Posts Tagged ‘Jim Harbaugh’
It’s no secret that Denard Robinson had a bad game against Michigan State on Saturday or that his passing has not shown much improvement since last season. He went 9-for-24 last Saturday, lowering his season completion rate to 53.9 percent, and threw an interception to raise his season total to a nation-leading 11. Michigan fans across the spectrum are clamoring for Devin Gardner to replace him. So why is this guy still the starting quarterback at Michigan?
The answer, in short, is because by the time he hangs up his jersey for the last time, Denard will be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever don the maize and blue. You may scoff at that claim, given the number of signal-callers Michigan has sent to the NFL, but it depends on what your definition of quarterback is.
Is he the best pure, NFL-ready quarterback? No. There are probably a dozen Michigan alums that were better true pro-style quarterbacks. But college football is chalk full of effective quarterbacks who aren’t NFL-style QBs. Denard is one of the best, and the same can be said for his place in the history of college football’s all-time winningest program.
Don’t agree? Look at the numbers. He’s a year-and-a-half into his career as a starter and he already ranks in the top 10 in nearly every major offensive category, both passing and rushing.
Michigan has fielded 132 teams since the football program began in 1879. It has a history as rich as any school in the country. There have been some phenomenal players to take the field, but none have the statistical resume Robinson will have when he graduates.
Putting stats aside for a minute, the main metrics in which any player is judged – and rightfully so – are winning games, winning championships, and beating rivals. Right now, Denard trails in all three, but he’s not as far behind the greats as one would think.
He has a current record of 13-7 as a starting quarterback through his first 20 games. By contrast, Chad Henne and John Navarre were each 14-6, and Tom Brady and Elvis Grbac were 15-5. Brian Griese was 16-4 thanks to the national championship season of 1997, and Jim Harbaugh was 16-3-1. As you can see, Denard’s not far behind the recent greats in the win category. However, judging a quarterback by winning games alone is somewhat misleading unless you look at the talent he has around him.
Henne had probably the best crop of playmakers of any Michigan quarterback, with Braylon Edwards, Steve Breaston, Mario Manningham, and Adrian Arrington to throw to, Mike Hart to hand off to, and an NFL No. 1 overall pick, Jake Long, protecting him. Navarre had David Terrelle and Marquise Walker to throw to and Anthony Thomas and Chris Perry to hand off to. Griese had Amani Toomer, Tim Biakabatuka, Tai Streets, an NFL offensive line, and one of the greatest defenses of all time. Grbac had Desmond Howard, Derrick Alexander, and Ricky Powers.
Denard has some talent around him, but right now it pales in comparison to what Henne, Navarre, Griese, and Grbac had. Every single one of those above played or are playing in the NFL. How many of Denard’s current supporting cast will make it to the league?
Now that we’ve established that Denard is right on pace in the win category, lets move on to winning championships. If we’re talking national championships, then only Brian Griese can count in the modern era. We would have to go all the way back to Pete Elliott in 1948 to find the last Michigan quarterback to lay claim to that.
If we’re talking Big Ten championships, then Denard has some work to do. Henne started four years but won just one Big Ten title. Denard still has a chance –albeit slight – to achieve that this season. He also has a year left. Brady, Griese, and Harbaugh each also won one. Navarre won two, although one was in 2000 when he started just four games and split time with Drew Henson.
How about beating rivals? This has a chance to be Denard’s strongest comparison but just like winning games, this takes help. He has beaten Notre Dame both times he’s faced them – and did it almost singlehandedly each time. He’s lost twice to Michigan State and is 0-1 against Ohio State with a chance to even that record at the end of November. That would pull him to 3-3 against rivals, and with a sweep in 2012, he could get to 6-3. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Since he will play nine career rivalry games, barring injury, he’ll either finish with a winning or losing record in those games.
Henne went 5-6 (4-0 against Michigan State, 1-2 against Notre Dame, but 0-4 against Ohio State). Navarre went 4-4 (2-1 against Michigan State, 1-1 against Notre Dame, and 1-2 against Ohio State). Griese was 4-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 1-0 against Notre Dame, and 0-1 against Michigan State). Grbac was 5-2-1 (2-0 against Ohio State, 2-1 against Michigan State, and 1-2-1 against Notre Dame). Harbaugh went 6-1 (2-0 against both Ohio State and Notre Dame, and 2-1 against Michigan State).
So by that measure, Harbaugh, Grbac, and Griese lead, but again, Denard still has a chance to achieve a winning record, which Henne and Navarre couldn’t. Only Henne had a losing record, so Denard will have to avoid doing that.
Stats-wise, Denard currently ranks 9th in career completions (272), 10th in passing yards (4,011), 9th in touchdown passes (31), 9th in 100-yard passing games (14), and 6th in 200-yard passing games (9). He also has the second-best single-game completion percentage, with his 86.3 percent performance against UConn last season, he currently ranks 5th in career completion percentage (59.9), just ahead of Henne, and 4th in career efficiency rating (145.9), ahead of both Henne and Brady. Last season’s 2,570 passing yards was the 7th-best season total in Michigan history.
By the time his career is over, Denard should conceivably rank third or fourth in every major passing category, behind only Henne and Navarre.
Rushing-wise, he’s like no other Michigan has seen. Michigan has had some agile quarterbacks, but none put up anywhere close to the rushing numbers he has so far, partially because they all had solid running backs alongside them. Denard is already second in Big Ten history for quarterback rushing yards, trailing only Illinois’ Juice Williams, and he’s just 1,080 away from passing Williams.
