Roundtable: The Short-Term Future Of Michigan Football Is Not As Clear As You Think It Is

Michigan, in 2014, is done.

Stick a fork in the Wolverines.

This dog won’t hunt, this ship has sailed, this party’s over for Brady Hoke.

It’s unanimous, right?

Wrong — this is why we have roundtables.

Our panel is not fully convinced that Michigan is cooked, because the Wolverines are indeed a competent team on the defensive side of the ball in a Big Ten that’s been spinning sideways. Contrarianism for the sake of being contrarian? No — Michigan’s defense scored a touchdown as well against Utah, allowing a net of only 12 points when you realize that the Utes scored seven of their points on a kick return. Michigan’s defense allowed 19 points and scored seven, so that’s how the net total becomes a dozen points, more than enough to win a game. This isn’t as clear-cut a situation as you might think.

We explore the future of Michigan football and other topics in the latest Editors’ Roundtable here at The Student Section.


Question No. 1: Which program will recover first — Michigan or Miami?

Bart Doan:

On Twitter @TheCoachBart

I suppose it depends on coaching. Barring something of miracle status, it’s hard to see Brady Hoke lasting past this year. Michigan will be lucky to make a bowl game. Miami, on the other hand, has a coach that seems like he can get it done in Al Golden.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been a fan of Golden. Personally, I’m a little surprised it’s taken this long for Miami to try to become powerful again since his hire. It should have happened by now.

So, this is one of those questions I sort of shrug at and really don’t know the answer to. Hoke is seemingly a good guy, but he’s not paid to be a priest, he’s paid to win. Much like dating, you normally choose someone that’s almost too much the opposite of your ex every time, and that doesn’t work out either.

That is what Hoke is to Michigan after the school moved on from Rich Rodriguez. The university make a landmark hire, then it’s on the way back first. Otherwise, I guess Miami, but I’d have expected it to have happened already.

Terry Johnson:

On Twitter @SectionTPJ

I’ll be honest: I really don’t like this question. To bury a program after four games is absolutely wrong in my eyes, especially with so much football left to play. Since each team still controls its own destiny in the conference championship race, it’s still way too early to write off the 2014 campaign as a complete failure.

However, assuming that each team fails to meet the lofty (or as some would say insanely unrealistic) expectations placed on it during the preseason, I’d say that Michigan would be the first to recover.

Moreover, it could happen as early as the end of this season.

While those that bleed Maize and Blue will disagree with this statement, the Wolverines really haven’t played that badly in 2014. Sure, the two losses look really awful, but the margins were only lopsided because UM shot itself in the foot with turnovers. As long as the team does a better job of protecting the football in the final eight contests, there’s no reason to think it can’t capture the Big Ten title this season.

Remember, defense wins championships, and the Wolverines have one of the best in the land. Believe it or not, Michigan ranks eighth nationally in total defense (261 yards per game), and has yet to allow an opponent to eclipse the 300-yard barrier this fall.

That hardly sounds like a team that’s out of contention in 2014. Let’s see what steps Hoke takes to cut down on turnovers the next few weeks.

Utah linebacker Gionni Paul (No. 13) collected a fumble recovery and an interception on Saturday. When Michigan stops coughing up the ball, says Student Section associate editor Terry Johnson, the Wolverines have a chance to be a very good team... not next season, but this season.

Utah linebacker Gionni Paul (No. 13) collected a fumble recovery and an interception on Saturday. When Michigan stops coughing up the ball, says Student Section associate editor Terry Johnson, the Wolverines have a chance to be a very good team… not next season, but this season.

Matt Zemek:

On Twitter @SectionMZ

The San Francisco 49ers are 1-2. If they continue down a losing path, there’s no guarantee that Jim Harbaugh will want to leave his post, but the likelihood of such a response from him would increase. Brady Hoke was not Rich Rodriguez. That was one reason he came across as an appealing successor to RichRod in Ann Arbor, but the other thing that caught Michigan’s eye about Hoke is that he fixed two separate programs in the course of two seasons (Ball State and San Diego State). Another coach did that same thing, also in the MAC and Mountain West: a man named Urban Meyer (with Bowling Green and Utah).

Now that it’s clear Hoke isn’t another Meyer, Michigan can stop worrying about styles, which was something that certainly seemed to figure into the RichRod hire and the Hoke counter-hire.

Michigan’s task is to simply get a proven head coach. It should draw a lot of interest from elite candidates come December and (perhaps) early January. The Wolverines don’t have to fire Hoke now. They can and should wait. When they wait, as long as they get an established coach with unquestioned credentials, they’ll move back up the mountain.

As for Miami? If the Hurricanes figure to be part of a typical ACC Coastal mess and aren’t able to rise above it, they don’t appear ready to become the 1983-2003 version of “The U” anytime soon. Wake me up when Miami shows any real sign of becoming “Miami.” 


Question No. 2: Did the Big Ten redeem itself by going 4-1 against “Power 5” conference opponents this past weekend?

Bart Doan:

I suppose if you chant “ACC! ACC! ACC!” over a grip of Beam, then yeah, why not. Otherwise, only Indiana provided one of those wins that make you sort of turn your head, taking down Missouri at the Tigers’ place while ranked in the top 20.

A question to ponder that we’ll never really get an answer to is: “Suppose Missouri is still in the Big 12 … is the national media looking at that win the same way?”

Otherwise, it was a “needed” weekend for the Big Ten, and specifically Michigan State. The Spartans’ fortunes as the clear best team in the Big Ten right now are tied to how people may perceive their competition against a different conference when late November arrives. Obviously things change, but this is the prevailing theory 25 percent into this season.

