A quote from an anonymous PAC-12 assistant coach sums things up perfectly concerning last Saturday’s game between Utah and Michigan:
“Utah’s a good team — tough, physical, well-coached, but Michigan can’t lose at home to Utah. You’re Michigan.”
But the Wolverines did lose, and just like their shutout loss to Notre Dame, it wasn’t even close. Unlike the game against the Irish however, Michigan did manage to put 10 points on the board in the 26-10 loss. But that only adds insult to injury. Michigan’s lone touchdown in this game came off a 7-yard interception return. So in two games against Power 5 conference opponents (UM’s other two games were against Appalachain St. and Miami-Ohio) the Wolverine’s defense has scored more points than the offense. In 8 straight quarters, the Michigan offense has not only failed to score a touchdown, they’ve failed to even reach the red zone. On top of this the Wolverines are tied for last in average turnover margin at No. 124 out of 125 FBS teams. Through four games they have 12 giveaways while only registering 2 takeaways. After a promising 5-0 start to begin the 2013 season Michigan has now gone a dismal 4-8 in their last 12 games, with the only wins coming against Indiana, Northwestern, Appalachian State, and Miami-Ohio.
Hoke’s tenure in Ann Arbor got off to a terrific start after an 11-2 season and a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. However, his teams have digressed since then, going 8-5 and 7-6 the past two years. After only four games in 2014, Michigan looks poised to have yet another mediocre season. Hoke was supposed to be the guy to turn things around after Rich Rodriguez’s terrible three years as head coach. In fact, Michigan fans have waited much longer than a couple of years to see their program turned around. The Wolverines haven’t won a Big Ten championship since 2004, the program’s longest conference title drought in 50 years. Since that season, they’ve finished in the top 10 of the AP Poll just once, in 2006, and have finished unranked five times. They’ve lost nine of their last 10 games to Ohio State and five of their last six to Michigan State.
In terms of fanbase size, stadium size, revenue, recruiting, championships, and overall tradition, Michigan has served as a brand-name powerhouse program, one of the most respected throughout the history of college football. That’s why Michigan fans expect so much, and rightfully so. Finishing with 6 losses in a season, and losing to an average Utah team in the Big House shouldn’t be tolerated. Schools like USC and Texas were willing to pull the plug on Lane Kiffin and Mack Brown, after it was apparent their teams were not headed in the right direction. Michigan should quickly do the same with Hoke.
Should Hoke be fired, there are two (technically three) guys that I think Michigan should pursue. My first choice would be one of the Harbaugh brothers, who are both currently head coaches in the NFL. At this point the most likely candidate would be Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. Although Jim played for Michigan in college, while John went to Miami-Ohio, reports say John has always loved Michigan and had wanted to play for Bo Schembechler. Unlike his brother in San Francisco, John has a Super Bowl ring, and two of his most well-known players, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, have since retired. With the recent Ray Rice allegations clouding Baltimore’s current season, this might be John’s perfect time to leave the NFL at the end of this season and give college a try. Outside of the Harbaugh family, I think Michigan should pursue LSU head coach Les Miles. Miles played as an offensive lineman for Michigan in 1974-75. He returned as a graduate assistant in 1980-81, and again as a offensive line coach from 1987-94. Similar to John Harbaugh, Miles has already won a national championship with LSU. However, since their loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS national championship, the program appears to be on a slow but steady decline, and it definitely looked true after losing to Mississippi State at home last Saturday night. Miles originally declined an offer from Michigan in 2007 to become their head coach, but with the SEC so tough these days, and the chances of dominating the Big Ten relatively easy, I think the timing is right to accept another offer should it come again.
Although I do believe Hoke needs to go, I don’t think he is the only source of Michigan’s problems. Much has been said recently of Michigan’s athletic director Dave Brandon and how he has ran the athletic department since being hired in 2010. A former CEO of Papa John’s, Brandon has managed and treated the athletic department, especially the football program, like a business, either ignoring or completely changing many of the ways he program has traditionally been run. Author and Michigan weekly radio commentator John U. Bacon recently wrote an article, which is a must read, that chronicles how Brandon’s actions have caused student attendance and overall attendance at Michigan football games to suffer after ticket prices have risen dramatically in recent years. This has apparently become a new trend, not just at Michigan, but around the country as many schools are beginning to hire former CEOs with business backgrounds that know little about college football and it’s traditions and are mostly concerned with increasing the athletic department’s financial budget.
