Thursday, September 3, 2009

Michigan Kickoff 2009

Hail to the Victors 2009

The 2008 Wolverines were a team of high expectations and great trepidations. Sadly, they met the trepidations. A new coach, a new system, waves of players leaving, years of poor recruiting, no offensive line, no returning quarterbacks, a decimated defensive backfield, all combined for a record breaking 3-9 season. Even Lloyd Carr would have had difficulty winning with last year’s team.

The team self-destructed by being unable to hold onto the ball. Kickoffs- fumbles. Punts – fumbles. Handoffs – fumbles. Passes – no fumbles, just interceptions. Team total was 38 fumbles and 12 interceptions – a record of futility that few teams could have overcome.

What’s in store for this year?

Nothing other than the question will Rick Rodriquez survive to coach another year? The fans understood last year, but the coach has no more goodwill in the bank. 6-6 might do it, but 7-5 or 8-4 would be great, especially if accompanied by at least one win over one of these four opponents: Notre Dame, Michigan State, Penn State, and Ohio State.

Other questions:

1) If Rodriquez fails, does AD Bill Martin go down with him?
2) Will Rodriquez and/or his assistants and coordinators join Michigan’s 15% unemployment rate?
3) Will the State of Michigan have to look to Michigan State for football glory?
4) Can Ron English at Eastern Michigan gain a measure of sweet revenge by beating Michigan?
5) Can the defense learn to tackle and the offense hold onto the ball?
6) Which team will have the better record this year, Michigan or UCLA?
7) Will the Big Ten earn some respect this year?

Guaranteed predictions for this year: Michigan will not lose to Appalachian State, Utah, or Toledo. Nor will the Wolverines lose to Northwestern or Minnesota. They don’t play these teams this year.

Bo also inherited a soft team when he was named coach 40 years ago. Many of the returning players also bailed on him because he was tough. Bo had an advantage though, The NCAA imposed no scholarship limits on football teams. Thus, when players quit Bo in droves, he still had an ample number of quality players to draw upon with the depth on the team.

The NCAA imposed a limit of 105 scholarships in 1973, 95 in 1978, and lowered it to the current 85 in 1993 with a limit of 25 new scholarships in a given year. The Rodriquez Wolverines lacked depth at the offensive line, defensive backfield, and QB. It showed.

Western Michigan should be a guaranteed win for Michigan, but Michigan has lost the opening game the past two seasons (Appalachian State and Utah), so Western Michigan has a chance to join Toledo as the only MAC teams to beat Michigan
The key game is the second game of the season, Notre Dame. The Charlie Weiss coached Fighting Irish are favored to win, but until we are convinced that Weiss is a good coach, Michigan has a strong chance for the upset. If so, Michigan could be 4-0 going into Michigan State at East Lansing. Michigan should not lose to Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana in Ann Arbor, but then again, Michigan shouldn’t have lost to Toledo in Ann Arbor last year. Toledo also finished 3-9 and the coach’s reward for beating Michigan was to be fired at the end of the season.

A supreme irony will exist if Eastern Michigan upsets Michigan. EMU is coached by Ron English, the former defensive coordinator of Michigan and once rumored to have been the anointed successor to Lloyd Carr. That ended with the defeat to Appalachian State.

Last year’s defense had a problem. With the porous secondary, Coach Rodriquez wanted to play a 3-4 to help out the secondary. Defensive coordinator Schaefer and the players wanted a 4-3, which would bolster the line. They didn’t know what to play during the games, enabling many quarterbacks to look like All American, Number 1 draft picks.

If the football Gods smile on Michigan this year, the Wolverines could go 8-4, but don’t bet on it. Wins could include Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Delaware State, Purdue, and possibly Iowa and Illinois with losses probably to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Go Blue!

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