September 01, 2011
About Michigan Football 2011
About Michigan Football 2011 - Thoughts by Corey on the eve of the Football Season.
In a few years, business schools will be writing case studies on Michigan football - especially with the comparison between coaches Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. Maybe these will come from the Ross School of Business (where I work), but they could come from anywhere. The core issue in the case will be organizational change and organizational culture. The case will look at how difficult it is to change this. But also, the case will look at how a manager (or a coach) who is new to an organization assesses what steps to take and how to use the staff (or players) that are there.
The reason I bring this up is because I think that the failures of Rich Rodriguez in his three years were one part bad fortune and a few parts bad decisions. On the eve of the Brady Hoke era on the field, it gives me great faith that he is indeed heeding the lessons of the past so as not to repeat them. By following this path, I believe that Hoke will lead Michigan to an excellent season - and could get to 8 or 9 wins.
With this in mind, it is interesting to consider last year. The team, despite defensive problems, jumped out to a 5-0 record and looked like it might be having a major breakthrough. Sadly, it did not happen. I say sadly in this regards. I am not a Michigan native (my wife is), nor was I a huge fan. In fact, I was more of a passive football fan, that being the one sport the Mrs. really hates. But since joining the staff at the Ross School of Business in 2005, my life really took a change. I became huge fans of Big Blue. But not only football, but women’s softball, tennis, track, etc. It became very easy to root for anything Michigan. That also changed to rooting for the University in all its endeavors. I found myself helping and rooting for an MBA team to win a case competition, or the solar car team won its race, or University and Hospital to raise in the rankings. If it was good for Michigan, it was good for me. Go Blue.
And I rooted for the people involved, including Rich Rodriguez. I wanted him to succeed so the University would succeed. A football win, a student award, a case competition, are all different ways to showcase our great place in Ann Arbor.
So when you end the 2011 season with a 7-5 record - but start 5-0 - it means that things did not really go so well. They continued in the Gator Bowl which took the team to 7-6 and cost Rodriguez his job. And in thinking about the season, the promise that was evident early in the season imploded. This is why it happened. (NOTE: Most football fans have forgotten more about football than I will ever know. This is not scientific, but a gut reaction to what happened on campus and on the field).
The three things that caused Michigan to do poorly last year were these:
Defense Struggles. Yeah - we all know they struggled last year. Duh. But was it a problem with the players, or a problem with management. I would vote for the later. I believe that a 3-3-5 defense could work in any league. However, in order to implement it - you need the right personnel. Clearly, they did not have that last year. With key injuries, the secondary looked more like a freshman comp class than Big Ten safeties and cornerbacks. The other issue is that the 3-3-5 defense puts more pressure on these young players - which is a recipe for disaster. The second aspect that is so critical is the pass rush. Cousins, Stanzi, and Chappell (well, and others) had all sorts of time. Mike Martin and co were all doubled teamed and could not put enough pressure on the opponents QB - which gave them enough time to exploit the young secondary.
Kicking Struggles. Yeah - we all know they struggle last year. The offense could drive to the 15, but could not count on 3 points. That killed them all year.
These two elements caused the third part of the problem. Too much pressure was on Denard Robinson. Not only did he have to carry the offense, it was not enough to get to the 15 - but he had to score. The times they went for 4th down really took a toll on his psyche (from my perspective). If he had to score every time - because their kicking game was not working and the defense was mis-managed - then that is more than anyone should have to bear. It would be horrible in any profession.
On a positive side from last year, the team was quite young. I believe that they were going to improve. I also feel that Rich Rodriguez was let go in some part because if they did win 9 games this year, Brandon would not be able to get rid of him for a few years. But that never happened and a new chapter was started in January of this year.
To that end, we are at a new era and a new start. That being said, the one thing that gives me great hope is that Hoke is working with the team that he has - not strictly focused on the team that he wants to have. I think that the coaches have all be working hard to make sure that these student athletes are better managed. Al Borges is not trying to make Denard Robinson something he is not - which is why Hoke will be far more successful than Rich Rodriguez was - and right off the bat.
The team also benefited from great leadership from the juniors (like Mike Martin) and sophomores (like Denard Robinson) who took on leadership roles on the team. That will take this team to the next level.
In regards of predictions, I am horrible. I really do not care about point spreads - a win is a win. I also routinely root for the underdog…hence my perpetual confusion. But this is how I see things panning out:
Sep. 3 Western Michigan - Big Win for Hoke’s Debut. (1-0)
Sep. 10 Notre Dame - I see this as a win, but it will be settled early unlike the last two years. (2-0)
Sep. 17 Eastern Michigan - This game will be close for 35 minutes - until Michigan puts is away. (3-0)
Sep. 24 San Diego St. - A very motivated team arrives at Michigan Stadium and almost pulls off an upset. (4-0)
Oct. 1 Minnesota - Big win for Blue (5-0)
Oct. 8 at Northwestern - Loss in Persa’s first game back (5-1)
Oct. 15 at Michigan State - With new focus, Michigan wins big to end the 3 year losing streak (6-1)
Oct. 29 Purdue - Huge win for Michigan (7-1)
Nov. 5 at Iowa
Nov. 12 at Illinois (I think they will split these two - not sure how - end up 8-2)
Nov. 19 Nebraska - Welcome to the Big Ten…sadly Big Red wins (8-3)
Nov. 26 Ohio State - This streak ends with an amazing performance by someone that is not starting in September (9-3)
There are my thoughts…I will be a fan either way and hope they send these Seniors out in a big way - they certainly deserve it.
Here is one of the players that are going to make it happen this year:
Posted by cseeman at September 1, 2011 10:07 PM