell yourself…go right ahead, its okay…really it is.

  4. The problem is that it isn’t necessarily going to get better for Michigan. Oregon, when Mike Bellotti has all his players in sync, is perfectly capable of beating them next Saturday.

    I suspect the Wolverines may be starting 0-2.

  5. A propos of nothing, and I know this isn’t news to any of you guys coz most of y’all know how white liberals have pretty much all suddenly become huge PETA backers….but it’s still disturbing to see this in print. the website Alternet which has a lot of good progressive articles still features the opinions of a lot of people who are just one hanged dog away from becoming wife-beater wearin’, chaw spittin’, backwoods livin’ rednecks; http://www.alternet.org/rights/61118/. Anyway, it’s sad that the vast majority of the comments here critique why it’s appropriate to defend the rights of dogs (I haven’t heard anyone claim that isn’t legitimate) and suggest that anyone who did what MV has pled to would be treated as such…..ehhhhh…..but painfully few put this in the larger context of how 0 of 115 landmark projects in N’awlins have been fixed or about the boondoggle that is the war in Iraq or our failing health care and/or education. Not that none of you or I didn’t know this, but it’s still very very sad.

  6. J there’s no shame in losing to the 2 time defending 1-AA Champions Michigan is running the same damn offense in 2007 when I saw them in 1976 and I was 10.

  7. Charles and Miranda

    Thanks for the condolences.

    Mike

    I am mixed on Carr. I think he runs a (basically) good program. It’s also clear that Michigan is now a rung below the top tier in college football – USC, Texas, Florida, Ohio State, LSU all recruit better talent. But, I am not sure what it would take for Michigan to move into that tier and whether it would be worth it. What do you think?

    Eric

    I agree that it seems like Michigan’s running the same offense as it did thirty years ago (which is when i also started watching them) and that in-game adjustments have never been the program’s forte. Of course, Michigan QBs didn’t throw the ball 30 times a game back in Bo’s day. But, the real story Saturday was how our defense was incapable of stopping ASU’s offense.

    TC – the on-going travesty that is New Orleans is a huge story, one the sports media has completely ignored in favor of the Saints-have-revitalized-the-city narrative. I am going to try to write something about this soon.

  8. JW,
    I’m a big UMich fan too (not an alum, but I do plan to go there for grad school), and I got to watch the game. Devastating. Incredibly exciting game (the best I’ve seen since the VY-USC game, and easily the wildest), but poorly coached on both sides. Carr went for two when he wasn’t supposed to. He kicked a field goal when it was dumb to do so (the first one that got blocked).

    And wait, TWO BLOCKED FIELD GOALS IN A 2 MINUTE STRETCH!!!!! ARE YOU EFFING KIDDING ME!! That’s all coaching. No if ands or buts about it, the defensive secondary was swiss cheese, Henne was a joke (he’s always been mediocre) and tehy didn’t come to play. Its all on the coach.

    I’ve been wanting Carr fired for a few years now and this game is only icing. Like Miami decided it was not going to be a mediocre progam under Larry Coker (I will say they fired him quickly though) Michigan must decide it will not be a mediocre program. Every year it seems (besides last), Michigan is ranked somewhere in the top 7 and every year they end up between 13-19 after losing the bowl game. That’s unnacceptable. I knew they were overrated this year because I knew the defense was going to be bad (our offense is always exactly the same, the defense determines how good a team we are (and last year it was good)). But we’re not going to be a top-tier program under Carr. We have far too much talent to lose 3 games every year. I couldn’t care less if he ran the table the rest of the year (though beating Wisconsin on the road would be impressive), I think he’s a mediocre coach and recruiter…so what is he good for?

  9. Jw maybe it’s time to do what Oklahoma USC, Florida and Nebraska did and go outside the program and modernize the team in the 21st
    century. When USC got tired of hiring John McKay retreads they Mike Garrett (Heisman 65) hired the coach who practically begged for the gig and the USC alumni bitched and moaned but 2 national championships later (and maybe a third ) They got Pete Carroll the canaidate they didn’t want and bought USC into the modern era.

