SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/08/2007 07:13:00 PM
Saturday Observations Part II
Oregon players ran circles around Michigan's sluggish defense all day.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- As you ponder the stunning, season-opening implosion of the Michigan football program –- one that now includes consecutive home losses to start a season for the first time since 1959 –- know this: The downfall began long before last week’s loss to Appalachian State.
Masked by three Rose Bowl appearances over the past four years and largely undetectable to the outside observer, a crisis was brewing within the Wolverines’ program, one that’s become painfully obvious over Michigan’s current four-game losing streak to Ohio State (42-39), USC (32-18), Appalachian State (34-32) and now, in the most humiliating edition yet, Oregon (39-7).
I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not privy to the Michigan coaching staff’s meeting rooms or recruiting sessions, but somehow, one of the nation’s most prestigious programs failed to adjust to the prevailing trends in college football -- mainly speed and spread -- and is now paying the price for it in embarrassing fashion. Whether it’s a matter of misfiring in recruiting, stubbornly clinging to outdated schemes, or both, the fact is the Wolverines’ defense has now been severely outclassed in four consecutive outings by four opponents who possessed one common characteristic: offensive playmakers.
From Troy Smith lining up in the shotgun and picking his choice of open receivers to USC wideouts Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett teeing off on the Wolverines’ cornerbacks to Appalachian State’s Armanti Edwards-Dexter Jackson tandem shredding them down the middle to Oregon’s Dennis Dixon finding one receiver after another wide open downfield, it’s like having the same nightmare every night if you’re a Michigan fan. And this isn’t exactly a new development. Michigan exhibited similar defensive problems as far back as 2003, when the Wolverines lost at Oregon and suffered the first of two Rose Bowl blowouts to USC. Then there was Vince Young in the following year’s Rose Bowl. And Troy Smith, Troy Smith, Troy Smith.
Obviously, however, it’s never been as bad as it is now. In fact Michigan fielded one of the most dominant defenses in the country through 11 games last season, largely on the strength of its overpowering front four. But the key cogs of that line (LaMarr Woodley and Alan Branch) are now gone, as is star cornerback Leon Hall and several other veterans, and so far, their replacements have simply looked lost. Saturday, they allowed 630 yards to Dixon, Jonathan Stewart and the Ducks. Michigan’s misery was further compounded by injuries to QB Chad Henne and RB Mike Hart in what had to be the longest three hours of Wolverines fans' lives since ... well, last week.
This astonishing turn of events will serve as an almost certain precursor to a regime change in Ann Arbor by the end of the season. It happens in college football all the time -- just not usually at Michigan. The most obvious parallel is Nebraska’s fall from grace circa 2001, when the Huskers won their first 11 games, then got crushed by Colorado and Miami to end the season, fell to an unthinkable 7-7 the next year and replaced Frank Solich a year after that. Like Michigan, Nebraska’s slide did not happen overnight; it was the culmination of years of recruiting mistakes. Ditto Miami’s tumble under Larry Coker (with the 40-3 Peach Bowl loss serving as its “Appalachian State”).
The sad part of Michigan’s crisis is that a great group of seniors (Hart, Henne, Jake Long) got caught in it. It will be interesting to see how they handle the rest of what is quickly turning into an unsalvageable season.
∙ Speaking of regime changes (sort of), Florida State is currently providing further confirmation that its issues are a little too deep-rooted for Jimbo Fisher to quickly fix. UAB took a 17-10 lead to the locker room against the ‘Noles, due in large part to two FSU turnovers.
∙ So much for USC’s “soft” Pac-10 schedule. No conference in the country has done more to help its credibility so far (Oregon State notwithstanding), thanks not only to Cal’s win over Tennessee and Oregon’s impressive display in Ann Arbor but Washington’s 24-10 victory over Boise State on Saturday, snapping the Broncos’ 14-game winning streak. Redshirt freshman QB Jake Locker put on another impressive display, throwing for 194 yards and rushing for another 84. If Tyrone Willingham’s team doesn’t crack the Top 25, it certainly will if it pulls off another upset next week against Ohio State.
