The Enigma That Is Michigan Football

Jeff ContizanoCorrespondent ISeptember 29, 2008

I've been a Michigan fan most of my short life. Over the years I've become very comfortable with very good seasons each fall.

From John Navarre, to Tom Brady, to modern-day QB Steven Threet, I've spent the last 14 years watching the Wolverines with a passionate desire for excellence.

I watched as a coach named Rich Rodriguez joined an average West Virginia program and turned them into a national powerhouse. Then one day, I was saddened to discover that longtime coach Lloyd Carr would be retiring.

Silently thanking Lloyd for the great years we've had, I watched as Rodriguez moved into Schembechler Hall and began to change all that was Michigan football.

But even as Michigan stumbled through the first few games of the season, I still held hope. In the past our defenses had always been laden with NFL talent but never produced to their potential. Finally, it took a change from the vanilla-flavored Carr to the new, fancy-looking Rich Rodriguez.

What about that offense? At times it seems like it flows like water, the quarterback making the seemingly easy handoff to Sam McGuffie or Michael Shaw, who promptly darts down the field for a 20-yard gain.

Then the next play McGuffie is stuffed and loses four yards trying to evade tacklers.

I'll be the first to admit I love the spread offense, but at times I long for the days of Chris Perry, B.J. Askew, Anthony Thomas, and "three yards and a cloud of dust". While that particular Michigan offense may have been predictable, it was certainly effective, and I knew we were never out of a game.

The spread offense isn't designed to come from behind, yet we've seen Michigan do it in multiple games this year—first against the Utah Utes (which ultimately failed), then last week versus Wisconsin. So who is this team that we all watch?

Well, for one, we're seeing a more inspired Michigan football team on the field each week. Whether that can be attributed to Rodriguez's fiery passion or Mike Barwis' insane hunger, I do not know. Yet I find myself enamored by it. No longer does Michigan break when bent—rather, they redouble their efforts.

If you watch the play where Wisconsin RB John Clay ran down the field, it was not only Morgan Trent and Stevie Brown chasing him, but Brandon Graham. That's right, the hulking defensive end chased him all the way down the field.

Then, later in the game, we watched as the colossal Steven Threet darted down the field for 58 yards and probably would have gone further had he not slowed down to (wisely) protect the ball.

Everyone says Michigan is showing a real Jekyll and Hyde style of football, and they may be right. At times we are amazed, and at other times, ashamed.

But one thing is for certain—this Michigan team is still learning. The spread will take another few years to perfect, but that is not the only thing.

Lloyd Carr was a fantastic coach, don't get me wrong. But he left an imprint of himself on this team, and now that Rodriguez is here, he is trying to do the same.

What will the future hold? Michigan will always be talented, there is no doubt. But they will not be like the teams of the past.

They are going to play fast and punch you in the mouth on defense. The offense will blow by you with force and then speed away before you can chase them.

We may have to wait for this, but you've all seen glimpses of it this season. Just wait.