It’s Michigan-Ohio week but it just doesn’t feel the same. Of course, by this point that’s like saying Paris Hilton is annoying and washed up – it’s obvious. This game, for many years in a row, was the Big Ten championship. But with Michigan playing like a 7th-grade co-ed team, all the luster, build-up, excitement and anticipation is gone, or at the best, very little.
It didn’t have to be this way. Michigan did it to themselves with the help of an outside force. Today, as we prepare for the Saturday game (back to it’s proper noon kick-off), we look at the reasons why Michigan sucks this year and what could have been if only a couple of things were done differently.
There were three major moves made since Michigan’s loss to Ohio State last year that all dramatically changed the future of the football program; Lloyd Carr resigned; Rich Rodriquez was hired; Tryell Pryor went to Ohio State.
1. Carr’s resignation – It’s hard to argue it wasn’t time for Carr to go. The fans had all but turned against him. He only beat Ohio State once in the last five years. And the team was getting predictable and stale. However, he had won a national title, always in the Big Ten title hunt, a bowl game every year, his players loved playing for him and he was the best halftime interview of all time. Whether a Carr supporter or not, he was a great coach and his forced out, er, resignation set in motion the worst season in the history of college football’s winningest program.
2. Rich Rod’s hiring – During the search for Michigan’s coach to replace Carr, all kinds of names surfaced, most notably Les Miles. ESPN’s reporter Kirk Herstreit broke the news Miles was coming to Michigan, which turned out to be false. (Is Herby even a reporter? What was he doing breaking news?) Miles was obviously Michigan’s first choice and when he turned down the job, UM officials panicked. They couldn’t believe someone would turn down the head coaching job at Michigan. They then went out and overpaid for Rich Rod. It was the sexy hire. (By the way, I hate when people say sexy pick for stuff like this. So I really don’t know why I said. Crowd pleaser would work much better.)
They could have easily hired within the “Michigan Family” by promoting one of the coordinators or a coach somewhere else who once was an assistant at UM. However, with the predictable and stale program Carr left, everyone wanted to go a different direction and bring in Rich Rod. It’s too early to say if it was the right decision. Rich Rod is going to need at least three-to-four years to see what he can really do. I still think he’ll be fine. He’ll get his talented and fast players there and the spread will work. If he can get guys to come to West Virginia and make it work, he can do the same in Ann Arbor.
However, there’s no doubt in my mind that if Michigan had hired a typical Michigan man, they would be going to a bowl game this year. They still wouldn’t be a great team because they lost so many players from last year, but they’d be over .500. That is also true if Carr would have stayed on board. Ryan Mallet would have stayed and developed into a great quarterback. Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor would have been sharing the carries from the beginning instead of Rich Rod trying to get his freshmen into the system and comfortable with it. The offensive line would have been much better with a regular blocking scheme. I know they lost a lot of guys from last year’s team but Michigan always losing guys and always has people to replace them and are good every year.
Rich Rod was hired to shake up the program. And shake it up he did. Now for the first time in my life, and the first time in 33 years, Michigan will not be playing in a bowl game.
3. Tyrell Pryor’s decision – What has made the transition to Rich Rod’s spread difficult has been the absence of a quarterback who can effectively run the offense. Pryor would have been that QB. Michigan wasn’t even on Pryor’s radar prior to Rich Rod’s hiring. When Pryor announced Michigan was now at the top of his list, there was excitement that he would be the man in Michigan. That excitement soon turned to disappointment and hate when he settled on OSU. He has had an up-and-down year, but there is no doubt that he is a superstar in the making. He has made some incredible plays and looks better than Vince Young ever did, especially throwing the ball. The hiring of Rich Rod set the program back for one, maybe two years. But if Pryor came to Michigan that could have been offset. Michigan would be a bowl eligible team. Now, instead of having a promising three or four years with Pryor as their quarterback, Michigan has to play against him in the biggest game of the year for three or four years.
It’s been a year to forget in Michigan football, only we’ll remember it forever.
Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the game itself and if it, and the rivalry, are what it once was.
FYI – I won’t be around to respond to comments until after 1 or 2, maybe. That’s if I survive my adventure today. I’m going out to shoot guns with the men of the Aurora Police Department.