That was certainly a beat-down. I wonder why Dixon wasn't that accurate last year, but his long passes today were right on the money. I also wonder why the horse-collar tackle is not illegal in college football. It seemed to me that part of Michigan's tackling woes were because they relied on that dangerous tactic. Anyone know?
Dixon always had the talent but was too inconsistent. I'm not sure if the new Off. Coordinator makes all the difference. But it's also too early to say for sure if Dixon has changed for good. Today looked like more like spring training...
I love it!!! Being a Michigan State fan, life does not get much better than this. We're 2-0, the big bad Wolverines, 0-2 in the BIG HOUSE! What a joke. Yeah I am gloating and I know it is so far from over for my Spartans, but to see Michigan and all of its arrogant fans and alumni get humbled on national TV twice in two weeks is simply priceless!
It's not even the injuries to Hart and Henne, because this game was long over by the time those injuries happened. In fact, even though freshman Ryan Mallett showed he was clearly not ready to take the reigns just yet, Henne was awful for the second consecutive week. His first quarter interception, into double coverage, in the end-zone, was inexcusable. He has regressed from a senior leader to a redshirt freshman overnight. It's unbelievable.
Unbelievable is the right word. Here in Oregon everyone was thinking that last week's App. State upset was the last thing we needed. But while the Ducks played slightly better than last week (at least the mistakes occurred this time when it was essentially over), Michigan indeed seems to have regressed...
The Nebraska fall from grace is apropos but it misses the issue of Nebraska's first 'fall'. Tom Osborne needed the 1990s to realize that speed on defense, along with a triple option, was the missing link. Once speed was recruited in the defensive backfield and the Blackshirts could crack down to man-to-man, the running game became more pertinent. Stewart is dead-on with the Nebraska downfall but this isn't quite the same version - this isn't a new coach but a coach that hasn't seen the change.
Hey Stu...all this talk about Michigan with almost no props (read ALMOST...you did give 'em a single line) to Oregon for taking the Wolverines behind the woodshed there. Michigan played pretty poorly but Oregon also played VERY well. Credit where it's due.
I see Mike Hart is already "guaranteeing" a win next week....has he SEEN the last two games? Are they playing a flag football team? Oregon fumbled on Michigan's 10, didn't score from the 2 and missed a field goal...it should have been 56-7!!!
Congratulations Ducks and Mountaineers -- you both put a good old fashion whoopin' on us and deserve to win. This is one Meechigan fan who does not get arrogant when we win or whiny when we lose. I always said you can't judge a fan by how the cheer when the team is doing well, but how they stand behind them when they lose. So if being proud of forty straight years of success (last losing season 1967) is perceived as being arrogant, so be it. And this may still turn out to be season 41. But if Mandel is right and a regime change is coming after the season, then I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lloyd Carr for everything he has done to keep the Michigan tradition going, and for the class and integrity he has shown throughout the years. GO BLUE!
Congratulations to the Ducks on an impressive performance before a national audience. We still have some more proving to get the NBC crew to recognize the class, sportsmanship and outstanding demonstration Oregon sports team do when they could put some wind beneath the scoreboard's sails and run it up. Just like Oregon State's Baseball team, both programs showed class, stellar personal significance to the win and avoided any facial boasting, hype or woofing in Michigan's face. Michigan's program is deep in tradition, class and first class coaches. I hope you heard the story Lloyd Carr shared about his daughter and the elementary school boy's question about how he was handling things. What a class and teachable comment back to the boy. In recognizing this win, Oregon, please continue to be a class act because you know that you represent the state and a wonderful culture of sports and how they should be demonstrated and revealed when times are good. Go Ducks! Good Luck Wolverines!
Oregon totally dominated Michigan...and the Wolverines are not an untalented team. They didn't just lose that game, they got beat by a pretty good team. Why not talk about the Ducks re-emergence these last couple weeks? How about a little self-effacing surprise that the Ducks not only won that game, they dominated from the 2nd quarter on. That score could have been a lot higher but for a couple of drops by Jaison Williams. Where's the love Mandel?
Michigan fans have been saying for 4 years that the game has passed Carr by, and he needs to go. Like Stewart says, it was masked by the Big 10 titles and Rose Bowl trips, but it's definitely out in the open again. Remember, Carr is a direct link to Bo, and he still coaches like Bo.