He currently ranks 10th in Michigan career rushing yards (2,815) and career rushing touchdowns (28). Those numbers are for any Michigan player, not just quarterbacks. He also has the highest career yards-per carry average (6.49), the 4th-best single season yardage total (1,702), and the 5th-best single game total (258). Last week, he passed Tim Biakabatuka in yards. By the time his career is over, he’ll likely rank in the top four in yards and top two or three in touchdowns.
So buckle up Michigan fans, because right now we’re witnessing one of the most prolific Michigan quarterbacks of all time, whether you like his style or not. After he graduates, Michigan will likely go back to the NFL-style signal-caller, and years from now, we’ll all look back with reverence at the Michigan legend that was Denard Robinson. Let’s put to rest the calls for Gardner.
Well, to make what might be the understatement of the year for Michigan fans, that was painful. It was fun for about the first four minutes and four seconds when Denard Robinson led Michigan right down the field for an impressive touchdown. Then Mississippi State got the ball and the game was over. The Bulldogs spotted Michigan another touchdown and then proceeded to run up 42 straight points including a 31 yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-10 with a 31-point lead and 10 minutes left.
Against Ohio State or Michigan State or Wisconsin I might have been mad. But Mississippi State put on a clinic, making me envious of a fast, talented, well-coached defense. A defense that sees what the opponent’s offense is doing and makes changes to counter it. Must be nice.
Instead, I saw a Michigan defense that was consistently out of place, running from the sideline at the last second before a snap, players running across the field not knowing where to line up, and having absolutely no clue how to stop an opponent it got five weeks to prepare for. An opponent that didn’t score that many points in a game all season, including against the powerhouses of Memphis, Alcorn State, Houston, and UAB.
If Michigan could play entire games solely on offense or if football games were just 15 minutes long, Michigan might be national champions. Unfortunately, defense is half the game and games are 60 minutes long. Michigan dominated the first quarter this season, outscoring opponents 122-64. But once things settled down, we saw week after week that opposing coaches were able to make changes and Michigan’s weren’t. In second quarters this season, Michigan was outscored 194-83.
All season long, I’ve publicly supported Rich Rodriguez getting a fourth year. At this point, I’m as close to changing my mind as I have been all year. After the loss to Penn State on Oct. 30, I created the Rich Rod-ometer which showed my level of acceptance with the coach at an all-time low. Now, if I were to show an updated version, there would be just a tiny sliver of white on the right-hand side.
It’s not that I want Michigan AD Dave Brandon to let Rodriguez go; I still do think he can produce some great teams here and is headed in the right direction. But I also think that something needs to change. And that something is the defense. For the second year in Rodriguez’s three seasons Michigan allowed more points than its offense scored. The last time that happened was 1967.
My opinion is that Brandon should put up as much money as it takes to get the best defensive coordinator he can possibly get, ideally West Virginia DC Jeff Casteel. I think the perception that Rodriguez doesn’t care about defense is false. He’s definitely an offensive-minded coach, but he had good defenses in Morgantown when Casteel was on his staff. Due to a mixture of lack of talent, youth, bad luck, and a poor fit with Greg Robinson, Michigan’s defense has regressed each of the past three seasons.
Yes, you can blame Rodriguez for hiring Robinson, but it’s not like he was an unproven no-name defensive coordinator. He had some credentials and two Super Bowl rings to prove it. Whether it was injuries, youth, or being forced to run Rodriguez’s 3-3-5 (I’m sure it was a combination of the three), he just didn’t work out. And now he should be shown the door where he will undoubtedly succeed somewhere else.
With nearly every defensive starter returning and getting senior cornerback Troy Woolfolk back from injury, this defense could be much improved next season, especially under Casteel or another top-notch coordinator. If it’s even average, it could be enough for a Big Ten title run next season with the talent returning on offense.
I admit that I am intrigued by the thought of Jim Harbaugh replacing Rodriguez, but I still don’t think it will yield short-term results. Harbaugh will give fans, alumni, and boosters a “Michigan Man” at the helm and he will add some fire to the Ohio State game. But he also presents a philosophy shift back to where Michigan was three years ago. All progress from the past three years will be lost and another period of growing pains will ensue. Denard will probably leave (but not to the NFL) and a number of others will too.
Remember, Harbaugh’s resurrection of Stanford followed nearly the exact same evolution as Rodriguez’s has at Michigan (4-8, 5-7, 8-5 with a bowl loss, and now 11-1, compared to Rodriguez’s 3-5, 5-7, 7-6 to date). With a revamped defensive staff, next year’s Michigan team certainly has the talent for a similar season as Stanford’s this year. And that’s where my hesitation with giving up on Rodriguez lies.
Keeping everything intact is not an option at this point. So if something has to change I think keeping Rodriguez and going after Casteel or another top-notch defensive coordinator has the same long-term potential as firing Rodriguez and hiring Harbaugh. The difference for me is in the short-term. I think Rodriguez with an experienced offense led by a junior Denard and even an average defense will have a better season than Harbaugh without Denard and possibly several others, running a different offense than what has been run the past three years.
Ultimately, the decision rests with Brandon and I know he has done his due diligence and will make the best decision for the University of Michigan. Whether that’s sticking with Rodriguez or bringing back Captain Comeback, I’ll support it 100 percent. But despite the letdown this New Years Day, I still think Rodriguez’s best days are ahead.
