On June 2nd, I wrote a post on my old site that fell into the "ridiculously early preview" catagory entitled "Michigan: The Preview." Actually, I wrote a ridiculously early preview on nearly all Big Ten teams, and we'll go back to a few of those as I work my way backwards through this season. For those unaware, my old site was a Big Ten blog - not a Michigan blog. I went to great lengths to protect this fact, kind of like when Herbstreit says something that is so over-the-top critical of the Buckeyes just to make sure that we all know he's maintaining non-bias. I largely failed at doing this, which is why I am here. This will be relevent later, I promise.
Our previews back at TOGTM took on the form of answering the same set of questions for each team. The first was "name one thing the media will harp on that is ridiculously off base." My response was quaintly optimistic:
The lack of the true spread quarterback is something that you will not forget unless Michigan starts rolling up 500+ yards per game under Threet, a dubious prospect under even the best conditions. People seem to have the impression that Rodriguez is a one trick pony, and without Pat White mounted firmly in the saddle, his offense will be a complete fail. I do not agree. There is no way that Rodriguez has gotten to the pinnacle of college coaching without knowing a little something about everything. He is going to play the hand that he has been dealt - and if that means running Threet in a pro-style offense, then that's what he will do.
Uh, no, that's not what he'll do. In fact, it would turn out that Rodriguez was going to run his system no matter who he had in place. It would seem that the part of this that was "most wrong" was the part about Rodriguez not being a one trick pony. Rodriguez was and is a one trick pony. Oh, I'm sure that he knows a thing or two about running a pro-style offense, but that's not his thing, it's not what he was hired to do, and its not what he is ultimately going to be successful doing. And I'm ok with this. I'm ok with being wrong here because under these circumstances, running a pro-style would have had 2 effects:
1) it would have probably won 2 or 3 more games given the personel running it
2) it would have severely retarded any growth at all in the system that Rodriguez will be eventually be successful running.
I am just fine with not morgaging the future for two or three more wins this dismal season. In my defense, at time of writing, I only had what Rodriguez had said on the matter, which was this:
"Any coach will tell you, whether you have extremely talented guys or not, when you don't have experience at that position, it's cause for concern. So, there's going to be concern for us at any position that (we) don't have experience, in particular, at quarterback. We don't have anybody that's taken a snap in college football. So going through spring practice, we've got to have that in mind, and certainly as we prepare for the fall, we've got to have that in mind.
"You know there's no substitute for experience, but those guys are working hard, they're learning, and we're going to have to fit our offense to whoever our quarterback's skill sets are. And that I don't yet until I go through practice. But it's a concern. I don't want people to think it ain't a concern because it is – you don't have anybody that's taken a snap. But those guys will work hard and we'll try to get'em ready."
Which I took to mean "he doesn't need Pat White to be successful." What I should have taken it as is "this offense is going to be really bad but I'm putting frosting and sprinkles on it so I don't hurt anyone's feelings right now." My bad. So for this section, I receive Fail Dog, who knows the ball is right there, but ends up grasping at air instead. He also said that bit about not fitting round pegs and square holes and winning, FWIW.
The next section attempted to determine what part of the team was flying under the radar, and would be integral to success. My answer, along with everyone else who had ever heard of Michigan Football, was that the defense was going to be very good. My response, in its entirety:
One thing the media will completely ignore that is integral to this team's success:
This is very simple, and Champ hit it on the head. The defense will be at least above average next year, with the potential to be very good. Last season, the young unit ranked 4th in scoring and 3rd in total defense in the Big Ten. The line has gotten better, the corners are older, and the linebacking crew is raw but athletic. Add in a year of being Barwisized, and you have the potential for this defense to be shut-down. And the Wolverines are going to need it to be just that if they hope to compete. Rodriguez is lauded as an offensive mastermind, so it is fittingly ironic that his first season at Michigan will rely heavily on a stout defense to be successful.
Half fail? I was right, the Wolverines needed the defense to be absolutely shut-down this year; I was wrong, the defense was not going to do that. Above average? Michigan was 68th in total defense - meaning they were actually a little below average. The Barwisizing did help - they were noticeably leaner and less exhausted going into 4th quarters, but it did not work the miracles that we needed it to. I create space from Fail Dog here by using the word "potential" but the gist of this portion of the preview remains the same: I thought the defense was going to be very good this year. I was wrong.
The next portion of the preview aimed at determining the playmakers on each side of the ball. The goal was to name one player who was going to be that impact player for the offense and the defense. On the offense, I hedged:
Offense: Man, I just don't know. At this point, I don't even know what the offense is going to look like, let alone who the most important contributer will be. As long as the QB puts on his pants before the game, he'll probably end up being the guy here, but really, it could be any number of players. Will McGuffie be as electric in college as he was in High School? Will Carlos Brown get the ball in space and be a little bottle of lightening? Will Threet zing in all over the field like Henne did against the Gators (lolz - ed)? Who will be the deep threat? Will Michigan even throw the ball? Ever? I just don't know.
The answers to my rhetorical questions, in order:
aaaaand kinda. It depends on how loosely you define "throwing."
