Michigan Football: The Changing Winds


Will Brady Hoke turn around the Wolverines this year? Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

With twenty days left until the Michigan Wolverines take the field for the first game of the 2014 season, there is still plenty of time for speculation. Who will be the starting running back? Will the offense line gel? Is Jabril Peppers the next Charles Woodson? Those are all great questions, ones that can be broken down and analyzed up until the game.

However, sports can be broken down into two categories: win or lose. Because our society love s sports so much, we go to great lengths to find out whether our team should win or lose. Some prefer to look at intangibles, checking in on locker room chemistry or seeing if a certain player passes the eye test. Others like looking at advanced metrics, trying to break down if a player is a net positive when he is on the field.

At this point in my Michigan football fandom, I’m beyond looking at either type of measurable. My high school years featured the down years of the Rich Rodriguez era. Just as I decided to attend Michigan, the football team put together a miraculous 2011 season in Brady Hoke’s first year. I was ecstatic, because things were turning around just as I was about to enter college.

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The 2012 season seemed like only a minor step backwards. It wasn’t entirely unexpected, because it could be 2011 was simply a fluke. The Alabama thrashing certainly tempered expectations, but the general consensus was that we still had a good football team. Notre Dame seemed to be simply a poor game for our team. Other than that, our losses all seemed like we were a play away: South Carolina and Ohio State were games we could have won. I would take that as a positive sign. Whatever the case,  I was still happy because Michigan did not lose at the Big House that year.

Then came last year. Denard Robinson was gone, but we had seen Devin Gardner play admirably in his absence. We won the season opener, then College GameDay came to town. Michigan played an incredible game in Under the Lights II, a huge spectacle that had everyone riding a high.

Then everyone came crashing down when an Akron team that only won three games in the previous three years took Michigan to the distance. Memories of Appalachian State played around everyone’s consciousness. Michigan won, but failed to pick up any faith after an uninspired contest against lowly UConn. A convincing win against Minnesota tempered fears, but that was before the Penn State debacle.

Michigan never really recovered from that loss. A shootout against Indiana was the only game that seemed like Michigan had a chance of winning. Michigan almost lost out the rest of the way, only squeaking out an overtime victory against Northwestern.

Last season was what made me temper my expectations. It ended Brady Hoke’s streak of being undefeated in the Big House. There was the crushing defeat to the team once considered “Little Brother.” It featured yet another loss to Ohio State, in even more heartbreaking fashion.

2011 seems like a distant memory, and even the pleasant wistfulness of 2012 is gone. 2013 was a season that lacked inspiration. What that means for this season, I’m not sure.

Many people will write about Michigan’s chances. Everyone loves predictions, analyzing what could happen. Michigan is not in the preseason Top 25, but that doesn’t mean much to me. DeVeon Smith is ahead of Derrick Green in the running back race, which is certainly news, but it doesn’t hold a lot of weight for me.

I think I will save all of my analysis for after games. Before them, I will sit back and hope Michigan Football, through a mix of intangibles and stats, can restore the program to what it once was.