As if any more commentary on the current Michigan coaching situation is called for, I need to bring closure to the regular season by injecting my stance into the conversation.
It has been no secret over the course of the past three seasons that I have supported Rich Rodriguez. I have been one of a group that has been declining in number and popularity by the week and I’m not quite ready to give in just yet.
It was our beloved legend Bo Schembechler who once said, “When your team is winning, be ready to be tough, because winning can make you soft; on the other hand, when your team is losing, stick by them. Keep believing.”
I suppose you can support the team but not Rodriguez, and the argument could be made that if you truly want what’s best for the team you should want the coach who has gone 15-21 in the past three seasons gone, but I’m still believing. I’ve never been one to make knee-jerk decisions. I believe in giving people a chance and standing by a decision. I also think a college football coach should be given at least four years, or long enough to field a team full of his own recruits.
Unfortunately, that’s not the way things work these days. We’ve let our fast food mentality permeate our sports expectations to the point that if a coach doesn’t win the national championship in his first season, fans are already calling for his head.
In the case of Rodriguez, the reasons things have gone the way they have gone have been discussed over and over again, so I won’t get into that. Instead, I’ll present my reasoning for wanting to keep him.
To begin with, progress has been made in each of Rodriguez’s first three seasons. In 2008, the team went 3-9; in 2009, it went 5-7; and in 2010, it is currently 7-5 with a chance to make it 8-5 with a New Years Day bowl win over Mississippi State.
The tired, “Yeah but it’s Michigan” meme needs to stop because it’s arrogant and ignorant. I want nothing more than to be winning Big Ten championships and playing in BCS bowls year-after-year, but three years ago we were all clamoring for a change from that. We were the ones unhappy with simply competing for Big Ten titles each year and getting blown out by USC in Rose Bowls. We were the ones excited when Lloyd Carr retired because of the possibility of ushering Michigan football into the modern era.
Then the father of the spread offense came to Ann Arbor and inherited a team full of Carr’s guys, and they weren’t the ones that led the team to those Big Ten titles. They’re now playing on Sundays. He was left with walk-on Nick Sheridan and freshman Steven Three to quarterback his first Michigan team. We all know how year one went: offensive ineptitude at a level Michigan hadn’t seen in a long, long time.
The offense scored just 243 points in that first season, an average of just 20.3 per game, as it struggled to move the ball on anyone other than Minnesota. It lost at home to Toledo, Northwestern, and Purdue and got trounced by Notre Dame, Illinois, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State. Those games weren’t even competitive and we all had our egos bruised.
|Scoring Off. Ranking||98||45||22|
|Rush Off. Ranking||60||27||11|
|Pass Off. Ranking||108||81||35|
|Total Off. Ranking||111||59||6|
|Scoring Def. Ranking||80||79||102|
|Rush Defense YPG||136.92||171.92||187.67|
|Rush Def. Ranking||49||92||94|
|Pass Defense YPG||230.0||221.42||260.25|
|Pass Def. Ranking||87||69||111|
|Total Def. Ranking||69||81||108|
|*Rankings reflect national ranking|
Year two saw Rodriguez bring in some of his own guys, his first true recruiting class, and he finally had the anchors of his offense in quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.
Forcier was the quarterback to lead the Wolverines that season and the freshman growing pains were evident but the team showed significant progress. It scored 354 points, an average of 29.5 per game, and stayed competitive for much of the season. It beat Notre Dame, took Michigan State to overtime, and nearly came back to beat Iowa on the road, but still failed to really compete against Penn State, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Ohio State, and lost again to Purdue.
Progress was made, but it was essentially a freshman offense. It’s hard enough to win with a quarterback who was at prom six months ago, let alone when his surrounding cast is made up of youth as well.
This season, enormous strides were made offensively and Michigan improved to one of the best offenses in the nation, scoring 412 points, an average of 34.3 per game. The team turned a lot of heads eraly in the season with the breakout performance of Denard Robinson, who beat out Forcier for the starting spot. Robinson broke the NCAA FBS quarterback rushing record by 149 yards and still has a bowl game to add on to that.
Michigan crushed Connecticut, which won the Big East, outlasted Notre Dame on the road, and won a three-overtime thriller over Illinois, but was still unable to beat the big boys of the Big Ten, which has been the biggest knock on Rodriguez to date.
The critics say that beating up on the Indianas and Purdues of the world don’t mean anything if he can’t beat Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, and most importantly, rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. That’s true, but it depends on whether your definition of improvement consists of a giant leap for mankind or stepping stones. If you expect Rodriguez to be Neil Armstrong, then you’re sorely disappointed. But if you see the slow and steady improvement as reason to believe, then you should be confident that the wins over the big boys are coming soon.
Two years ago, Michigan wasn’t good enough to beat Toledo. Last year, it could beat the MAC, but couldn’t beat Illinois or Purdue. This year, it beat Illinois and handled Purdue on the road, but still couldn’t crack the top dogs. The logical line of progression would be a couple of wins over those guys next season.
I believe it’s coming because the offense is only going to get better with another year of experience and only one departing starter, and the defense only has one way to go: up.
With the offense, let’s take a look at Oregon. Last season, the Ducks went 10-3, averaging 36 points per game. It had the nation’s sixth-best rush offense and 33rd-best total offense. It outscored the majority of its opponents, but lost 19-8 to Boise State and also lost to Stanford and in the Rose Bowl to Ohio State. In short, it was a really good offense, but still waiting to break out.
