Monday, October 11, 2010

But the sky might be falling

Following Michigan's first loss, the Michigan blogosphere was bound to be ripe with consternation and anti-consternation sentiment alike. In Rod We Trust is decidedly on the "don't freak out" side of things, arguing that this is one loss and we're still on track to have a good season and Denard Robinson wasn't a thing of our dreams and etc. His main point:

In fact, for those of us who have actually been paying attention, this game did nothing but reassure us of things we already knew.
  1. Denard Robinson is a sophomore who had started only five games prior to MSU
  2. Our secondary is laughably young.
  3. Our defense as a whole struggles with tackling.
I must have missed the memo about how this team was supposed to go undefeated this year.  I mean, based on recent talk I have to assume there was one.   How the season plays out could end up proving some of these “Doomers” right, but the certainty with which they are making definitive statements about this team following one loss is outrageous.

I can get behind all of this in the long term. Denard is only a sophomore. The secondary is "laughably" (I would use terrifyingly) young. And our defense can't tackle, which might be symptomatic of being young. All salient points, sure, and if Rich Rodriguez was a tenured coach, these would all be mitigating factors in a down season. The problem is, he's not. And he needs to win now.

Make no mistake, I am firmly pro-Rodriguez. I've liked him since he was hired, totally understand his lack of talent, and think that given time, he'll turn this program into something great again. But he doesn't have that time, and if the team does start to spiral downward like it did last year, the worst case scenario (losing Rodriguez, probably a lot of his on-field talent, and starting at square one again) becomes reality and Michigan becomes the new Notre Dame.

Denard is a true sophomore. Denard's status as a true sophomore, first-time starter that, in his first year was almost completely useless as a "quarterback", actually argues pretty strongly for  the "sky is falling" meme, rather than the other way around. While his inexperience is encouraging--if he's this good now, think about how good he'll be when he has two years under his belt--in the present, it's a bad thing. Seeing Denard make an on-field production leap is basically impossible right now. Aside from the freakish numbers he posted in the first five games (and sort of in the sixth), seeing him become any more advanced is probably unlikely. In fact, I'd say he's more likely to have more MSU-like blow ups this season than world-crushing performances. Teams will figure out how to defend some of Michigan's plays, limiting what Denard is able to do and eventually, his effectiveness.

Our secondary is terrifyingly young. I can basically copy and paste the same explanation for Denard's inexperience here. The secondary is very, very young, and in the long term, that may prove to be OK--think about two years from now when all of these players have developed and matured. But in a very real, very current sense, they're just bad. Michigan (and Rodriguez specifically) doesn't have time to wait for this young secondary to develop. The team needs to win this year and Michigan's defense may not allow for that.

Our defense as a whole struggles with tackling. Is this even worth addressing? Michigan is through spring camp and six games into a season and they're still really bad at tackling. How is this encouraging? At all? Not only does this speak to the lack of talent on the defense, but it speaks to a lack of coaching as well.

In Rod We Trust asserts that,

You can’t turn the ball over three times and win when you are a team of Michigan’s caliber.

There were a thousand other things and a thousand missed opportunities, but the reason the game was lopsided was simply because we didn’t protect the ball. 

which is only true if you didn't pay attention to the game. Michigan had two turnovers in the endzone which cost them points, but they don't address the fact that Michigan was outgained 536 yards to 377 yards, allowed 5.9 YPC on 42 carries (!), and forced all of seven incompletions, allowing Cousins to throw for 11.4 YPA. Michigan was crushed in this game in almost every aspect. They hardly belonged on the field with Michigan State.

Given what we know about this team--that Denard is young and inexperienced, the secondary is young and starts walk ons, and the team can't tackle--there's very little to say that this was an aberration or that this isn't indicative of how the team will perform going forward, unsettling as that may be. The future of the program looks bright. it's riddled with young talent and should-be stars/contributors. But that's only if Rodriguez can hang on long enough to see the team to the promised land. And unfortunately, the future of this team isn't all that promising.


Anonymous said...

True, but the raw talent coupled with the coaching puts a higher degree of variability on the table. Its unlikely as the season goes on that D.Robb will be able to consistently crush on every drive, but when you have the physical capability to score on a handful of plays that are reasonably well executed and brilliantly called to exploit a weakness, there is a very reasonable chance to win games that this team shouldn't win 8 times out of 10. High variability won't keep us undefeated from this game on, but t makes it much more likely we pick up 7 or 8 total wins and keep the "team in progress" theme alive long enough to recruit and pacify the alumni.

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