Today we've got a hearty plate full of juicy red meat from the Great Lakes State.
Pretty much the entire Big Ten, if not the nation, was smirking at Michigan's 2008 football season. For years, the Wolverines were the arrogant, cocky sons-a-bitches who lived off the 1997 half-ional championship. But last season was our time to revel, as Michigan stumbled, if not nose-dived their way to a 3-9 finish.
Penn State fans know (unfortunately all too well) what it's like to suffer a losing season. You spend the entire offseason reasoning why the team was so bad, how bad it could get next season, and why it can't possibly be that bad again.
I give you the Michigan fanbase, 2009.
We'll start off with the appetizer from Maize 'n Blue Nation.
"Michigan football, I hate to say it, is stuck in reverse gear right now. And try as he may, the best Rodriguez is going to be able to do this year is try and get us into neutral. Six wins and six losses is where I see this season ending. Michigan will reluctantly turn down a courtesy bid to play in the Motor City bowl...because a second loss to a MAC school in one season is just not good for any BCS conference team.
Two straight losses to Penn State and Michigan State and Notre Dame...and an unthinkable 6th loss in a row to OSU is too much for this blogger to handle. My heart hurts just thinking about it. But that's the reality that we all need to start accepting for this season. It's going to suck."
It's pretty clear that MBN is preparing themselves for another down season. That's pretty smart, because there's nothing worse than creating a false sense of hope after a terrible season. Although, I think MBN is being a bit drastic with the "stuck in reverse" comment.
As much as I don't want to admit it, Rich Rod should have this program back in the top three soon enough. He won a lot of high-profile bowl games at West Virginia, which means he could certainly do it in Ann Arbor.
We move on to a little something to cleanse the palette from Varsity Blue. All the Big Ten recruiting action has prompted a redux of the class rankings. Penn State jumped to the top, for now; so what does VB have to say about it?
"The Nittany Lions grab Robert Bolden and pass Michigan (even though he’s overrated)."
That's right, VB pulls a Leinart*.
Finishing up today's spread it's time for a little MGoBlog. Although not a piece by the venerable Brian, the author still put in a lot of time and effort to this; which is exactly why I'm going to throw a wrench into his argument.
The author explains, with all good intentions, that there are many occasions where teams have turned their records around in a matter of one offseason. In the Big Ten, he uses the following examples:
Northwestern '95 (3-7-1 to 10-2)
Purdue '97 (3-8 to 9-3)
Ohio St '02 (7-5 to 14-0)
Penn St '05 (4-7 to 11-1)
Illinois '07 (2-10 to 9-4)
Minnesota '08 (1-11 to 7-5)
On the surface, that seems legitimate, as the author points out, "Only OSU—7-5 in 2001—went from mediocre to very good, and the 2002 OSU team were the luckiest sons-a-bitches in recent college football history."
He also said, "Everyone else was bouncing up from horrible to average, which seems much easier to do than to go from average to very good. So, yeah, a crappy bowl beckons."
I could take issue with that; how is 10-2 or 11-1 average?–but that's not what we're talking about right now.
The point I think the author was trying to make is that after Michigan's 3-9 season, there is a great chance to make great improvement, if not a bowl bid itself. I mean, he cited examples to support this hope. But that's only half the story, and that other half completely shuts this down.
Let's take another look at those turnaround teams. Specifically, let's look where they were TWO seasons before their magical returns to glory:
Northwestern '95 (2-9 in '93)
Purdue '97 (4-6-1 in '95)
Ohio St '02 (8-4 in '00)
Penn St '05 (3-9 in '03)
Illinois '07 (2-9 in '05)
Minnesota '08 (6-7 in '06)
Ouch. While teams like Northwestern, Purdue, and Illinois were consistent losers before their turnaround, it shows that they cannot be used to compare with Michigan's '08 campaign. You have to look at teams that had been decent, but then fell on hard times for a short period.
That narrows the field to pretty much Penn State and Minnesota; and Minnesota isn't on par with the "power teams" like Michigan and Penn State.
What are we left with? Penn State, 2003.
In fact, Penn State's 2003 campaign is the PERFECT comparison to Michigan 2008. Both teams were coming off 9-4 seasons, then fell to 3-9, their worst records ever.
Unfortunately for the hopeful author, Penn State 2003 is the season to compare against Michigan's 2008–not Penn State 2004. But hey, give the guy credit for keeping his head high.
*Pulling a Leinart: Using negative comments to dilute one's own agony of defeat, while attempting to diminish the opponent's legitimate and outright victory. Origin: In a postgame interview, Leinart said that despite the Trojans' loss to Texas, "I still think we're a better team. They just made the plays in the end."