This season, the Ducks’ offense exploded. It is first in the nation in points per game (49.33), second in total offense, and fourth in rush offense. Most importantly, it’s undefeated and set to face Auburn in the BCS title game on Jan. 10.
I think Michigan’s offense has a chance to blow up next season similar to Oregon this season. Robinson will be in his second season as the starter, all the running backs will return with the addition of big-time recruits Justice Hayes and possibly Dee Hart*, all receivers return from a group that was pretty dynamic this season, including one of the Big Ten’s best in Roy Roundtree, and the majority of the line returns as well. It will be the fourth season in Rodriguez’s system, which will allow the unit to function on a higher level.
While the offense has progressed in each of the past three years, the main problem has been the defense which has seemingly gotten worse each year. But despite the decline from allowing 28.9 points per game in 2008 to 33.83 this season, I believe the defense is due to break out like the offense did the past couple of seasons.
It’s no secret that this year’s unit was riddled with injuries and youth. Just as it’s hard to win with a freshman quarterback, it’s even harder to stop anybody with freshmen on defense. One or two freshmen can succeed if surrounded by experienced talent, but when your entire defense is relying on freshmen surrounded by sophomores, you’re begging for trouble.
I’m not trying to make any excuses for the defense, but we knew heading into the season it was going to be rough. Then, the week of the opening game, the senior leader of the unit, Troy Woolfolk suffered a season-ending ankle injury, leaving the defense without its leader.
Next season, Woolfolk returns, and the only defensive players who played prominent roles that Michigan loses are linebackers Jonas Mouton and Obi Ezeh and lineman Greg Banks. Mouton was hit-or-miss this season. He was Michigan’s best linebacker by default, making some big plays, but he also tended to overpursue and take poor angles, leading to big runs. Ezeh lost his starting spot midway through the season and Banks played well at the end of the season, but his departure will allow Craig Roh to move into the end spot that he should have been in all season.
The one bright spot of playing so many young guys so prominently is the experience they gained. Many people criticized Rodriguez for playing his guys and installing his offense right from the start in 2008, but that has paid off with one of the nation’s best offenses this season. The defense will follow a similar progression in the next couple of years. If it can just improve to average next season, it should be good for another couple of wins.
This season, it’s 102nd in the nation in scoring defense. It doesn’t have to be top ten, but even if you put it at 60th, which is exactly middle-of-the-road, it would have given up 7.5 points less per game. That would have turned many of the losses this season into much closer games and would have given the offense a chance to win them.
The most popular conjecture among Michigan fans right now is that defensive coordinator Greg Robinson should be fired, but I’m not 100 percent sold on that either. The young defense needs consistency above all, since it has had three different coordinators in four years. The only reason I’d be in favor of giving up on Robinson is if Rodriguez can lure West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel away from Morgantown.
Casteel was Rodriguez’s coordinator at WVU and runs the same 3-3-5 defense that Rodriguez has Robinson running at Michigan. Casteel has kept the Mountaineers’ defense ranked highly, and this season it ranks second in the nation, giving up just 12.75 points per game. Michigan would be in the BCS national championship game this season with that defense.
All that to say, I think Rodriguez has the building blocks in place to continue getting better and to warrant another season in Ann Arbor. His players love him, he does some great things off the field, and his speech and actions at last Thursday’s Michigan football bust shows a passion that Michigan fans should revere, not mock.
Jim Harbaugh^ seems to be the flavor of the week right now, just like Rodriguez was three years ago, and he’ll most likely still be at Stanford next season. If I’m wrong, and continued progress isn’t present in 2011, then I may be willing to go after him at that time. I just don’t think the time is right yet.
*There has been some recent speculation of Hart switching his commitment to Alabama, but nothing has been confirmed yet.
^I do like Harbaugh, and if Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon does decide to can Rodriguez and hire Harbaugh, I will fully support him. But like I said above, I’m not ready to give up on Rodriguez yet because I think his best days are ahead.
This article is inspired by a similar article written by the Detroit News’ Angelique Chengelis.
As spring practice nears its midway point and the college basketball and hockey seasons come to a close, I can’t help but look ahead to August. August is when every recruit is on campus, not just the early-enrolling freshmen, battling in the sweltering heat to get ready for the impending season. It’s also when the magazines put out their college football preview issues chalk full of team breakdowns and predictions.
While I can’t wait for August to roll around and the season opener against Connecticut to kick off on September 4, I want to look ahead even further. Further even than next season. I’d like to present my bucket-list, if you will, of teams Michigan should schedule for out-of-conference games in the future.
The winds of change are sweeping through the Michigan athletic department with Dave Brandon, the former Domino’s Pizza CEO, taking over the Athletic Director post. Brandon, who played at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, has already steadfastly stood in front of reporters deflecting questions on the impending NCAA violations and announced that the first-ever night game in the Big House will take place in 2011 against Notre Dame.
With the shift in football philosophy the past couple of years away from the traditional pro-style offense to the spread-option attack of Rich Rodriguez, this isn’t your same old Michigan football anymore. Whether you think that to be good or bad, it’s the present reality.
Even the tradition has undergone a bit of a change as of late. The gameday music has shifted to less of the Michigan Marching Band and to more piped-in electronic music. The secrecy from inside “The Fort,” (Michigan’s practice facility, Schembechler Hall) has transformed into what some feel to be too much openness. Heck, maybe president Obama could use a few pointers from this coaching staff on openness.
