Fixing Michigan Football IV

Schedule Penn State.

Today’s game should reveal the pattern. The Michigan Wolverines can play against teams which run conventional attacks and do not feature running quarterbacks with elite speed or elite speed at the skill positions. Penn State is such a team. Today’s game should not give false hope to Wolverine Nation that much of anything has changed. It has not. Michael Hart is still the best back to wear the Maize n’ Blue in decades (possibly ever). Jake Long is still a sound technician and impassioned paver of roads. The defense is still lacking in the requisite power, quickness and overall speed required to compete amongst the best teams in the nation.

LSU’s kicker is faster than far too many Michigan defenders.

The Wolverines are not a “bad team” simply because they lost to Appalachian State and Oregon. The team simply cannot defend that style of play. Conventional teams like Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and others will not beat the Wolverines, regardless of the health of QB Chad Henne. With that said, it should be obvious that the Wolverines would still be run off the field by the likes of USC and LSU. I’m watching Washington and UCLA. Both of these teams have the type of speed that would have Ron English uneasy on Friday night. (If I see another kicker make a touchdown saving tackle on a kickoff, I may have to watch a chick flick. That’s two tonite…USC’s kicker and Washington’s kicker. It’s appalling.)

If the athletic director and alumni want to see better results, it is time to get serious about recruiting some real players with some real wheels. That last big trophy from 1997 should be getting a bit dusty. It’s certainly lonely. The cupboard of elite national success may be bare, but the challenge before folks in Ann Arbor is coming to terms with great expectations. Don’t bother to rebuild the Big House if you won’t bother to rebuild the defensive line.

The hue and cry to fire Lloyd Carr, as appropriate as it is, ignores the essential truth that this team has always been designed to win the Big Ten championship. That goal, once lofty and distinctive, is anachronistic. Building teams to win conference championships is no longer sufficient. The road to $5 million and the Rose Bowl is no longer paved through Ann Arbor or Columbus. There will be years when that road will run through Baton Rouge or Athens, Georgia or Miami, Florida. The time of recruiting with the primary intention of besting that school down the road are over. If Michigan chooses to continue patterns and practices inherited from the 1950’s and 1960’s, the school will cease to be included in conversations about major college football. Saturday afternoon games will be a thing of the past. ABC will shift programming to another Big Ten school or ACC school or Big East school with less history, but more upside.

Do not be fooled by today’s victory over Penn State. Do not be fooled by the loss to Oregon. Lowly Stanford is giving them all they can handle. USC will blast them to bits in a few weeks. Michigan’s faults are fundamental, structural and resolvable. All that is required is a new orientation and a willingness to shut the door on an old paradigm – and all it’s purveyors.

Goodnight Coach Carr.

 

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