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Saturday November 01, 2014
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Low Expectations

 

continued

I was in a minority that believed the horses weren't there in 2008: that U-M did not have a quarterback who fit Rodriguez's system nor sufficient quality on the offensive line to make his system work. We pessimists believed the defense might be good enough to keep the Wolverines in some games (we were wrong), but the Wolverines just wouldn't be able to score enough points (we were right). In response to Rowe's enthusiastic forecast, I hedged that "6-6 would be a pretty reasonable outcome"--feeling I was being perhaps too pessimistic. I never imagined 3-9, even in my worst nightmares.

The Wolverines punctuated their 2008 season by losing to a wretched Toledo team at home. The loss--Michigan's first ever to a team from the Mid-American Conference--was surrounded by eight more. In one of the three worst seasons in Michigan history, the high points were a sluggish 16-6 win over an awful Miami (Ohio) team, a completely fluky win over Wisconsin and (somehow) an elegant and dominating performance against Minnesota.

Afterward, there were any number of theories about what went wrong. But one thing is certain: bad luck wasn't involved. The most meaningful stat in football, the one that separates performance from randomness, is yards per pass attempt. In Big Ten play, the Wolverines averaged 3.98 yards per passing attempt, while their opponents averaged 6.9 yards. That minus 2.92-yard differential was, by far, the worst in the Big Ten last year. I doubt that any Big Ten team has ever done significantly worse.

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