Biggest of all, on September 4, the newly renovated Big House, complete with luxury boxes and giant brick façades on either side, will open up, signaling a departure from Michigan football as we knew it and an entrance into big-time, money-making college football. The only piece of tradition Michigan Stadium still holds onto is the lack of corporate advertising inside the stadium.
For a while, I resisted the changes. But time has a way of easing those concerns, and now I welcome them with open arms. I’ll always hold dear the days of Schembechler and Lloyd Carr. Yet I can hardly contain myself thinking about the possibilities of getting back to Michigan’s dominating fashion, but doing it in a 21st Century way.
The past couple of seasons have been hard to watch. Whether it was Sam McGuffie getting decapitated against Ohio State or Tate Forcier throwing an interception in overtime against Michigan State or the defense failing to stop, well, anyone, the past two seasons have been abysmal. 2010 presents a seemingly make-or-break year for Rodriguez, so having the usual suspects on the schedule (Notre Dame and a couple of cupcakes) is a welcome sign. Connecticut won’t be a push-over, but at least it’s not a power-conference rival opening the season.
Once we get back to the level of play one would expect from the nation’s all-time winningest team, whether it’s with Rodriguez at the helm or not (but hopefully with), I’d like to see the schedule take a departure from the usual Mid-American Conference cupcake feast to the meat and potatoes of the college football land.
So, I present to you, my wish-list for future non-conference opponents.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise. Michigan fans despise Florida. The Big Ten despises Florida. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) stops at nothing to brag, rightfully or wrongfully about its college football supremacy in the past decade.
Head-to-head in bowl games since 2000, the SEC has won 15 and the Big Ten has won 14. However, head-to-head in BCS games, the SEC has a 3-1 advantage, and the SEC has claimed five national championships to the Big Ten’s one.
Michigan has done its part, going 5-1 against the SEC during that time, including 2-0 against Florida, both in the Gators’ back yard. In fact, Michigan has always done well against the SEC, compiling an all-time record of 20-5-1. Ten of those wins were against Vanderbilt, and Michigan has never played LSU or Mississippi State. The only school that has a winning record over Michigan is Tennessee, which pounded Michigan 45-17 in the 2002 Citrus Bowl.
Just think: Florida traveling to Ann Arbor or Michigan playing in the Swamp in a September showdown. Urban Meyer vs. Rich Rodriguez (assuming Rodriguez doesn’t get fired and Meyer doesn’t actually retire). The mastermind of the modern spread-option offense against the guy who’s used a version of it to claim two of the past four national championships. SEC speed vs…..SEC speed in the Big Ten?
It has all the makings of a huge game and Brandon should make it happen as soon as possible. The only problem? It would take a lot of convincing to get Florida to travel outside of the south for a non-conference game.
Since 1990, Florida has played 68 non-conference games. All but one of those were in the state of Florida and 56 of the 68 were home games. Of the 12 road games, 10 were at Florida State, one was at Miami, and the lone out-of-state game was a loss at Syracuse in 1991.
In other words, Florida hasn’t traveled more than 337 miles for an out-of-conference game in 19 years.
Getting Athletics Director Jeremy Foley to agree to travel the 1,033 miles to Ann Arbor will likely require Brandon to agree to travel to Gainesville twice, give up his first-born, and supply Foley a lifetime of free pizza.
But here’s to hoping.
Michigan has never played LSU, but with the recent success of the Tigers, and former Michigan player and assistant coach Les Miles at the helm, a match-up would be compelling.
As described above, Michigan has enjoyed incredible success against teams from the SEC, but this would be the first-ever game between the schools.
Imagine the possibilities: Miles, who was the undeniable favorite amongst Michigan fans and alums to replace Lloyd Carr, returning to the Big House, not as the coach, but as the opponent.
Or Michigan traveling to Baton Rouge for a night game in Death Valley, where LSU is 209-59-4 in night games since 1960.
This is probably more likely to happen than Florida, as LSU is willing to travel outside of its friendly confines.
The Tigers visited Washington last year, Arizona State in 2005, Arizona in 2003, Virginia Tech in 2002 and Notre Dame in 1998.
A home-and-home with Michigan would be compelling, whether Miles was still at LSU, or Michigan fired Rodriguez and hired Miles to replace him.
The Sooners get the nod for the third spot on my wish list because they are one of the few schools that Michigan has a losing record against.
The teams’ only meeting was the 1975 Orange Bowl. The Barry Switzer-led Sooners beat Michigan 14-6 to claim a second straight national championship.
Michigan hasn’t fared as well against the Big 12 in the past couple of decades as it has against the SEC, going 2-4 since 1990.
Oklahoma has been one of the best teams of the past decade, playing in four of the past 10 championship games and winning the national title in 2000, and featuring two of the past seven Heisman Trophy winners.
Bringing the Sooners to Ann Arbor would be a huge draw as the all-time winningest college football team takes on the fourth-best in an early-season matchup.
It would be the spread-n-shred against traditional power football and certainly have national championship ramifications for the winner.
4. Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech has also been one of the best programs of the past decade and, like LSU, is an opponent that Michigan has never faced.
Tech doesn’t have the history of the others, but may represent college football in the 21st century more than any other team in the nation.
It was Virginia Tech that showed what the spread offense can do, when quarterback Michael Vick led the Hokies to the BCS National Championship game in 1999.
Coach Frank Beamer’s team has been one of the most exciting teams to watch with dominating special teams, and never shying away from playing big-time opponents.