  10. Hi J–I usually just lurk around here but I felt the need to speak on this topic.
    As a Wisconsin Alum all I can say is “HaHa!!” (in the voice of the bully kid Nelson on the Simpsons)

  11. #9 – Blocked field goals should ring a bell. It cost them a game at Autzen Stadium against Oregon a few years ago. Michigan’s kicking game is atrocious.

  12. Lloyd has dealt with key injuries the last couple of years–Hart, Manningham and others–he’s 115-34 (not exact) with 5 Big Ten titles, a chip, does great things with Mott’s and runs a clean program. He’s a nice guy, but has been on the wrong end of some embarrassing losses the last few years.

    Mike Hart rushed for 188 and 3 in two quarters play. Love the look in Mike’s eyes. Dude is a true Wolverine and will go down as one of the best Michigan running backs ever. He does not fumble and that strength gives him the edge over Wheat and the A train. (Jaime Morris?)

    I’m concerned Lloyd has let this program enter the second tier you’ve alluded to J with a roster of talent that most pros would envy. UM consistently has players picked in the first round and churns out lineman, backers and receivers with the best of em. If you spread his teams with a mobile qb, most likely you will be sucessful. The seem to never make adjustments on either side of the ball. That’s a problem.

    Two blocked kicks and two missed two point conversions? Goodness.

    Garrett Rivas is sorely missed.

    Yeah, Hart and Henne were seen partying Friday night, but what college kids don’t?

    If Carr is let go or resigns Urban Meyer or Les Miles will be the next Michigan coach. Mark it down.

  13. Mizzo:

    Look at NFL rosters and try to find defensive lineman from Michigan over the past 10 years. Aside from Jamal Williams and the recent selections of Gabe Watson and Alan Branch, it’s been a wipeout. LSU, USC, Auburn, Texas, Florida and Ohio State are putting tackles and ends in the league…that’s the key position where Michigan has been unable to gain traction.

    There are UM QB’s, RB’s, WR’s (lotta flameouts here), OL (always), LB’s (Hobson, Foote, Gold), DB’s in the league – but the D-line is barren. That’s the single greatest area of weakness.

  14. It’s a shame cuz Lloyd seems like a good guy, but c’mon… Dude would never even let Tom Brady have the starting QB job that he rightfully earned on the field, because of Drew freakin Henson!?!? Lloyd’s a good company guy, and he may be what’s best for a college program, with his ability to graduate players, and that’s the debate. What should we be looking for out of a college coach? If you want to win big gmaes, Llyod’s not the guy, but it appears he can handle the burden of helping young men grow into adults.

  15. T3, I agree. Part of this glaring weakness was Jim Herrmann’s scheme. Ron English was doing big things but his defense has been punched in the grill the last three games. Straight organ shifted!

    I don’t have an answer for the flameouts at WR. Manningham is going to be a monster. Adrian Arrington has the potential to be a pro. I think Braylon Edwards (if he catches passes more consistently) could end up a great one. Jason Avant is catching on in Philly. The enigma is David Terrell (Marquis Walker also). I think everyone thought he was going to be a beast. He was physical and even played some DB at Michigan. I was checking out a Denver preseason game a couple of weeks back and DT walked past the camera to let everyone know he was alive and kicking. I smiled like I saw my son, but he was subsequently cut the next week. Damn shame, the brotha had talent. Desmond has a Super Bowl MVP under his belt doing what he did best at Michigan–shake the shit out of people.

    Lamarr Woodley is going to surprise this year and was one of my favorite interviews–but I’m biased of course ;)

  16. Pats as a Michigan fan, you couldn’t help but be enamored with Super Drew’s talent. Damn he’s been a qb at Michigan, played in the Yankees organization and started games for the Cowboys. It’s a shame his talent didn’t pan out. He’s had his chances. His mistake I think was signing with the Yankees, but who the hell can blame him?