I agree, as a Michigan State fan, it doesn't get much better. I think UM lacks dicipline. They were 3 scores down and still getting in the Ducks faces after every play. Arrogance. And to see ALL the sad faces in the Little House was simply priceless.
So trouble has been brewing in Ann Arbor since the Ohio State game last season, but only "insiders" have been able to detect it until now? If this isn't a case of hind sight being 20-20, I don't know what is. Weren't these same insiders calling for a Michigan - OSU re-match in the championship game AFTER that loss? Let's be honest sports journalists, nobody saw this coming until last week, hence Michigan's pre-season #5 ranking.
Can Michigan shut down the offensive juggernaut called Notre Dame? Can Notre Dame take advantage of the lack of the senior Woverine? This game which of course will be nationally televised should be dubbed the "Toilet Bowl". Jim
The PAC-10 is looking great so far, with the exception of Oregon St., also the Big East is looking great so far with the exception of Syracuse. USF is up 14-10 on Auburn as I write this. While they may or may not win, the fact that a middle of the pack Big East team is leading an SEC title contender in the 2nd Qtr should mean something. Big East and PAC-10 continue to not get the respect that, for example, the ACC gets. That is all changing. Watch in a few weeks, UConn Vs. UVA. That game will show you what the real deal is. A "traditional" football school in UVA will loose to one of the Big East upstarts, mark that down.
Firstly : to all of you Big Ten Fans taking pleasure in Michigan's loss, shame on you. The university of Michigan has been a crown in the Big Ten for years, and has also generated revenure through TV/Bowl appearances that have supported your school. Out of conference losses for any big ten team is just bad for all of us. Especially for you MSU fans, I went to both UM and MSU and love them both; hasn't the State of Michigan suffered enough with job lay offs etc, horrible economy, to gloat about seeing upset michigan people.... especially in SE michigan?...we are all michiganders.have a heart. secondly, it is obvious that michigan has serious problems with its infrastructure and coaching, this is lloyds last year. Michigan is the winningest team in football, and will arise once again... its a shame we had to sacrifice some talented seniors to achieve this. Things happen very slowly in ann arbor, until games like this happen.A final word : Be very careful how much you gloat this year, you have know idea what the new coaching staff will do next year. GO BLUE!
Wow - I'm a 2 time Michigan grad and have been an absolute hard-core backer of Lloyd Carr, but I will admit I was flat-out wrong. We need a complete regime change. I'm starting to think that Bo was actually coaching, and that once he died, so did the program. Cowher would be the perfect fit or Miles, but it needs to happen immediately before we go 0-12.
i am a michigan fan, and have been aware of this problem since the 2005 rose bowl when it was the vince young vs braylon edwards show. too bad braylon couldn't touch the ball evry play like VY. but since that game and the adjustments ohio state made, by recruting faster players, michigan would be able to follow. as far as i can tell michigan recruits power running backs, towering pocket passers - who couldnt scrambe five yards if the game was depended on it, and run stuffing Lb's. they have doen a great job with speed with Wr's. but i mean morgan trent must be the worst cornerback to start at michigan..EVER. but hopefully they will start recruting fast players at evrey position and start winning...again, but most importantly winning big games like osu and bowl games.
If I read one more comment about the "arrogance" of Michigan fans I will be sick. Much in the same way that the players who are constantly labeled under-rated eventually become over-rated due to everyone touting their unheralded virtues, fans of MSU, OSU, and all the other schools who trip over themselves to point out Michigan fans' arrogance are truly the lowest common denominator. Just because it is harder to succeed academically at Michigan than at MSU and OSU does not make all of us Michigan fans arrogant.
I agree that we need to remember our poise and sportsmanship and not trash the opponent. We all know how it feels to be on the receiving end of ridicule, embarassement. Please Oregon fans, lets keep our reputation as good sports, clean players and proud Oregon Ducks!!!