Last season, Virginia Tech played Alabama and Nebraska in the non-conference schedule. In 2007, Tech traveled to LSU and in 2004, it hosted No. 1 USC.
A home-and-home would make sense regionally, because it wouldn’t be too far of a travel for either team. Night games in Blacksburg have dominated ESPN the past few years, and seeing the blue jerseys and winged helmets contrasted with the all-white with maroon trim of Virginia Tech would certainly be a sight worth seeing.
In 1988, No.1 Miami needed an onside kick and a two-point conversion in the final six minutes to cap a 17-point comeback, beating Michigan 31-30 in the Big House.
Michigan won the first meeting 22-14 in 1984.
Rodriguez has recruited the Miami area heavily since taking over in 2008, so the game would make sense recruiting-wise for Michigan as many of the players would be able to play in front of friends and family when Michigan returns the trip.
Eight players on Michigan’s roster this spring are from south Florida and three more arrive in time for fall camp.
Miami puts as many players into the NFL as any school in the country and a matchup between the two schools would surely be an instant classic.
1. West Virginia – But only if Rodriguez is still the coach at Michigan and leads them back to challenging for national championships.
2. Texas – The only meeting between the two was the 2006 Rose Bowl, which Texas won on a last-second field goal. The only reason I don’t have this higher on my list is because Ohio State just had a home-and-home with Texas.
3. Alabama – Nick Saban has built Alabama into a powerhouse in just a couple of years. The reigning national champs would make for a great matchup with Michigan. Michigan was 3-2 against Saban when he was head coach at Michigan State.
4. Florida State – Like Miami, Michigan and Florida State have met just twice, with each side winning once. In 1991, FSU rolled up 51 points, the most ever by an opponent in the Big House at the time. With FSU under the new leadership of Jimbo Fisher, a home-and-home with Michigan should be scheduled soon.
5. Stanford – Stanford is on its way up thanks to head coach and former Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh. The programs have met 10 times before, with Michigan winning six, but the last time was in 1976. Like West Virginia, I only like this matchup if Harbaugh is still at Stanford.
6. Boise State – This one is more for the novelty. Boise State has been the “Cinderella” of the decade, knocking off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl and finishing 14-0 last season. Many have complained that BSU doesn’t play anybody out-of-conference, so if Michigan was willing, the Broncos would listen. Plus, the winged helmet on the smurf turf would be fun.
It’s unlikely that any of these out-of-conference matchups will happen at least until Michigan’s rivalry with Notre Dame takes a two-year break in 2018-19, but it would be fun to see, especially once Michigan gets back to being, well, Michigan.
In the meantime, however, I’m happy with a diet of cupcakes to help the young Wolverines grow up.
Michigan and Ohio State square off on Saturday for the 106th time in college football’s greatest rivalry.
Ohio State has already wrapped up at least a share of the Big Ten title and a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl.
Michigan leads the all-time series 57-42-6, but enters this week’s matchup needing a win to extend its season through the holidays and take some heat off head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Will someone step up with a historic performance to lead Michigan past the 10th-ranked Buckeyes?
Or will a Buckeye deliver an all-time great showing to capture a sixth consecutive victory over Michigan and send Michigan to its second straight losing season?
There have certainly been some performances for the ages in the past 105 meetings, so we’ll take a look at the top individual performances in its storied history.
Bear in mind that this is the top performances in the Michigan-Ohio State game, not necessarily the best players on each team or the best performances for each team against another team.
This list will go position by position and take into account game implications and past history in addition to pure stats.
Make sure to read all the way through to see who is most likely have a breakout performance this Saturday.
|Michigan Quarterback – Jim Harbaugh|
Harbaugh completed 16-of-19 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan’s 27-17 win over Ohio State in 1985.
Ohio State had won three of the last four meetings and five of the last seven.
Michigan entered the game 8-1-1 and had just drubbed Minnesota 48-7.
Ohio State came in 8-2 and ranked 12th in the nation.
After sitting out the previous season’s matchup with an injury, Harbaugh would lead Michigan to two straight victories over the Buckeyes, earning first-team All-American honors.
|Ohio State Quarterback – Troy Smith|
While there have been many great quarterbacks at Ohio State, perhaps none have turned in a better performance against Michigan than Troy Smith.
In the game dubbed, “The Game of the Century,” Ohio State and Michigan ranked first and second in the nation entering the Horseshoe.
Smith proved unstoppable, completing 29-of-41 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns in leading Ohio State to the 42-39 victory.
The win sent Ohio State to the BCS National Championship game against Florida, while Michigan was relegated to the Rose Bowl against USC.
Additionally, the performance wrapped up the Heisman Trophy for Smith.
|Michigan Running Back – Tshimanga Biakabutuka|
Tshimanga Biakabutuka, nicknamed “Touchdown Tim,” recorded one of the best all-time performances in the rivalry in 1995.
Ohio State entered the meeting undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation.
Michigan came in 18th with a record of 8-3, hoping to knock off the Buckeyes.
Biakabutuka gashed the Ohio State defense for 313 yards on 37 attempts, out-doing eventual Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and leading Michigan to the 31-23 upset.
His 313 yards are the second most in a single game in Michigan history (behind Ron Johnson’s 347 yards against Wisconsin in 1968) and helped Biakabutuka secure the school’s single season rushing record.