This was a major, major problem with this team's offense. The fact that I couldn't name an offensive impact player in the preseason isn't really that big a deal - the fact that no offensive player developed into an impact player over the course of the season is a big deal. There wasn't a single component of the offense that this team could turn to and say "well at least this is working." The season is over, and I still don't know who I would put at this spot. Molk? Minor? I guess those two are the best bets, and one of them is a Center. This team needs some kind of identity on offense next year if it hopes to win more than 3 games.
Defensively, again, I was half right. The first half predicted that the defensive line would be very good as a unit, with no real "star" to speak of. Therefore, I couldn't name a single impact player from that unit. Instead I chose Morgan Trent. Great move, huh?
I will go with Morgan Trent here for several reasons.
1) Cornerback is the most difficult position on the field to play. You are an island half the time, and the other half (if you play for Michigan...) safety help isn't coming anytime soon.
2) If there is anyone on this team with Ess-Eee-See speed, it's Morgan.
3) He's a senior, and building off a season in which he tied for 5th in passes defended with 10, intercepted 2 passes, and ran faster than Percy Harvin in the bowl game
He is already a leader on the defense, and I really believe he will wrap up his collegiate career with style befitting the bevy of cornerbacks to have played at Michigan.
Uhhh, right. Nothing to see here. Morgan wasn't bad per se, and I hit the nail on the head when I said that he wouldn't be getting safety help. But a much better choice here would have been Graham or Taylor. Fail Dog:
The next section was really two sides of the same coin. I wrote that the area that should scare opponents was that basically nobody knew what the hell to expect from this team. There was no film, no background, no talent, nothing! I was right, except that it failed to get a first down most of the time. There was nothing to fear.
Area that scares you as an opponent:
Champ hit it on the head. I don't know if there is any one feature of this team that will scare you - rather, it's the fact that nobody knows what the hell Rodriguez is going to do, and you can't defend what you don't know. The Utah defensive coordinator is going to have fits trying to decide how to gameplan for Michigan.
As for the area that opponents were looking forward to?
Area that makes you salivate as an opponent:
If you're Penn State, or Purdue, or Northwestern this is your chance to kick Michigan in the teeth. This year is probably the worst Michigan is going to be for quite some time. I fully expect games in which Michigan just can't get the offense going, will turn the ball over 12 times, and will lose impressively. I'm ready for it. Youth be damned, it's like the whole offense is starting from scratch, and that's going to have a lot of growing pains associated with it. If I'm an opponent, I'm salivating at the rather good chance that Michigan is going look like a giant cartoon dinosaur flailing its arms helplessly.
Sweet Jesus did those teams take this year's opportunity to kick some teeth and run with it. Can't get the offense going? Check. Turn the ball over 12 times? Check. Lose impressively? Check. This is the first thing I've gotten right, and as such, I receive the Dog of Happiness, complete with pile of conquered tennis balls at his feet.
I also wrote that I thought that Feagin, Sheridan, and Threet would be used in some combination to try to keep teams off-balance ala Tebow/Leak of Florida. They were used in some combination all right, except that it was because of the whole Death thing and the fact that Threet's elbows - both of them - were literally falling off by the end of the season. Finally, let's get to the record. I predicted:
I have Michigan down for a 6-6 record this year, with losses coming against the following teams:
@ Penn State
@ Ohio State
You could easily substitute Utah with Michigan State, and still come out with the same record.
Please do not hang me, Michigan faithful, for this season, we know not what awaits us. This prediction is as good as dog shit on your front porch - which is to say that it stinks, and you never really wanted it anyways. We will all have a much better idea of where Michigan is going to fall when the season actually starts. For now, I guess I'm captaining up the HMS Pessimistic - all aboard for Ann Arbor.
3-5 in the Big Ten? Ouch.
It figures that one of the losses I had penciled in would actually be a win. I was right, however, to captain that ship all the way to Ann Arbor. Since nobody in their right mind was picking Michigan to have a 3-win season (and no, schadenfraud filled Buckeyes and Domers, you don't count as being "in your right mind") I think I was mostly right about this. Michigan was awful, they had an extremely bad year. The difference between 6-6 and 3-9 isn't really that far off - maybe an extension of the bowl-streak as we may have travelled to Detroit or something like that - but still a nuclear-bomb of disappointment. So, Dog of Happiness, right? No. As I mentioned in the preamble, I went above and beyond to be harsh on Michigan to prove that I was writing a "Big Ten" site and not a "Michigan" site. I am in print elsewhere as saying that I thought Michigan had a good shot at 8 wins, with 6 being the minimum. I was not right, but for the purposes of this particular comparison, I was more right than most. Thus, I get the Wet Dog of Indifference. He sees your tennis ball, and cares not. He is hot and tired, and frankly, he would rather be sitting in the pool than out chasing things right now.
3 Fail Dogs
1 Dog of Happiness
1 Wet Dog of Indifference
I think it's pretty safe to say that I botched this preview pretty good. Then again, there weren't many people who saw a team this bad coming. I'm going to give the same treatment to any Michigan previews I can pull from the Mainstream Media; it will be interesting to see if they were "more right" than I was. My guess is that they were, mostly because they don't love Michigan the way that I do, and it's hard to be more wrong than I was in my preview. And to think; I thought I was being hard on them.
Give yourself the same treatment - what did you say/write in the beginning? Were you predicting 9 wins? Did you predict death? Let me know in the comments.