Why Michigan 2008 isn’t Minnesota 2007

One of the most stunning turnarounds in college football’s 2008 season was that of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After winning but a single game in 2007 (over a Miami team that didn’t make a bowl out of the MAC), Tim Brewster managed to lock down a top recruiting class and led his team to 7-5 and a bowl game. So how did the Gophers do it, and why can’t Michigan do it like that?

The biggest problem for Minnesota in 2007 was defense, and they ranked last in the nation in stopping their opponents. So what caused the turnaround? Minnesota recruited several JuCo players in the class of 2008, at least a couple of whom (Traye Simmons and Tremaine Brock) played key roles on the defensive unit. Also, Minnesota got Willie VanDeSteeg back after he was hampered by injury throughout the entire 2007 year.

One thing that this year’s Wolverines had in common with last year’s Gophers was turnover margin. The Gophers were 114th in the nation in 2007 in net turnovers, and Michigan’s team this year was 105th. Adam Weber reduced his interception total from 19 to 8 over the course of one year. With Michigan either returning Steven Threet or starting a true freshman, how much can the interception total (12) be expected to decrease. No, it wasn’t throwing picks that hurt Michigan this year, it was fumbling the football. Michigan lost 18 this year, so how can we expect that number to drop next year?

Minnesota’s offense in 2007 was actually pretty successful at moving the ball when it wasn’t coughing it up. In this way, the Gophers differed from Michigan 2008 in a pretty significant way. Michigan will have to rely an an upgrade at the quarterback position (Steven Threet staying healthy plus Tate Foricer entering should help) and along the offensive line (the group, which improved over the course of the year, returns all starters, plus adds a few redshirt freshmen who may be ready to contribute).

Minnesota last year may actually be the closest analog to Michigan this year. A new coaching staff installing new schemes on each side of the ball didn’t really have enough time with their team to get everything put together for a successful run in their first year. Michigan’s recruiting haul on the whole may not be quite so ready-to-play as MInnesota’s was last year.

Of course, Minnesota was vastly overrated this year, on the basis of a weak non-conference schedule and a soft schedule overall toward the beginning of the year. Toward the end of the year, they were exposed as something of a fraud. This will probably be what Michigan is like next year.

Posted under Analysis, Coaching, Football

3 Comments so far

  1. Griffin Fraley says...

    You could also argue that if Michigan 2008 > Minnesota 2008 (at least head-to-head anyways) and that Minnesota 2008 > Minnesota 2007, then Michigan 2008 /=/ Minnesota 2007. Of course, there’s much more to it than that, just saying though.

  2. dex says...

    Agreed… I can totally see M running out to a shiny 6-1 record or something before finishing at 6-6.

  3. G money says...

    Well sure UM can. Minnesota recruited a few JuCO’s.

    Michigan has been recruiting 4 star players for YEARS.

    The big ten continues to be a shadow of what it was in the 90’s.

    Our non-conference schedule is weak.

    The team shouldn’t have lost 3 games and the fact that we lost 3 games shouldn’t necessarily lower our expectations for 2009.

    Our entire offense returns and we get a ton of players added to the mix, thus assuring that the cream that rises to the top will be good.

    8 wins. The bar is set.

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