Instant Analysis - Nov. 21
Ohio State 21 ... Michigan 10
Take a good look, Ohio State fans. Take a good, long look at the utter disaster that is the transition period at Michigan, and then hit your knees and thank whatever it is you pray to that Jim Tressel keeps on cranking out great team after great team.
Dog how boring the Buckeyes are all you want, but do you know what’s really boring? Complaints about losing on a regular basis. Year after year, a segment of the Michigan fan base complained about the steady excellence of Lloyd Carr and whined that he didn’t get his teams into the national title discussion enough. That was fair; Michigan should be in the hunt for the BCS Championship every season. But there’s a flip side to the equation, and that’s what happens when you’re trying to rebuild and reload the program. If Rich Rodriguez doesn’t turn the team around next year, then there’s going to be another transitional period and it’s going to be another long period of Ohio State dominance over the Maize and Blue. And that’s where Tressel and his coaching staff come in.
The team turned more and more to the running game over the second half of the season, regularly cranking out over 200 yards per game now, while the defense has been its typical dominant and productive self. And now Ohio State is going to the Rose Bowl, it’s the outright Big Ten champion, and it has a sixth straight win over Michigan. No, Ohio State, you’re not going to the BCS Championship, but enjoy the moment and enjoy what’s happening now. Ask Michigan what the other side is like.
If the honeymoon wasn’t over for Rich Rodriguez before this weekend, it sure is now.
I believe in Rodriguez as a head coach. What he did at West Virginia was remarkable. I also believe that two seasons is not nearly enough time to evaluate someone. However, now that he’s presided over one of the worst two-year stretches in school history, how do you avoid being critical? I mean, this is Michigan football, one of the most storied programs in all of collegiate sports. Last season was acceptable. New regime, new system, new culture, and all. This year had to be different, however, especially after the Wolverines began the season 4-0. It really wasn’t. No one was asking for miracles in 2009. Bowl eligibility would have sufficed. Minnesota is bowl-eligible. Northwestern is bowl-eligible. And Michigan, for a second straight year, is not, which has become increasingly unacceptable in these parts.
Assuming Rodriguez is back on the sidelines in 2010, the pressure to succeed is going to be insurmountable. Forget bowl eligibility this time around. He better be the catalyst for a quantum leap to eight or nine wins or else there’ll be no 2011. At some point, you can no longer blame the prior regime for the current state of a program. You’ve got to own your portion of the mess. Coach Rod owns one-third of the Wolverines’ six-game losing streak to Ohio State, adding to a very contentious situation in Ann Arbor.
1) It’s circular and twisted, but it’s true: See Jim Tressel not coach Terrelle Pryor well. See Terrelle Pryor commit a turnover that gets cashed into points for the other team. See Jim Tressel pull in the reins on Pryor. See Ohio State play conservatively. See Ohio State not make any more turnovers. See Ohio State’s defense dominate. See Ohio State beat Michigan. See Ohio State win the Big Ten outright.
Tressel does need a new offensive coordinator and a better overall (and perhaps differently delegated) approach to play calling, but this game affirmed the basic tenets of the TresselBall method: Don’t make mistakes, win ballgames. The logic of Tressel is sound and unimpeachable; it’s the quarterback coaching which should merit scrutiny and cause concern. Don’t bag on the man or his results; focus on the technical merits of his quarterbacking instruction.
2) Rich Rodriguez needs to come up with a finite plan at quarterback in 2010, when his team will play its next game. The shuffling of Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson was inconsistent this season, and the use of the two signal callers - on a drive in which Robinson was thriving - came back to bite the Michigan boss. The Tate Forcier interception that ended UM’s last best hope of victory was in part the product of very irregular executive decisions. Michigan doesn’t have to go 10-2 next year, but if we’re sitting here in 12 months and the Maize and Blue are outside the bowl game candy store, RichRod’s experiment in Ann Arbor should be terminated.