It's the third year of the Brady Hoke era, and it's definitely an "era." When we spoke of RichRod, it was often referred to as the "experiment," as in " we are in the third year of The RichRod experiment." That's the difference between respect and disrespect. That's the difference between "get us back to where we were" and "take us somewhere new."
Coach Hoke speaks of 2012 as a failure, and minus the Sparty game, which was basically snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, I couldn't agree more. It took 400+ all-purpose from Denard to stave off Air Force in the Big House. And figure in a different result for the Northwestern game, where it took a miracle to force overtime, and you've got yourself a colossal failure of a season, like under-.500-did-we-make-a-huge-mistake-hiring-hoke style colossal. But Brady and the boys hit the magic number, eight wins. Eight wins was good enough for Lloyd to maintain status quo, and it will be enough for Coach Hoke. I think we're reaching that point where we're going to settle in on 8-5, 9-4, 10-3, and the occasional 11-2, perhaps leaning towards the latter two in this weak conference, at least in the near future, and of course adding on a win here or a loss there depending on Big Ten championship game participation. This is where we live. A couple losses we shouldn't get, another that wasn't so unexpected, and maybe a win or two to be proud of. Copy-paste 2014, copy-paste 2015, copy-paste 1994.
The whole idea of this (albeit successful by comparison to the rest of the football world) middle ground has me yawning this morning. There's got to be something more. I guess our buddies down at Notre Dame proved that something can come of this. Once in a while, something magical happens. You see, being good can only get you so far when you're like us. Alabama can march into the final game of the season undefeated because they have Ivan Drago like superiority, both in coaching and in on-field talent. Sure they have to cheat and sign 40 recruits to "scholarships" each year to make it happen. But hey, playing by the rules only gets you so far. It takes luck to make a team that historically posts three or four losses every year into a National Championship participant. Injuries, playing teams at the right time, flukes, weird calls, and hot hands all play a part in getting a team to the summit.
Our 8-5 squad, the one that could have easily gone 6-7, was every bit as good as Notre Dame. It took a seemingly endless amount of Denard interceptions...and one Vinnie Smith one (yep, still pissed Al)....to literally force the Irish to beat Michigan in South Bend. That means we were good enough to do what ND did, which is, um, somewhat participate in that last game of the year (which consequently we had already participated in for the first game of the year).
I dream that someday we can make the jump, from this middle area to the elite area. And I'm not talking about for a season, though one season is a start. The recruiting classes seem to indicate that we're heading in that direction I guess, but I'm more interested in what we do with that elite talent, how we develop it. We seem to be historically good at taking low level athletes (or at least unsung ones) and turning them into great players. Braylon Edwards, Jordan Kovacs...guys like that. I always felt that those great classes that Lloyd brought in under performed once they were here. I also felt like the ratings of players got bumped once they were on our radar, resulting in inflated star ratings for recruiting classes. I think that still goes on, for both us and ND. But anyway, it is rare that we get some 5-star dude and have him become a, well, 6-star dude. And there's 6-star dudes everywhere now. Freshman lead teams. Johnny Football won a Heisman (and signed a shit-ton of autographs for money).
"I believe the children are our future." - Randy Watson
I'm feeling this is getting verbose. Let's talk about this season real quick, eh?
What I like:
- Playing Notre Dame (because it's at home, and it's for revenge, and because they suck,and it's under the lights part deux)
- Devin Gardner is a better quarterback in the traditional sense of quarterbacking-ness, and had to play a bunch because Denard got so Denarded he hurt himself ...and Russell Bellomy went all fetal-position in Lincoln.
- UCONN: They are done being good and pre-Big Ten East Coast games > West Coast games.
- The offensive line is better than last year. How do I know? Because the offensive line is always better than last year when you are in a Hoke/Carr/Moeller/Schembechler system.
- I don't care if he can't block for shit, I love Devin Funchess, and the '97 waggle is going to be in full effect.
- Ohio at home means there's a chance
What I am concerned about:
- Devin Gardner is not Denard, and Denard was so Denard.
- Fitz is at the top of the running back depth chart, and he is coming off a broken leg...and wasn't doing so well before that anyway.
- At Northwestern
- Lots of Late Kick Offs + Alcohol + Old tailgaters = Ambulances
- We are in year three of returning to being a "Michigan" defense, so I'm expecting us to have all kinds of trouble containing mobile quarterbacks....like Braxton Miller.
- At Sparty
- Being At Iowa and accidentally looking ahead OSU while they are rallying to save Kirk's job
Wins: CMU, ND, Akron, @UCONN, Minny, @PSU, IU
Bubble: @MSU, Neb, @NW, @Iowa, OSU
Thinking analytically...we don't lose at home under Hoke, so that moves Nebraska and OSU to the win column. That leaves @ MSU, @NW, and @Iowa on the bubble, splitting those to the bad side gives us two losses on the season and secures a legends championship. We will head to the B10 Championship Game and beat Wisconsin and their new coach, making us 11-2. That will be good enough for a Rose Bowl bid, and will leave us wondering what could have been had we not lost to (fill in the blank). As an aside, me from 10 years ago called and says we're going 14-0 and winning the National Championship. Because we typically win National Championships in the year before the system to determine the National Champion is changed.
That is all.