Like I always say, though, wins are referendums on the teams in the game rather than the ancillary 10 to 12 regional teams that aren’t a part of the game. Matchups are different, motivations are different, and these are college kids, remember.

However, if you’re looking to further a tired narrative about conference strength, yes, it was a good climb for the B1G and a kick in the shorts for the ACC.

Matt Zemek:

This is a question of degrees and measures, the kind of question that — if answered on the witness stand before a hostile interrogator — you’d try to answer in an elaborate, caveat-filled way. The interrogator, maybe Jim Delany, would just say, “Yes or no — what is the accurate answer to the question, sir?”

“Yes, Jim, the Big Ten redeemed itself.”

“No more questions, your honor.”

After leaving the courtroom, you’d tell friends or sympathetic guests in the audience that, yes, technically and within a narrow context, the Big Ten redeemed itself. You’d concede that Indiana played with toughness and the look of a somewhat competent defense for the first time in forever. You’d acknowledge that Indiana didn’t beat 2012 or 2011 Missouri, but defending SEC champion Missouri. You’d point out that Rutgers surprised Navy on the road, even with injuries to important players. You’d point out that Maryland dusted off Syracuse, also on the road.

Yet, you’d insist on telling your friends that if Jim Delany didn’t push you into the narrow box of a “yes or no” answer, you’d say that in comparison with everything the Big Ten had endured over the first three weeks of the season, the past weekend merely provided a small dose of redemption, nothing one should consider complete or sweeping.

Terry Johnson:

I’ll act like a politician and waffle on the issue.

Then, I’ll give an answer that will irritate absolutely everybody on both sides of the aisle.

The short response is “yes and no.” The Big Ten certainly helped itself by picking up four wins against the other “Big Boy” conferences. After all, the league entered Saturday’s action with a 1-10 record against the “Power 5” leagues. These four victories bring the Big Ten’s record to a much more respectable 5-11 mark. While that’s still less-than-stellar, it’s a dramatic improvement from the .091 winning percentage the it had after week 3.

However, it still wasn’t enough to undo the damage that’s already been done. Whether we like it or not, the league’s poor showing in weeks one through three likely sealed its fate. Remember, the Selection Committee doesn’t calculate strength of the schedule based on any type of number: it uses the eyeball test. Since the games at the beginning of the season were more memorable than what happened yesterday (exception: Indiana over Missouri), the Big Ten is still at a decided disadvantage when it comes time to select the teams for the field.


Question No. 3: Is Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine the next great freshman Heisman candidate?

Samaje Perine captured the attention of Student Section associate editor Bart Doan and many others on Saturday night. Can he continue to produce on a large scale every week? That's how he'll get a plane ticket to New York in three months.

Samaje Perine captured the attention of Student Section associate editor Bart Doan and many others on Saturday night. Can he continue to produce on a large scale every week? That’s how he’ll get a plane ticket to New York in three months.

Terry Johnson:

No. That’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do. 

Sorry, folks: Perine is not a Heisman Trophy candidate at this point.

That’s not to say that he’s not a phenomenal athlete. Both Oklahoma players and coaches have praised Perine’s work ethic throughout the offseason. With that type of dedication, he’s clearly going to be a special back for the Sooners over the next few seasons.

However, he’s not Adrian Peterson.

Why do I bring up that name? Simple: Peterson had a very special season for the Sooners as a true freshman. He made an immediate impact on the OU offense, running for over 100 yards in his first nine games, including 225 against Texas in the Red River Rivalry. For the year, he posted 11 100-yard games in his rookie campaign, running for 1,925 yards and 15 TDs, guiding the Sooners to a berth in the national championship game.

Despite these eye-popping stats, Peterson finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting to Matt Leinart.

Unfortunately, Perine doesn’t have the numbers that Peterson did. After all, Saturday’s outburst was the first time that he went over the century mark this season. Moreover, while breaking the 200-yard barrier is no small accomplishment, it does lose a lot of its luster since it came at the hands of a West Virginia defense that entered the contest ranked 94th nationally in yards per carry (4.9 ypc).

However, there’s still a lot of football remaining. Should Perine continue to rattle off 200-yard efforts, he’ll rightly earn a trip to New York in December.

That said, I’m not ready to send him there after just one big game.

Matt Zemek:

The performance of Perine on Saturday night was eye-catching, but the problem for a freshman is that while he’ll need to be consistent to win the award, he’s swimming upstream. Todd Gurley, Kenny Hill, and Marcus Mariota have all been better, more consistent players to this point in the season. Ameer Abdullah and Amari Cooper could be seen in that light as well, especially Abdullah. If Perine is merely going to become a Heisman finalist, he faces an uphill climb. Check back in three weeks to see if he’s a real factor.

Bart Doan:

Yessir, he is. With Johnny Manziel and Jameis Winston winning the Heisman the last few years, “Which freshman might come from out of nowhere to win the Heisman” has been as popular a question as “So … what’s your major?”, for insecure freshmen boys to the girls they’re trying to pick up.

The comparison is sort of loaded since he played at Oklahoma, but Perine looks like Adrian Peterson, the kind where you feel like you need to check his birth certificate.

What’s even more absurd is that with that talent, Perine was originally pegged as a backup. Every carry, he’s just pure “wow.” Bob Stoops has something, folks. On top of that, Perine’s almost given the Sooners a new identity that I don’t even know the Adrian Peterson teams had, and that’s one of, “We’re gonna go ahead and run it. You know it. We know it. And it’s still going to work.”

Third-and-short passing is out in Norman all of a sudden. Oklahoma felt too finesse-based for too long. No more. It’s almost unthinkable that a running back can win the Heisman, but the allure that Perine brings as a freshman will give his campaign and media attention more teeth than if he were a Todd Gurley or whatever.

So … why the hell not? Let’s go.