To all of the people out there that keep touting a "potential" rather hypothetical 56-7 victory, did you forget our 6 trips to the red zone in the first half? That alone is 42 "potential" points. This is not to take anything away from APP state or Oregon, they played very well, and michigan did play poorly....thats a bad combo no matter who you're playing against. I think nationally, everyone who remotely watches football, knows that michigan struggles against mobile anything! I concur with the posts saying this is a long time coming. As a ticket holder at the BIG HOUSE, we see it in every game that should be won by 20-30 points, only being won by a single touchdown or an overtime field goal against an obviously sub-par opponent. For all you spartan fans out there....shut up, you all are like an annoying little brother that doesnt get enough attention, but howl when big, badass, more popular, successful and just plain better older brother gets in trouble. My hat's off to APP state, Oregon, and unfortunately osu, they actually beat michigan. They can talk a little, but like Lee Corso said today, this kind of thing happens once in ten thousand years....enjoy it....because BIG BLUE is still number 1 all time. osu is still down in the all time series by a significant number. As for the little sparties, you're 2-0...WOW How did last season turn out once you hit the real schedule? 4-0 became 5-7 or was it 6-6 by the end? Nope I was wrong...4-8!! So, once again, take a time out in the corner and keep your nose on the wall. MIchigan will be back, fear not all faithful. They will adapt and overcome! They will be Valiant once again!! GO BLUE
Congratulations to the Ducks and Mountaineers! I am a Tennessee resident who grew up in Ohio and I've always highly respected Michigan's programs in academics and sports as some of the country's best and they are by most measures. There has been a seachange in college football recruiting and coaching and the Michigan administration suffers from some old fashioned values like tradition and loyalty. Lloyd Carr will remorsefully stand aside after this year and new staff will take the reins. I feel for the seniors who will have a tough year and remorse for years to come. Still a great college degree to have. I pity those who take pleasure in the program's weaknesses just the same that one should celebrate a success without gloating. Go Blue!
I love it!! Mandel is spot-on here. However, he should have included the entire Big 10 in his observations, as well as ND. The Big 10 (and ND) have been waaaay overrated for many, many years. The SEC rules college football -- no question. (With the PAC-10 a close second.) Was anyone genuinely surprised with what Florida did to Ohio State last year for the national championship?! Or with what LSU did to ND?! We'd see similar results, weekend after weekend, if the SEC and Big-10 played each other on a regular basis. To make things a little more interesting this coming bowl season, let's hope we see more match-ups between the SEC and PAC-10, and, in the future, let's hope the PAC-10 cuts its ties with the usually irrelevant (and terribly boring) Rose Bowl.
Congrats to the mountaineers and the ducks. I am a die hard wolverine. Yes we have seen the writing on the wall for awhile. Just like all those games that Cooper lost when he was the coach of the nut team you all know the buckeyes. I have been given flack about my name tag at work. But you know what I will still keep my u of m plate on my large scarlet and gray pickup. Either you are a true fan through good times and bad. Or you are a fly by night fan. Only cheer when we win. We will win again. An I will continue to cheer on my team. Oh by the way I was raised in Ohio. GO BLUE
as a life-long Michigan fan (all sports) it is sad that the schools has NO pride in the athletics any more they think the Name alone will win & they do not recruit well in ANY sport nor do their teams have discipline. well except for the womens softball team. after the fab 5 & after Tressel got to Ohio State fall & winter sports seem to take an ETERNITY CTG Lancaster,Oh
The worst part of the game for me was when Padilla(Oregon) missed that field goal. I really wanted the Ducks to top 40. And whoever said the wolverines have class, did anyone else see when Michigan's Matthews kicked Oregon's Harper? I didn't know he was in 3rd grade. And for that part, when Jeremiah Johnson came out after half time and took a sledge hammer to the "M" at the 50. Oh well, I'm extremely pleased with the Ducks D. GO DUCKS!
Fab 5?! I cannot believe you'd even acknowledge that team, those players (or their coach)! I may be mistaken, but I believe the subsequently disclosed story behind the recruiting, treatment, etc. of that group was the beginning of the end for Michigan hoops. The real Fab 5 or 6 played (and won) the national championship in '06 and '07!
