Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Things have changed

For the last 40+ years with Michigan football, there have been a lot that you could count on - basic offense, solid defense, 8 or 9 wins most seasons, a team that improved as the season progressed, a bowl game every year, and being the better program than Michigan State. Sure there were years that MSU beat us, but we almost always finished with a better record, and only most ardent spartan supporter would argue that MSU was gonna be the better team in any given year. All of that has changed. Not only was MSU the better team on Saturday, it's clear now that they've become the better program. They've become the team that seems to be greater than the sum of its parts, while we've become the team that can't get out of its own way.
Now the spartanistas have been telling us since the day before Lloyd Carr retired that "things had changed", but you'll have to forgive wolverine fans who had seen the sun set in the west all their life if they had a hard time believing it was going to start setting in the east. Now after watching our team get depantsed three straight years, we're starting to get it.
How did this happen? Some credit goes to Mark Dantonio who has done a decent Jim Tressel impersonation by focusing on a rivalry game, simplifying the offense, recruiting the state of ohio hard, and conveniently ignoring criminal activity from key players (I kid, I kid). But mostly this is a case of Michigan's program falling to new found depths and continuing to look unlike anything we've ever seen in the winged helmets. As time goes on, it's getting harder and harder to excuse Michigan's poor defense as an accident or as an unfortunate set of circumstances. And as time goes on without any apparent improvement it getting harder and harder to believe that all it will take for improvement is time or more in-game experience.
Where does this game leave us from a season perspective? Well, the wild dreams of a big ten title are gone. A win over a good Iowa team might revive thoughts of a New Year's Day bowl, but likely this is still a 7-5 team that will have to fight to make it to a bowl. The good news is that they might not face another offense as balanced as MSU all year. Of course, it doesn't take much offense to beat our defense to a bloody pulp, and five of the six remaining teams have defenses that are statistically better than States. The season, I think, will come down to a three game stretch - at Penn State, Illinois, at Purdue. 3-0 or 2-1 they go bowling, 1-2 or 0-3, they stay home, and the search for a new coach likely begins.