Yesterday marked the end of a very frustrating 2012 campaign for the University of Michigan Wolverines. Losses to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Ohio, and eventually, South Carolina closed the book on Team 133. There is no way to spin the fact that the preseason ranking was not justified, and that the team did not perform up to the expectations that Coach Hoke, and its fans, expect.
At the post-game presser, Hoke said that he was proud of the team while gently reminding everyone that even with a win, they would have still failed. I took his words to mean that the days of celebrating bowl eligibility in Ann Arbor are over, as brief as they were.
It may seem like I am trying to spin this disappointing season, but rest assured that I am not. Michigan has made a complete turn-around from the darkest three years in recent memory, and with the exit of certain players left over from that era, a return to the Michigan we all know and expect is right around the corner.
In 2008, Michigan went 3-8, suffered its first losing season since 1967, and lost to Toledo AT HOME. All we heard was that once Rodriguez got his players… greatness was in sight. 2009 saw the Wolverines go 5-7, despite having the 7th ranked recruiting class. Well, naturally, just give them a year in the Rodriguez system and they will blossom, right? The 2010 team represented the lowest point of RichRod’s tenure at Michigan. After a 67-65 victory over Illinois that gave the Wolverines their sixth win, the team stormed the field. I sat in utter disbelief. We celebrate being bowl eligible? And that year, we all were reintroduced to the 2006 Josh Groban classic, “You Raise Me Up.” Mississippi State, a S.E.C. West team that competes for recruits with LSU, Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas, finally ended the Rodriguez experiment. The West Virginian Hillbilly left Michigan with the 110th ranked defense in the FBS, and compiled a 15-27 record.
Coach Hoke’s introductory press conference was highly entertaining. This rotund and robust guy talked about how great Michigan is, and repeatedly knocked the wind out of Drew Sharp’s sails, which is always wonderful to witness. When he said, “This is Michigan, ferGodssakes…” I believed that we finally had a coach who understood what that meant. He then hired Greg Mattison to reassemble the defense that gave up 457 yards per game the prior season, and added Gorgeous Al Borges to his staff. Oh, and then they won 11 games with the guys Rich Rodriguez recruited. Where Rodriguez failed, Coach Hoke succeeded. He took the players that wen 15-27 and went 11-2. “But, but those were RichRod’s players!!!!!” But, but, that was Coach Hoke’s system.
Make no mistake: 8-5 is not acceptable, but at least we have a coach who understands that, accepts the fact that HE, and his team, failed to live up to the expectations, and returned to work TODAY to ensure that Team 134 meets those lofty expectations he set for his program. And it is his program, until the day he dies.
One more thing, Sparty, that’s 7 of 11.