As someone who bleeds blue (or has at least cried it the past two weeks) it's time to realize what's happend to the winningest, most consistent college football program. For the past few years, the coaching hasn't gotten worse, but they have stuck to their philisophy of Michigan has better talent, so stay basic. When Michigan has the talent, that philosophy works great, but if they're injured or playing equally talented teams, it doesn't work. The problem with this year's squad is a complete lack of talent. Who on that defense is ever going to the NFL? Now, with this lack of talent, the vanilla coaching is even more exposed. Who's to blame for the lack of talent? It has to be the coaches who recruit the players, but everyone else was fooled by a lot of these recruits too or UM wouldn't have top 10 recruiting classes every year.
Michigan needs a new head coach who has passion, understands defense, and has Big Ten experience. The best man for the job (if you can get over him being a Buckeye alum) is Bo Pelini. He runs a dominant D for LSU and is overdue for the top job. Nebraska should have snapped him up instead of Callahan.
Funniest thing said today, post-UM-defeat, is Mike Hart "guaranteeing" a win over Notre Dame next week. Mike, you're guaranteeing a win over a winless team that's been outscored 64-13 and hasn't scored an offensive TD in its first 2 games. And a team starting a true frosh at QB. There are juco teams that could beat ND this year.
The season could not be off to a better start. I find it really refreshing to see a lot of the really familiar and arrogant programs brought down to earth. It is good for college football to have Michigan, Notre Dame and Miami eat some humble pie for awhile.
First, I am not a MI fan....but, it is still completely conceivable that Mi can win the BIG10 and play in a BCS game. Look at the performances of the rest of the conf...WI barely beats UNLV, OSU with a 20-2 win over Akron? Even PSU's victory over ND doesn't look so good at home compared to GT's 33-3 drubbing of ND on the road. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the BIG10 season plays out, but if the game has passed MI by, it's looking in the rear view mirror at the rest of the BIG10 too.
For you Ohio State and Michigan State taking delight in Michigan's woes...don't get too comfy. Hey, don't the Buckeyes play Washington of the Pac 10 next week? Duh, duh-duh-duh. Oh, by the way, Cal will see whatever cream puff you care to send to Pasadena this year.
I knew Oregon would win this game before the game ever started. I had seen Michigan players interviewed during the past week, and then some other interviews just before game time, and this was a team that was hanging their heads after last weeks App. State loss. That is not the way championship teams react to an unexpected loss or a bad performance. They should have been loaded for bear, screaming, foaming at the mouth and getting ready to kick some serious ass. That didn't happen, and THAT is the fault of the coaching staff. THEY let the Michigan team feel sorry about itself all week; they let them wonder where they were really any good, and so the team came into the game with a loser's attitude. I think that, more than Carr's emphasis on weight and power instead of speed, was the fatal flaw in the Michigan team.
It has been tough the last few weeks watching and reading all the struggles in AA. While I will give Props to the Ducks because they played one great game today, I was a little taken back by the fact that they left their starting units in so late into the fourth quarter. I had a few Duck fans near me at the game today and they always talked about "Pac-10" offense, but i didnt know that "Pac-10" style football meant running up the score and showing no class. You have a team beaten, they are playing a freshman QB starting the second half, is there a reason why you are running a no-huddle offense and playing hurry up football? I wont lie when i say that i really wanted one of michigan's safty's to just lay a monster hit on dixon as he scrambled out. Just as Dixon was going out of bounds, just give him a helmet to helmet shot and send a message. But i realized that would show Michigan had no less class then Oregon. Well i tell Oregon fans that their team played well, for all the fans that were rubbing it in to the Michigan fans, and to the coaching staff for trying to run up the score, i hope the Trojans come in and lay 70 on you team and send you the same message you tried to give the Wolverines
I am SOOOO tired o hearing about the Big Ten and PAC 10 being more physical than he PAC 10 blah blah blah. Well, after Cal destroyed Tennessee and Oregon wiped up the Winerines,the fallacy is disproved again. shut up. Every year the PAC 10 has the advantage in winning %age in inter congerence play over every conference. The PAC 10 is as good as any conference in football and overall. Also, which conference has won more national titles than any other? Yep, you guessed it.
Oregon once again showed the superiority of the PAC 10 over the Big 10. Even though the tv talking heads, print media, radio babblers, and fans continue to believe this is not the case, the data show otherwise. Read'em and weep, BT fans. The PAC 10 owns you. Also, Cal crushing TN and Washington, maybe the weakest team in the league the experts said, beats Fresno St, who had the longest winning streak in the nation! This all shows again how strong the PAC 10 is this and every year. Look at the data. Finally, UNLV should have beaten Big 10 "power" Wisconsin tonight but lost in the final minute. And, UNLV is terrble, according to the "experts".
