I've long been a defender of Al Borges.
I think that the direction he and Hoke are taking the program is the right one. We have seen a great deal of progress from Devin Gardner and how the offense has looked with a system in which Borges is more comfortable.
We've seen the glimpses of the future.
All week long we've been hearing trash talk from Ohio State fans and how Urban Meyer is going to be Jim Tressel Redux, that Michigan has no chance of being competitive in this rivalry. As we saw in The Game 2012, that's not the case. Michigan and Ohio State were clearly both competitive.
The problem was that a few mistakes cost Michigan the game. The worst thing is that Michigan was right there. It wasn't like 2010 or 2009 or 2008 when we were all just kidding ourselves.
We know the critics are going to come out. "We never should have hired Brady Hoke." "We should never trust 'MANBALL' for anything. Spread offense forever." "Hoke is a joke."
Some of the criticism isn't justified. Some of it is.
Denard still didn't throw a single pass, an indicator that he's still injured. He had a big run that resulted in a touchdown that is now rendered completely meaningless because of the final score. Gardner was 11-for-20.
The playcall to run Vincent Smith on 3rd and 1 from the Michigan 45 when Ohio State stacked the box with 8 was obviously terrible. No one read the defense. No one audibled. No one saw that there were no safeties downfield. What does Borges do? What does Hoke do? Run it with Vincent Smith, and it didn't work.
I threw something I can't remember across the room. Probably the remote. If there was one moment when I absolutely disgusted with the offense, it was that.
You know things are bad when a Borges defender is saying Borges is going to get ripped. And he is. Borges is going to ripped something fierce.
Before the season, there were four games that people were saying Michigan was going to lose: Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ohio State. All on the road. All of them lost.
I had hoped that people would be wrong, that the progress that Hoke, Mattison, and Borges made in 2011 would carry over to 2012, with all the weapons we had on offense and all the emerging stars on defense.
More of the same? Michigan fails to step up? Ask again later.
Some things need to change. The offense has to go balls-out against Ohio State from now on. Leave it all on the field. In the entire game I think there were maybe the same 10 plays called. Where was Denard and Gardner on the field at the same time? What, did Borges outsmart himself again?
It's obviously very frustrating. It's frustrating because Michigan had a legitimate chance to win this game. Multiple chances. Ohio State was not and is not a world beater. They are 12-0 after barely escaping Cal, UAB, MSU, Indiana, and Purdue. And despite predictions they didn't exactly blow Michigan out.
Let's get to the big question: What does it all mean?
I honestly don't know. Can we honestly say that Meyer is Tressel Redux when this is arguably the worst 12-0 team in the FBS and they're still graduating something like 25 seniors? Can we honestly say that Hoke has no clue what he's doing when Michigan hasn't given up 200 passing yards a game all year, including against Ohio State?
The problem is not defense. The problem was offense. How things have changed since Rich Rodriguez.
The offense is by no means inept; they just haven't been able to capitalize on opportunities in huge games when they absolutely needed to. Despite numerous three-and-outs and Ohio State turnovers, Michigan did not score any points in the second half.
I really don't know where Michigan goes from here. I mean, I kind of do, but not really. I've talked to some optimists, and they're like, "Borges will learn from this. Hoke will learn from this. Bo lost to Ohio in his second year too," and I just don't know. That's what everyone said about Rodriguez for three years.
Borges has shown an excellent ability to adapt (see Michigan offense, 2011) and yet a propensity to fall back on tendencies that don't work. You don't run the ball on 3rd and 1 when Ohio State stacks the box with 8 and you don't have a legit running back. You can't run it down Ohio State's throat when you can't run.
There may be some people who will find this difficult to hear, but Borges isn't going anywhere. He will be Michigan's OC for at least four-five more years, unless a bigger opportunity comes along.
He isn't a terrible OC. He likes to rely on great talent, which means that onus is on Michigan's staff to hit the recruiting trail hard. So far they have.
So, optimism? Ask again later.
Borges may not be a terrible OC, but he has to get more bold in big games. I know Hoke preaches toughness and running the football, but you have to realize what's working and what isn't. Going conservative isn't bad... when you've got the lead.
Whenever I listen to Borges in press conferences, I feel like he's an incredibly smart guy. He knows what he's got. He knows what he has to do to win. So I'm not entirely ready to pass the verdict on him just yet, even if some other people are.
Going forward, you can be sure there are going to be more questions than answers. Borges has a lot to answer for.
I'll be curious to hear what he has to say.