    Brady was one of my favorite players at Michigan (Charles Woodson, Desmond and then TB)

    Lloyd did win some big games for the program until recently. He started off hot in bowl games. I’ve been hard on him, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt because of 97 and his graduation rate. I’ll back off earlier statements I’ve made that he should be fired. He’s earned the right to go out on his own terms.

  17. Lamarr Woodley is a real poor man’s Dwight Freeney…

    I’ve loved Michigan football ever since Charles Woodson came on the scene a while back. I was too young to really care about anything other than NFL until high school… and then once I began deciding on colleges, that’s when I began to notice NCAA Football.

    It seems Michigan always has great offensive linemen, good linebackers and defensive backs (T3 forgot to mention above about Cato June, who was a safety at UM). Their QBs are forgettable, and the runningbacks always have way too much hype going into the NFL (see Ty Wheatley and Tim Biakabutuka)… The team has always had a basic offensive scheme that focused around running the ball, and when they lost out on that kid Wells to OSU last offseason they lost any hope of contending in the next 3 years or so. For that reason alone, Lloyd should be shown the door. If your offense is run based, and you lose out on the #1 overall prospect AND he’s a local kid? You’re past your prime Lloyd… hang em up. Mike Hart is a good runningback, but he is undersized and cannot carry the ball in short yardage situations.

    I think Urban Meyer’s comfortable at UF. Les Miles would be a welcome sight in Ann Arbor, but I doubt he’d leave perennial power LSU to coach the Wolverines.

    I like the idea of Ron English being moved up to HC. He seems like the kind of disciplinarian that this team may need.

  18. Tim Biakabatuka was one of the guy’s where it really sucked to see get taken down by conatant injuries. My buddy who is a Ohio State fan still talks about the game where he ran for 300 yard on a team that consisted of Terry Glenn, Eddie George, ect… Even in the pros he was a beast when he was healthy. Just a shame.

  19. Miles was a former player and assistant at Michigan and is rumored to have an escape if the Michigan job becomes available.

    Meyer has always been a hot name as a potential Carr replacement.

    Ron has to show and prove before he’s given the reigns. He’s coached a lot of talent to no avail.

  20. Lloyd shouldn’t get any credit for players graduating. They don’t let those cats major in anything significant without a fight. That goes for all the big sports. One of strongest memories of being in Ann Arbor was seeing a 6’11″ pencil thin Eric Riley walking around campus with his team jacket, a razor thin, tattered spiral notebook and a pencil behind his ear. Harbaugh wasn’t lying when he went off a few weeks ago. Michael Hart may not be majoring in basket weaving, but the athletic department will challenge you if you want to have a demanding major. Lloyd’s gotta go.

    The job, as I said previously, is to beat Ohio State and win bowl games. It’s not to beat Wisconsin and Penn State or App State…those are SUPPOSED TO BE GIVEN. Lloyd HAS THE JOB, but he’s not DOING THE JOB. 62 years old. Nice run in the sun. Thanks for the memories…hasta la vista baby.

  21. Tshimanga was the man.

  22. You mean Dave Chappelle in a Michigan uniform? lol Eric Riley…wow.

    You are right about OSU.

    I’m just not one of these fans that want to clean house after a couple of lean years (years most programs would take mind you).

    I wonder what Bo would have said after Saturday’s debacle.

  23. Amani Toomer has had a nice career. Many of the Michigan receivers who were the most highly touted have been wholly incapable of doing two things – getting off the line of scrimmage and catching the ball…other than that, they’ve been great. Derrick Alexander couldn’t catch. Steve Breasted couldn’t catch. If they could get off the line and hang on to the rock, they couldn’t get deep and were often supplanted by faster players. Ohio State seems to have the right mix of guys. I hate to say it, but Glenn, Galloway, Holmes, Ginn, etc. are just better all around receivers. Imagine if they played at Michigan with real QBs.

  24. Damn how can I look past Amani? Almost named my son after him.

    Don’t forget about Cris Carter.

  25. T3,

    Why you gotta talk bad about Herbstreit and Hoying? lol

  26. off topic but… Jena 6 is getting front page love right now on cnn.com

    http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/09/04/bell.jena.six/index.html

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