Introducing - the top ten list. The clever new way for bad writers to look competent.
The link to the Top Ten Positives from this year: http://www.maizenbrew.com/2013/12/4/5174948/top-ten-positives-from-this-year
1. We regressed, not progressed.
Play-calling, youth, coaching, line of scrimmage play, whatever it was, it was not Michigan football. Our records under Brady Hoke now stand at 11-2, 8-5, and 7-5, with a pretty good chance at a bowl win. Throwing in the 3-9, 5-7, and 7-6 campaigns before that, Michigan fans are anxious to return to the top of the mountain. Looking back at our records over the last 50 years, our floor tends to be 8 wins. Lloyd Carr had one 7-5 season and Gary Moeller never lost 5 games. Bo got to 8 wins 20 of the 21 years he coached. That's what separates us from most other programs - we have the history and expectation of excellence.
2. Ohio, Little Brother
We lost to Ohio State and Michigan State, by a combined score of 71-47, and are headed back to East Lansing and Columbus next year. Granted, we will have a redshirt senior quarterback, a much more experienced offense and a lot of talent in our linebackers and our secondary. After losing nine of the last ten years, we need to start slaying the beast that The Game has become. Michigan State, of course, feels less worrisome, since Max Bullough, Darqueze Dennard, and Denicos Allen are all seniors.
3. Al Borges
I'm an optimist when it comes to the big fella, but Borges' inclusion on this list can't be denied. Big Al has been much maligned since he got here, and if the team is more successful next year with a deeper offensive line and more young talent, fans may just have to deal with him for a while. In the meantime, get comfortable with occasional lapses of creativity and whatever else people hate him for.
4. The offensive line
I am the furthest from an expert on offensive line play. I know Taylor Lewan won the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award and didn't give up a sack. After Schofield, we were young and inexperienced, and lost Joey Burzynski halfway through, but taking all that into account... it was still an ugly heaping mess of dumpster fire. And yet, the problem, whatever it is, may not be going away by next year. If Funk was the problem, word's out on that. If it was youth, we'll be even younger next year than this, with Lewan and Schofield graduating. If it's depth, or overall talent, then things are starting to look up. As great as Lewan was, I'll take the combination of five four-star offensive linemen in their second year on campus. But we won't know what ails the line for a little while.
5. We still don't know who we are.
This. This has been what's worried me, and I think what's helped get all the fans in a frenzy over our really bad November. Who is Hoke? Who is Borges? Can they coach... are they flawed in some way we didn't see before? We know who Lloyd Carr was; we know who Kobe is. Sports and celebrity give us a tinted window into more than these people's careers. And right now, at a time when Michigan is searching to find itself again, we are still in limbo. After going 11-2 his first fall here Hoke is 15-10 the two years after. Delayed transition? 15-10 should always be a gut-check for fans. Unfortunately, sometimes the only answer when you're in a bad spot is to keep trying to swim out of it. Then again, sometimes the answer is to change what you're doing.
6. Da'Shawn Hand
I hurt for a few days after Hand's November 14th decision, and not just because of all the possible jokes with Jake Butt and Mo Ways. Hand would have brought athleticism and star power to our D-line and given Greg Mattison a lot to work with. Hand and Peppers would have been a great duo, their matching would have been great publicity, and recruiting and defensive scheming and many other things would have been made easier by his presence. So, I guess that means we'll have to do it the hard way. That's fine too.
7. The state of the B1G
To be honest, I like the blue-collar nature of the Big Ten, I like the parity from teams 1 to 12, and I like the rivalry with the SEC. But until we get more teams in the Top 25 on a consistent basis, there will still be a perceived weakness in Midwest football. Michigan State and Ohio State are doing their part this year, and Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, and Iowa have shown the ability to beat anyone at any time. Also, the state of the BCS race is giving the Big Ten some air time that frankly has been missing for a while - nobody was even talking about us. Hopefully, things keep turning around, and somebody knocks the damn SEC off their perch.
8. Taylor Lewan vs. MSU
Taylor Lewan's facemask pull of 5-foot-10, 208-pound DB Isaiah Lewis wasn't necessary. It didn't prove a point. And it brought Michigan down a level. What was in Taylor Lewan's head in those two seconds, I don't know, but I doubt he protected his quarterback much as he claimed he was trying to do by going after a guy already on the ground. Not only did it give fodder to critics of Michigan (not very important), it set a bad example given he's a captain on our team. I hope he was honest about reconsidering his actions after the fact, something a little like, "next time, I'll pick on somebody my own size." Thanks, Taylor.
9. Amara Darboh
Remember when we thought we'd be relying on Gallon and Dileo, our two short guys? Receiving's worked out pretty well and should get brighter as time goes on, but it sure would have been nice having Darboh around this year to complement Gallon, Funchess, and Chesson. Darboh injured his foot (no details on how) ten days before the Central Michigan game, after impressing during camp. Still, injuries happen, and we'll have to wait another year to see what to expect from him.
10. Fitz going out with a whimper
Of course, 'a whimper' is still 646 yards, good for most on the team (by 25%). But Fitz lost his starting job by the end of the year (some would say too late) and will leave a missed legacy behind in his number 28. Back in 2011, he was a sophomore phenom notching 1,041 rushing yards and 5.6 yards per carry on the season. That number dropped to 4.0 last year (514 yards) and now 3.5 as a senior. Whether he enters the league, or just settles down somewhere and has a family, we wish him the best.