Week four of the college football season came and went this past Saturday and I couldn’t have been less interested. That’s because my school, Michigan, had a bye week. Thank goodness. It already kind of feels like they are having a bye year.
Michigan is off to a rocky start with painful losses at home to Utah and a sloppy road defeat at Notre Dame. Things don’t get much easier as their first two Big Ten opponents are both nationally ranked (Illinois and Wisconsin). Throw in a rivalry game against Michigan State and road contests at Penn State, Purdue and Ohio State and it’s hard to find easy W’s. Two storied winning streaks might be in jeopardy as the Wolverines have the nation’s longest current streak of non-losing seasons (40 seasons) and the longest current streak of bowl game appearances (33 seasons).
Perhaps it’s only fair to give a program a rebuilding year once every few generations. Heck, Moses wandered the desert longer than the span between losing seasons in Ann Arbor. Almost every offensive skill player is new, inexperienced and replacing guys who are now playing on Sunday’s. Michigan is also going through a transition as Lloyd Carr retired after 13 solid seasons (including a national championship) and Rich Rodriguez begins his tenure and attempts to build his program.
Now that I’ve spent three paragraphs being diplomatic, I’ll tell you how I really feel. There is one thing wrong with Michigan Football and that is Coach Dick Rod. He sucks. He’s big fat ego is stepping all over traditional “Michigan Football” and I’m not buying the risky derivatives (spread option offense, starting from scratch, recruiting style) that he is selling.
Here are my main issues…
Lots of fans are cutting the team slack because this is a rebuilding year. New coaches, new players, new system. Michigan has managed to avoid a rebuilding year in the last four decades. I’m not so sure why this year should be any different. Lloyd Carr graciously retired last November so that the team would have time to hire a new coach early enough so that it wouldn’t disrupt a single recruiting class. In fact, Michigan has had a top 12 recruiting class every year between 2004-08. So they should have enough talent to have at least a winning season, right? One reason the talent is lacking is because Rodriguez basically told Michigan’s best players who were on the fence about returning to take a hike (or at the least he didn’t try hard enough to make them feel welcome to stay). He waved good bye to the two best receivers in the Big Ten (Manningham and Arrington), told prized recruit and rifle armed Quarterback Ryan Mallett to find a new place to play ball, and in a bizarre twist somehow offended starting offensive lineman Justin Boren so that he transferred to Ohio State citing “family values have eroded”.
Another blow occurred when super freak Tyrelle Pryor spurned Dick Rod and Michigan and chose Ohio State. It’s widely reported that Dick Rod was banking on Pryor to join him in Ann Arbor and that Pryor was the first person he called after accepting the Michigan gig. Now, without Mallet or Pryor, Michigan has a two-headed nightmare taking snaps behind center.
Rodriguez seems to show indifference to the early struggles and his personal miscalculations. In his world he needs time to rebuild the program. But, I’m not giving it to him. A new CEO of a fortune 500 company doesn’t get the leeway and a few years to allow the stock price to tank before he is successful. Instead, it’s expected that person will do the best with the current resources AND figure out how to take the company to the next level.
This offensive scheme is cool when you have a Michael Vick or Pat White making insane plays. Other than that it’s actually pretty lame. It’s a gimmick — just like the A-11 offense. If it was so super effective every team would play this style. I give Rodriguez credit for implementing an offense that allowed West Virginia to compete with the best teams in the country. But this is Michigan. You are virtually guaranteed a future pro Quarterback, huge offensive lineman, and quality receivers. Why mess with that?
Watching a spread option offense try to recover from a deficit is as hopeless as trying to find intelligence in a political debate. It doesn’t play vertical, downfield football. Instead it’s a bevy of misdirection, bubble screens and wacky pitches. It reminds me of the style I play when I get killed playing NCAA Football on Play Station.
I kind of appreciated the smash mouth, NFL style football of Michigan. You were guaranteed a big guy with a rocket arm at QB, a stud running back and a few slick wide receivers. Yeah, sometimes it was boring or predictable but more than not it worked just right. Michigan was never out of a game as they could come back from big deficits by opening up the offense.
It seems like those days are over. Get used to a guy named Shavodrick Beaver scrambling for four yards on a third and eight.
West Virginia Mess
I’m sure there is blame on both sides but could his departure from his alma mater have ended any worse. First, West Virginia blows a chance to play for a national championship by losing a home game to their bitter rival Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl (great name). Then he slips out the backdoor in the middle of the night to strike a deal with Michigan. This happening one year after West Virginia opened the vault to have him stay in Morgantown.
Hey, you can’t fault a guy for being opportunistic. But what the heck was the deal with rumors of stealing and shredding files, trying to skimp out of a 4 million dollar payment, the lawsuits, and the extreme hatred of his home state.
No matter what happens in the next few years (good or bad) it just seems like it’s going to end badly for Dick Rod at Michigan. I’m not going to get too attached.
I had a bad feeling from the start but figured it would be a bit bearish to bash Rodriguez before the season even started. So I figured I would afford him some slack. But after a season opening loss to Utah and last week’s defeat to a hapless Notre Dame team my fears have been realized. The team looks awful. Rodriguez’s own hubris led to him starting Nick Sheridan (a nice kid who would struggle in the jewish frat intramural league) and benching talented running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor.
I’d be pleasantly shocked if this season’s team can piece together six wins and make a bowl game. More than likely I see a 4-8 season followed up by at best an 8-4 season in 2009. He’s actually lowering the bar for Michigan’s storied program. In the past anything less than a ten win season and a victory over Ohio State wouldn’t cut it. Now, I’m looking at 10 wins in 2010 as a best case scenario.
More than anything, the thing that kills me about Rodriguez is that he is hard to root for. He acts like a politician more than a coach and it’s obvious he is a hired gun. A college team more than anything is a team that you can “own”, identify with and relive an amazing part of life. Rodriguez is making it awfully hard to sport my new yellow Michigan adidas shorts (with pockets!) with much pride these days.
I’m hoping for the best and perhaps I’m just an overzealous pessimist (read my last post on the economy). But I’m fearing the worst and already starting to feel like Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State fans.
If only we could find the Matrix to make this all better.