Monday, January 3, 2011

Jim Harbaugh, Come on down

Since Michigan's last demoralizing loss at the hands of Ohio State, I kept telling people, "I think Rich Rod will probably be around next year. But the team has to at least be competitive in the bowl game." This is no longer the case. For all intents and purposes, Rich Rodriguez is no longer the head coach at Michigan. Dave Brandon will avoid the media until Wednesday or Thursday when he can officially announce that Rodriguez has been canned and they're beginning the coaching search, which will be over in a day or two when Michigan and Jim Harbaugh come to terms on a contract.

This is disappointing because it means the end of the spread offense at Michigan and more importantly, Denard Robinson, who will land on his feet after a redshirt year at some spread offense powerhouse (see: Auburn, Oregon, etc.). Losing Denard will be the biggest disappointment of all because aside from being an incredible athlete and football talent, he's the kind of kid you want to be the face of your program. So Michigan will be tossed back into the throes of attrition and rebuilding as a new coaching staff looks to maintain the current roster and rebuild a new one. Whether or not they have a redshirt freshman Devin Gardner to take the reigns a la Pryor at Ohio State is yet to be seen, but regardless, Michigan is going to be seriously devoid of talent at key positions once again.


On Saturday, Michigan was killed. It wasn't even competitive. Part of that was talent: the defense is still remarkably young, poorly coached, and lacking in physical skills. But worse was the playcalling, and this time, not just Greg Robinson's. Michigan didn't do anything on either side of the ball. Mississippi State was, as they showed all year, blitzing like mad men and yet Michigan kept handing the ball off to Vincent "Can't Break a Tackle" Smith who was slaughtered to the tune of 1.9 YPC. The Denard one-man play action wasn't shown once, a play that would've been effective against the Bulldogs defense. Michigan threw about a half dozen screens, a common method for slowing down a blitz. Mississippi State said, "We're going to sell out on the run" and Michigan kept running the ball. This was not an impressive performance from the offensive coaching staff.

On the defensive side of the ball, you have to feel for the linemen, who had to play 80+ defensive snaps and managed to hold the 16th best rushing attack in the country to 3.5 YPC. The secondary, on the other hand, was exactly what we've come to expect: nonexistent. Chris Relf, who is mediocre at best, went 18/23 (what?!?!) for 281 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. This defense has gotten no better throughout the year and might be the worst in the country. This is an utter embarrassment and it'll be interesting to see what players get substantial playing time next year with the coaching overhaul.

  • Mississippi St. was 5/5 of fourth down. There was no need to punt the ball because Michigan was unable to stop the Bulldogs from getting 1-2 yards on any play. Reasonable coaches against any other defense in the same position would've kicked the ball 5/5 times. But since Michigan's defense is so terrible, punting was a ludicrous options.
  • Denard was held mostly in check going 27/41 through the air for 254 yards. Michigan's coaches kept putting the offense behind the chains by running the same read-option on first down that Mississippi St. was selling out against. Denard did make two of his best throws as a Wolverine in this game (the touchdown passes), but he was put in such awful situations all game that his passing stats look unimpressive at best.
  • Relf is bigger than most of Michigan's defenders and ran over all of them.
  • Why Rodriguez thought it was a reasonable idea to attempt any field goals in this game is beyond me. Michigan's kickers can't kick.
  • Martavious Odoms was a revelation on kick returns. It's a shame he's been out the whole season.
  • Michigan's other receivers all looked good in this game, making difficult catches to bail out Denard and the offense in tough situations.
  • Michigan's first drive was impressive, but it was clear right away that it wasn't replicable in the long term. The team was in too many third and long situations to expect them to be that successful all day. Michigan didn't make any adjustments all game and it showed.
Going forward, it'll probably be a lot of insider news that this blog isn't great (or concerned with) breaking. Big news will come in the form of coaching announcements, recruit commits/decommits, and other general whathaveyou. I doubt I'll do much posting about the Gator Bowl, making basketball more of a focus. I'll also try to do report cards for all players and coaches throughout the offseason. Time to hunker down and hope that this "coaching search"* goes as smoothly as planned.

*For the record, if Harbaugh ends up taking an NFL job, I'd bet that Rodriguez is around for another year with a new defensive coaching staff. But with the kind of money that Michigan is going to throw at Harbaugh, it's probably close to a done deal that he comes back.


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