Dak Prescott and Mississippi State are for real
*Cough, cough* Ahem…
Before week one I predicted that by season’s end, Dak Prescott would be hailed as the best quarterback in the SEC. While Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill certainly has a lot to say about that after his breakthrough performance against South Carolina, I also called for Prescott to lead Mississippi State to a few upset wins. I just didn’t expect them to come this early in the season. In my opinion, Death Valley in Baton Rouge is the toughest place to play in the country, especially for a night game. The Bulldogs hadn’t won in their past 17 trips to Death Valley, yet they defied the odds to come out with a 34-29 victory. Prescott finished the game with 268 passing yards and 2 passing touchdowns, as well as rushing for 105 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Bulldogs looked downright dominant, and nearly unstoppable in the first three quarters, and they jumped out to a 34-10 lead before LSU attempted to make a comeback. The win vaulted Mississippi State up to #14 in the AP poll and makes them legitimate contenders in the SEC west. The win not only gave them a high ranking, but it also put Dak Prescott officially in the Heisman discussion. ESPN’s Heisman Watch expert poll currently has Prescott ranked 8th among all contenders. While the Bulldogs get a bye this week, their next two games are against Texas A&M and Auburn, so we’re sure to learn a lot more about this team in the coming weeks.
With this loss, you could make a legitimate case that LSU may be the worst team in the SEC West, even behind Arkansas. While this year’s Tigers team certainly isn’t devoid of talent, their main problem is just youth and inexperience, as they lost 7 underclassmen from last year’s team who declared early for the NFL draft, not to mention several seniors that graduated as well, including quarterback Zach Mettenberger.
Don’t be surprised if…
…Arkansas beats Texas A&M:
Talk about a complete contrast in offensive styles. The Razorbacks will look to pound the ball downfield with their rushing attack led by Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. On the other side, expect Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill to attempt up to 60 passes. While both offenses may be different, they’re both some of the best in the country. Texas A&M has the #1 rated offense according to ESPN’s team efficiency ratings. However, Arkansas’ offense isn’t far behind at #5. I think both teams will be able to move the ball pretty effectively, and the game may no be decided until late in the 4th quarter. While Arkansas lost to Auburn 45-21 in the first game of the season, I think the Razorbacks are a lot better than many people think. The Hogs defense has already faced an air-raid attack in Texas Tech a few weeks ago which they beat 49-28. This game will also be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, so the Aggies don’t have the home field advantage. While Texas A&M looked like legitimate contenders to win the SEC after their blowout win against South Carolina, I think they’ll still lose a couple of games and this could be one of them.
…Minnesota beats Michigan:
I’ve already gone into detail about Michigan’s struggles and how Brady Hoke needs to be fired. If Minnesota were to pull off an upset here, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoke was let go by Monday morning. While Michigan has dominated this rivalry, winning 22 of the past 23 meetings against Minnesota, I think this is a prime chance for the Gophers to pull off an upset, especially if Michigan’s offense continues to struggle. Minnesota has one of the better rushing attacks in the country, averaging over 236 rushing yards a game. Head Coach Jerry Kill has slowly turned the Minnesota program around, increasing his team’s record from 3-9 to 6-7, to 8-5 last season, with this year’s team currently at 3-1. If Michigan doesn’t show improvement from last week’s loss to Utah, I’d expect this game to be close well into the fourth quarter, giving Minnesota a chance to come away with a huge win.
…NC State beats Florida State:
While this may seem like a bit of a stretch, especially with Jameis Winston returning at quarterback, NC State seems to have FSU’s number recently, especially at home. The Wolfpack have won 6 of their past 13 meetings against the Seminoles, including the past two games played in Raleigh. In 2010, NC State upset FSU 28-24. Two years ago, the Seminoles entered Raleigh with a 5-0 record and ranked #3 in the country. After jumping out to a 16-0 halftime lead, NC State came back in the second half to pull off a shocking upset 17-16. NC State looks much improved from last year’s 3-9 season, as they’ve began the season with a 4-0 record. Their offense is also led by former Florida Gators quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who transfered to NC State last spring. It will be interesting to see if Jimbo Fisher can get over the hump and beat the Wolfpack on the road, but this game is certainly worth being on upset alert simply based on past results.
Saturday’s TV Schedule
All times Eastern
12:00- Tennessee at #12 Georgia, ESPN
12:00- Vanderbilt at Kentucky, SEC Network
12:00- Wyoming at #9 Michigan State, ESPN2
12:00- South Florida at #19 Wisconsin, ESPNU
3:30- #1 Florida State at NC State, ABC/ESPN2 (regional)
3:30- Arkansas vs. #6 Texas A&M, CBS
3:30- Minnesota at Michigan, ABC/ESPN2 (regional)
4:00- Louisiana Tech at #5 Auburn, SEC Network
4:15- #16 Stanford at Washington, FOX
7:00- Missouri at #13 South Carolina, ESPN
7:00- North Carolina at Clemson, ESPNU
7:30- New Mexico State at #17 LSU, SEC Network
7:30- Duke at Miami, ESPN2
8:00- #7 Baylor at Iowa State, FOX
8:00- #8 Notre Dame vs. Syracuse, ABC
10:30- Oregon State at #18 USC, ESPN