Maybe it was the four (4) point loss to Nebraska at home, maybe it was the twenty-three (23) point loss to Michigan State on the road; whatever it was, Brady Hoke has been in hot water with the football program for close to a year now.
Michigan has been a program that takes pride in saying “The winningest program in college football history,” but there has been more bad losses than quality wins in recent years. Yes the one (1) point loss to Ohio State at home to end the regular season gave me hope, but the following game was a disaster, regardless of having their starting quarterback healthy or not. Devin Gardner does not play defense, so letting Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett score three (3) touchdowns in a half is inexcusable.
It has been a roller coaster for the Wolverines over the last two (2) years, but one thing is for sure; Wins needs to happen. There are issues all over the offensive line, and losing two (2) players to the NFLhurts them tremendously. There have been holes filled with current players and commitments, but there will be less talent if the program continues to trend downwards.
But there is a feeling of optimism for this program, do not think otherwise. Hoke needs to put together a team similar to his 2011 roster, and build off of the team’s strengths. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has already simplified the offense to his liking, and will help bring along a very young team who is hungry to be successful. With a stable of young, healthy running backs, this team will be able to play “power-football” again, and will compete in a tough Big Ten Conference.
Watching this team, the strength is going to be their defense this year, and it will have to instill a “bend-but-don’t-break” attitude, similar to Notre Dame in 2012-13. I am not saying this team will compete for a National Championship by any lengths, but a strong, ball-hawking defense will make them very competitive. Michigan State did that last season, and took a trip to Pasadena as a result. No one expected that team to be as remarkable as they were, so why can’t the Wolverines do the same?
Growing pains happen, I get that, but I haven’t seen much success since Rich Rodriguez left town, so I’m expecting more. Another down year would mean that the team has taken another step back, and Hoke’s job could be on the line. The talent is there, it just hasn’t been developed yet. Recruiting has been a strong point for Hoke, but he needs to capitalize on the players he is bringing in. The young offensive line has a chance to be very talented, but they need to come together as a unit. This team will go as far as the offensive line takes them, regardless of skill positions on the outside, and in the backfield.
Another down year would mean that a whole new staff may be brought in, similar to the recent stretch of Michigan football, and consistency will be close to nonexistent. So the Wolverines will be playing for a Big Ten Championship, but also for their Head Coach’s job. This team has potential, I’ve said that since 2012, but banking on potential is growing old. Wins will bring in revenue, recruits, and save face for a program once known as dominant. Waking up a sleeping giant is tough, but this team needs to do that. Bringing a team to the Rose Bowl game or the College Football Playoff will do wonders for this program, they just need to be led in the right direction.
So another down year could shake up the landscape of this team, for better or worse is unknown. I am a believer in Hoke, I support him, and I believe he has what it takes to improve this team, his leash is just tightening. Fans deserve better than a 28-24 win against Akron, and it is well documented that they know this. Enough with gimmicks to get people in the stands; winning football games will have every seat filled in that stadium, regardless of who the opponent is. In the words of the late Al Davis, “Just win, baby.”