Why Michigan 2008 isn’t Notre Dame 2007

The final part in a series that I started (and accidentally abandoned) a long time ago. The other teams of comparison were Minnesota 2007, Alabama 2007, and Nebraska 2004.

Notre Dame and Michigan’s 2007 and 2008 seasons, respectively, were somewhat similar. Does that mean Michigan is doomed to follow in the Irish’s footsteps and finish 6-6 in their next season? Let’s take a look at why or why not. First, there’s a comparison between the actual teams. As Brian explored on MGoBlog, despite the same record, Notre Dame’s season of terror was much more… terrible… than Michigan’s. So, although this post is primarily predictive, it’s important to note that Michigan’s year was nowhere near the disaster that ND’s was.

Another key difference between the two teams: 2007 was Weis’ third year in South Bend. He was playing with mostly his recruits (after doing all of his winning with Willingham’s oddly-lamented recruiting classes), at least the ones who hadn’t left after committing to Weis, spending two years in his program, earning starting jobs, and STILL hating the whale enough to ditch his program.

The Better

Michigan’s offense, though significantly better than Notre Dame’s, was full of first-time starters (every single player except for one – Steve Schilling), many of whom were never expected to contribute. The offensive line, in particular, didn’t have the accolades or experience of Notre Dame’s comparable unit, and they still managed to perform much better (as in “didn’t give up an NCAA record in sacks”). When you take into account that every single offensive player who had a meaningful role on the team (except Sam McGuffie, who missed much of the year with injury and was out when the offense started to, like, function) is back, and Notre Dame didn’t have quite that luxury between 2007 and 2008, it’s certainly a good sign for Michigan.

Michigan’s defense was supposed to be its strong suit in 2008, and that didn’t quite come to fruition. However, Michigan will be returning some of its most talented players on defense – defensive end Brandon Graham, corner Donovan Warren, and linebacker Obi Ezeh – and they are loking to build on that success.

The Worse

The quarterback situation for Michigan coming off 2008 is much wore than Notre Dame’s was the previous year. Though Jimmy Clausen had a horrible first year in South Bend, he was still the #1 overall recruit in the nation for a reason. Steven Threet, on the other hand (should he choose to stay) is a more limited, though still talented, player. If Michigan has to start a true freshman (or even a sophomore Threet), it will be a step down from a sophomore Clausen.

Michigan also lost its defensive coordinator, which can be seen as a blessing and a curse. Scott Shafer’s defense wasn’t the world-beater it was built up as before the season, but Michigan’s defense will still have to learn from its third coordinator in as many years, which certainly increases the likelihood of missed assignments, etc. Of course, GERG did beat the Irish in their house last year.

The Verdict

Halfway through last year, emulating ND’s two-year stretch might have been a pretty good goal for Michigan. The head-to-head win in the series, and a path to an 8-4 record (and therefore, ridiculously, a BCS bowl) seemed to be well within ND’s grasp. Then, of course, they fell flat on their faces, getting GERGed and not even registering a first down against USC until the third quarter. Rich Rodriguez’s noted track record of success and actual support (in the form of opinions) from people in the know would certainly seem to imply that the Wolverines aren’t headed for an extended down period like the Irish may be.

With Michigan’s fairly unique situation last year, particularly for a first-year coach, they were set up for a pretty special kind of suck. Notre Dame’s 2007 team, in all honesty, shouldn’t have been. With a year under the RR regime, a hell of a lot more experience, and some new recruits coming in, the Wolverines should be disappointed with a season like Notre Dame’s. Of course, expecting much better might be setting up unreasonable expectations (8 winsis a reasonable goal).

Posted under Analysis, Coaching, Football
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15 Comments so far

  1. Brian says...

    Put down the crack pipe and enter reality. Michigan will have a true Freshman at QB this year along with the same shakey O-Line. Add to that the defensive front losses and getting to 6 wins will be a minor miracle (of course playing DII schools should help pad the record)

  2. Santoro says...

    8 wins? God.. 8 wins and I am doing backflips across the golf course.. that would be nice..

  3. Tim says...

    That’s why it’s a goal, not an expectation.

  4. Santoro says...

    I am not knocking your optimism, and its not a totally unrealistic goal, but a LOT of things would have to fall into place. Although, with all the new/different talent in the last 2 classes it is certainly possible. The talent surrounding whomever ends up at QB is certainly better than it was last year. I dont think anyone can argue that..

  5. John says...

    Since Threat, Threet or whatever his name is, is gone. What about RR finding a JUCO QB as some insurnace behind Tate? I realize they are probably all gone.

  6. Grob says...

    Anyone else bothered by the soft schedule with the MAC schools and Deleware State. Not from a win perspective, but from the amount of money laid out for tickets and everything else. Pretty embarassing schedule to get wins in my perspective. I’d rather play Utah or somebody where at least there is a little excitement or drama.

  7. tbliggins says...

    Coming off a 3-9 season w/ a true frosh QB I am not bothered one bit by the schedule. For this upcoming season I would rather pay to see easy wins than dramatic/exciting games. Once RR gets thing rolling, then let’s worry about putting together a real schedule.

  8. Charlie says...

    Hahaha! Wasn’t this exactly what you Blue fans were talking about last year? “Oh no, we would NEVER be like Notre Dame”. Hahaha! Michigan will be exactly like Notre Dame last year all over again. Rich Rod didn’t even pull off the top recruiting class like Weis did last year, what makes you think he will be able to do better than Notre Dame’s mediocre record?

  9. Santoro says...

    Free Ryan Perrilloux!

  10. Tim says...

    i don’t think anybody was expecting a sen like this, but most reasonable fans certainly realized it was possible. And, are you seriously going to ask me to explain why Michigan and Notre Dame are different when I jut spent an ENTIRE POST doing it? Typical Penn State fan idiocy/obsession.

  11. frank says...

    Let’s be a bit more optimistic about the QB situation. Many freshman QBs actually perform quite well. Tebow and Pryor come to mind. Yeah, there will be growing pains, but even with that it’s going to be a vast improvement from what we saw last year, where QBs were downright incompetent most of the time. I applaud them for their dedication and sacrifice, but they just did not have ANY talent, at least the talent needed to run the spread.

  12. Ann Arbor 1879 says...

    Tebow didn’t start and was asked to do very little as a freshman. Also Pryor is slightly better than Tat e or Denard coming out of high school and HE wasn’t asked to start right away either. Your comment is void. Apples to Oranges, etc,.

  13. Rick \R says...

    The biggest risk UM faces on offense is every opponent will be stacking 7-8 men up front. The likelihood of Tate or Denard whacking a defense for a 10-15 pass completion on third down is about nil, at least for the first few games.

    If we cannot pass downfield, how well can we run against an eight man front? Me thinks six wins, tops. Next year, tho, ten wins.

  14. arrowheadblue says...

    I’m getting more afraid RR sold everyone a bill of goods especially with the “I develop the offense around the personnel I have.”

    If that was the case UM would have run a power run game with a dropback passer instead of the crap he put on the field last year.

    Folks, it won’t get much better this year, either.

  15. Paul says...

    We didn’t have a good drop back passer (a freshman and a walk-on) or a good enough offensive line to successfully power run. Bill Martin didn’t hire Rich Rodriguez to be Lloyd Carr v2.0.

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