Dave: Oregon ran up the score? Went into a no-huddle offense? Did you even watch the game?
Oregon ran the ball straight up the middle on 4th-and-goal specifically to AVOID running up the score. Best I could tell Michigan left its starting units on the field the whole game, except for replacing an "injured" Henne (who I suspect just gave up and wanted no further part of that debacle).
And Oregon ran a no-huddle the entire game. It's what the do. It's not "hurry up," but it doesn't give defenses much time to prepare. But that was nothing new.
In any event, Oregon clearly shifted into neutral during the second half and wound up running the 2nd and 3rd teams for most o f the 4th quarter. (And THEY couldn't be stopped). It's only because Oregon had class (apparently more than you) that they didn't lay 70+ on the Woefulrines.
Stewart has Michigan's problems nailed: they and the rest of the Big-10 still want to play a version of Woody/Paterno Ball while the other power conferences are placing a greater premium on speed and creating chaos for opponents. Michigan and Ohio State's bowl smack downs last January are a harbinger of things to come for the Big-10. Don't be surprised to see Wisconsin or Penn State run the table in the Big-10 and then suffer a similar fate against a Florida, LSU, or USC.
notre dame, michigan's next opponent has a slow defense-again, a rookie line-qb-and no running backs. if weiss is a genius-remember ty willinghams players made him look like that-brady quinn 3 pro recivers and a 4th if he wanted it and 3 d-players on pro rosters, are gone. there are no replacements because of the way ND's top brass got rid of willingham- who will probably crack the top 25 this week. UM wins this week because ND has less talent than UM at every position and far less than UM last 2
This speaks more of the preseason ranking system than anything, was Michigan really the #5 team in the county, was V.T #9, was Auburn, etc..etc..etc.. it would be more indictive of team strength if rankings were posted 3 or 4 weeks into the season. Also it would eliminate credit for beating an over-rated team.
Maybe it's time to retire those helmets. They no longer instill fear in opponents but only remind them they are are playing an old fashioned team still struggling to cover that newfangled innovation, the forward pass. As a Go Blue alum this stings a bit, but it's high time to leave the Bo era, as OSU has left the Woody era. These losses remind me of much lighter, much swifter Alabama running all over, around and through big, beefy Nebraska in the mid 1960s.
I am sick of the "lack of Big 10 speed" crap... Granted, Michigan didn't look great, but they were simply out of position and missed a ton of tackles. Speed might have something to do with it, but they didn't take care of the fundamentals.
By the way, while some Big 10 teams aren't up to their usual level, just remember that:
1. The Big Ten was 2-1 vs. the SEC in this past season's bowl games. 2. The Big Ten is 8-6 vs. the SEC in bowl games over the last five years
Everyone remembers OSU and UM getting beat, but I do remember my Lions beating Tennesee 20-10. Everyone gushes over Cal beating them at home, but they still gave up 31 points. The PAC-10 is a great conference, but defensively they're behind some other conferences. Cal almost got beat by Colorado State last night.
Finally, the SEC isn't the best thing since sliced break. Auburn lost at home (overated) and Georgia lost (overated). They have 2 great teams right now and the jury is still out on everyone else. I know this will spark criticism of what I write, but there's good and bad about every conference and you can spin it in your favor if you want. My final comment, wasn't it nice seeing ND get smacked again????
There are things more important than Championships. Integrity, pride and character matter, or should in this instant gratification mad world. Forget how or why this happened. It did. That is over. The season is over but adversity does not build character, it reveals it. I can't think of another coach better suited to find a meaningful lesson for these young men out of this experience. Being the Leaders and Best doesn't always mean winning on the field. Michigan has enough championships, records and stats to live off of this season and many others. What should matter to the program now is not whether they have victories but whether they are Victors.
As a Big Ten fan, this is embarassing. But to all the OSU gloaters, don't get too smug. I am as embarassed for the conference at Michigan's play this year as I was when you quit in the BCS title game last year.