He went on to become the eighth overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft and spent six seasons with the Carolina Panthers.
|Ohio State Running Back – Bob Ferguson|
In 1961, Ferguson rushed for 151 yards and four touchdowns to lead Ohio State to a 50-20 win over Michigan, and helping Ohio State win the national championship.
The win was Ohio State’s 400th victory all-time and the second of four straight over Michigan.
Ferguson finished second in the Heisman Trophy race that season, behind Syracuse running back Ernie Davis.
|Michigan Halfback – Tom Harmon|
Michigan’s first Heisman Trophy winner, Tom Harmon, produced an all-around performance for the ages against Ohio State in 1940.
“Old 98,” as he is known, rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, completed 11-of-12 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns, kicked four extra points, intercepted three passes (and ran one back for a touchdown), and booted three punts for an average of 50 yards per punt.
The performance led Michigan to a 40-0 drubbing of Ohio State.
After his playing career, he became a pilot in the Army Air Corps, where he earned a Purple Heart and a Silver Star.
|Ohio State Fullback – Jim Otis|
Jim Otis is widely regarded as one of the top 50 Ohio State players of all time.
In 1968, for what some regard as the greatest team of all time, Otis led Ohio State to a 50-14 win over Michigan. He rushed 34 times for 143 yards and four touchdowns in the game, the final of which set up a two-point attempt. After the game, when asked why, Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes replied, “Because I couldn’t go for three.”
Otis’ four touchdowns gave him the school’s single-season rushing touchdowns record of 16, which has since been eclipsed.
|Michigan Wide Receiver – Marquise Walker|
In 2001, Marquise Walker had the best receiving day for a Michigan receiver against Ohio State.
Although Ohio State won the game 26-20 in Jim Tressell’s first season as head coach, Walker was unstoppable, catching 15 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
His 15 receptions were enough to pass Anthony Carter on the career receptions list, although that record would be broken by Braylon Edwards in 2004.
The performance helped Walker earn first-team All-America honors in his senior season and was John Gruden’s first draft pick at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.
|Ohio State Wide Receiver -David Boston|
David Boston is one of the most prolific receivers in Ohio State history, but turned in a fantastic performance in 1998.
A year after being humbled by Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson, Boston got revenge with 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
Boston responded after the game saying, “There were some things said last year after the game, that one of their players was chastising me or something. I didn’t really understand the message there. But today, I just went out and proved that I’m human.”
His performance led Ohio State to a 31-16 win over the defending National Champions.
Boston was drafted eighth overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 1999 NFL Draft and spent eight seasons in the NFL.
|Michigan Tight End – Eric Kattus|
While Michigan has never really had a great performance by a tight end against Ohio State, Eric Kattus claims the spot.
In 1985, he helped Jim Harbaugh beat Ohio State 27-17 after dropping three of the past four and five of the past seven to the Buckeyes.
Kattus, a Cincinnati, Ohio native, caught six passes for 83 yards and a touchdown in the game, one of the best performances of his career.
|Ohio State Tight End -Bruce Janowski|
A year after Michigan upset undefeated Ohio State in Bo Schembechler’s first season at Michigan, Ohio State was looking for revenge.
Both teams entered the match-up undefeated, but Ohio State tight end Bruce Jankowski helped that cause. His 26-yard touchdown pass gave Ohio State the lead, and it never trailed, beating Michigan 20-9.
|Michigan Defensive Lineman – Glen Steele|
Defensive end Glen Steele was the leader of Michigan’s front seven, helping the Wolverines win the National Championship in 1997.
Against Ohio State that year, Steele recorded five tackles (three for loss), two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
The constant pressure on Ohio State quarterbacks Stanley Jackson and Joe Germaine helped Michigan win the game 20-14, and secure a spot in the Rose Bowl against Washington State.
Steele earned first-team All-America honors that season and played six seasons in the NFL for the Cincinnati Benglas. His 24 career sacks rank third on Michigan’s career list.
|Ohio State Defensive Lineman -Vernon Gholston|
Vernon Gholston terrorized Michigan quarterback Chad Henne in 2007, racking up five tackles (four for loss) and three sacks.
Michigan’s offensive line, including the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Jake Long, couldn’t stop Gholston as he was always in the backfield.
His four tackles for loss are an Ohio State single game record.
Ohio State won the game 14-3, earning another trip to the BCS National Championship game.
Gholston now plays for the New York Jets.
|Michigan Linebacker – Ron Simpkins|
Ron Simpkins recorded 20 total tackles (15 solo) in Michigan’s 14-6 win over No. 4 Ohio State in 1977 to help the Wolverines capture the Big Ten title.
Just a sophomore at the time, Simpkins recorded the third-most tackles in a single game in Michigan history at the time.
Simpkins would finish his career as Michigan’s all-time leading tackler, with 516, and played seven seasons in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
|Ohio State Linebacker -Chris Spielman|
One of the greatest linebackers ever to play for Ohio State, Chris Spielman was a one man wrecking crew in 1986.
Although Michigan won the game 26-24, it was at the fault of Spielman, who recorded a school record 29 tackles.
Ohio State entered the contest 7-0 and ranked seventh in the nation. Michigan came in 6-1, needing a win to share the Big Ten title.
Ohio State missed a field goal with 1:08 to play to spoil Spielman’s career day.
Spielman went on to enjoy 12 seasons in the NFL with the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns.
|Michigan Defensive Back – Charles Woodson|
Charles Woodson became the first primarily defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy in 1997, and his performance in the Ohio State game that year helped cement the trophy over Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning.
Woodson intercepted a pass, caught a 37-yard pass to set up Michigan’s only offensive touchdown of the game, and returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.
He also held Ohio State receiver David Boston in check, allowing just three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Woodson also picked off two passes against No. 2 Ohio State in his freshman season in 1995.
He became the fourth overall pick of the Oakland Raiders in 1998 and has 41 career interceptions (seven returned for touchdowns).
|Ohio State Defensive Back – Mike Doss|
Mike Doss proved pivotal in Ohio State’s 26-20 win over Michigan in 2001 during Jim Tressel’s first season as head coach.
Doss picked off a pass and ran it 36 yards to the Michigan four to set up Ohio State’s first touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, Doss intercepted another John Navarre pass to set up a field goal.
The interceptions were critical in helping Ohio State win its first game in Ann Arbor in 14 years.
|Michigan Defensive Back – Barry Pierson|
Michigan defensive back Barry Pearson helped Michigan capture one of the biggest upsets of all time in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry.
In Bo Schembechler’s first season as Michigan head coach, the Wolverines entered the 1969 meeting ranked 12th in the nation.
Ohio State came in undefeated and ranked first in the nation.
Pierson picked off three passes in the game and also returned a punt 60 yards to the Ohio State three-yard line to set up a Michigan touchdown.
His performance helped Michigan upset what many believe to be the greatest college football team of all time.
|Ohio State Defensive Back – Chic Harley|
In 1919 Chic Harley returned from World War I, where he served as an Army pilot, to pick off four passes in Ohio State’s 13-3 win over Michigan.
It was Ohio State’s first ever win over the Wolverines, and Harley’s four picks (still a school single game record) helped lead the way.
He earned first-team All-America honors that season and also played halfback, punter, and kicker.
His number 47 was retired by Ohio State five years ago.
|Michigan Punter – Chuck Ortmann|
Chuck Ortmann may not have been the best punter to ever wear the maize and blue, but he holds Michigan’s career single game punting records thanks to Mother Nature.
The 1950 “Snow Bowl” between Michigan and Ohio State was played in the worst blizzard in 37 years to hit Columbus.
Ortmann punted 24 times for 723 yards, helping Michigan win the game 9-3.
|Ohio State Punter – Vic Janowicz|
Ohio State punter Vic Janowicz also gets credit for Ohio State’s career single-game punting records thanks to the blizzard of 1950.
In the “Snow Bowl,” Janowicz booted 21 punts for 685 yards and scored Ohio State’s only three points of the game on a field goal.
After the game, Janowicz said, “It was like a nightmare. My hands were numb and blue. I had no feeling in them and I don’t know how I hung onto the ball. It was terrible. You knew what you wanted to do, but you couldn’t do it.”
In addition to punter, Janowicz served as Ohio State’s halfback, kicker, and safety, and won the Heisman Trophy that season.
|Michigan Kicker – J.D. Carlson|
There have been many great Michigan-Ohio State games, but only one has ended as a result of a Michigan field goal.
In 1990, 15th-ranked Michigan needed a win over 19th-ranked Ohio State to secure a share of the Big Ten championship.
Late in the game, tied 13-13, Michigan kicker J.D. Carlson missed a short field goal attempt that would have put Michigan ahead.
But after getting the ball back, Carlson got a chance for redemption, and nailed it with no time remaining to give Michigan a 16-13 win.
Bouncing back from the miss to win the game changed Carlson’s life.
“I will forever be prepared for the rest of my life because I have experienced some of the biggest swings in emotion in a short period of time,” Carlson said of the game. “Not much fazes me now.”
Carlson holds Michigan’s single game field goal record, as well as the highest career PAT percentage record.
|Ohio State Kicker – Tom Klaban|
In 1974, Michigan and Ohio State entered the annual showdown ranked third and fourth in the nation, respectively.
The game proved to be all about the kickers as Michigan kicker Mike Lantry missed a field goal that would have won the game as time expired, but it was Ohio State kicker Tom Klaban who stole the show.
Klaban booted four field goals to account for all of Ohio State’s points in the 12-10 victory, the only time Ohio State has beaten Michigan without scoring a touchdown. The win sent Ohio State to a Rose Bowl battle with USC.
|Most Likely Michigan Breakout Performer|
For Michigan to win the game on Saturday, it will need a great performance from its defense. The defense has been much of the reason for Michigan’s second half collapse this season.
One player who has stood out all season is defensive end Brandon Graham. The senior had perhaps the best game of his career last week against Wisconsin, recording 11 tackles (five for loss), two sacks, and a forced fumble.
Last season, Graham had three tackles (two for loss) and a sack against Ohio State.
If Michigan wins on Saturday, expect a big day from Graham in the Ohio State backfield.
Other possible breakout performers: Michigan running backs Brandon Minor or Carlos Brown, Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree
|Most Likely Ohio State Breakout Performer|
Every great quarterback has a career defining game that cements his spot in team lore. For Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, this Saturday could be that game.
Pryor received much criticism from Buckeye fans early in the season after losses to USC and Purdue, but has played much better in the second half.
A great showing against Michigan, who hasn’t shown it can stop a mobile quarterback, or anybody for that matter, could sell even the most incredulous of Buckeye fans on his abilities.
If Pryor makes the same mistakes he did against Purdue, Michigan has a shot, but if Pryor uses his legs effectively and makes the throws he needs to, he has a great shot at being 2-0 against Michigan.
Other possible breakout performers: Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey, defensive back Kurt Coleman