You walk into a Friday night work party on Mackinac Island, an annual meeting with your co-workers and bosses. You grab a scotch and walk out onto the porch behind the Pink Pony, when you realize your boss is standing by you, drink in hand. "Beautiful night," he says, "too bad we've got an afternoon meeting during the Michigan game. What do you think they'll do against Notre Dame? Who's starting at running back?" You shake your scotch and stare at the beautiful water view. "Doesn't matter who's running the ball if that O-Line can't move the Irish front four." Your boss pats you on the back, smiles at Lake Michigan..."Why don't you roll over to our party at the Jockey Club at 2pm, catch the second half. You seem like a guy who knows football."
SO READ THE MICHIGAN COCKTAIL PARTY AND GET A PROMOTION.
Oh, Michigan 2013. An amalgamation of terrible offensive line play, close game heartache...and enough flashes of brilliance that kept us all coming back for more.
Most Michigan fans and OTE readers didn't believe in the 2013 Michigan team. Too young across the board, an unproven offensive scheme, a tough schedule...8-4 seemed appropriate.
Their doubts were confirmed, and confirmed, and then confirmed again. as the losses piled up later in the season. If we had to do a Top 5 Losses of 2013, it'd look like this:
#5 - OSU. Going for 2 was a good idea though. Made a statement.
#4 - PSU. Miracle comeback was bad, bad news.
#3 - Kansas State. Slow painful beating.
#2 - Nebraska. We can't score points.
#1 - MSU. Less points, more pain.
2014 - THE OFFENSE
New offensive coordinator....That's the first thing you need to know. Doug Nussmeier, the 'Bama man, is going to simplify things and hopefully not confuse his youthful O-Line. Here's an outstanding article on what you should be looking for this year:
For example, the Michigan offense involved six primary run schemes: power, iso, draw, horn (a tackle lead play), inside zone, and outside zone. It's worth noting here, just for comparison, that NFL run-game guru Alex Gibbs believes that a ground attack should be built almost entirely on just inside and outside zone.
If you want to spend hours obsessing about all this, go on mgo. If you want cliff notes and then to go troll folks in the comments section, here goes: Funchess, monstrous and good and he's a WR, guys, not a tight end. Gardner will be pushed by Morris, but it seems he's going to be starting, barring injury. The O-Line will again be inexperienced. Ty Isaac's surprising transfer could allow for RB depth (details about his ability to play this year below).
We still await word on whether Isaac will receive a hardship waiver that allows him to play this fall or if he'll have to sit out a year. Even though Michigan is outside the 100-mile radius that's the normal NCAA standard for granting a hardship, the reason Isaac transferred was so his mother—who's developed an ear condition that prevents her from flying—could drive to his games, something she can do from their Illinois home.
Remember the days when no one could ever run the ball on Michigan? Branch, Woodley, Steele, etc. Those days are past. However -
The linebackers will be experienced, if unexceptional.
The secondary could be one of the B1G's best.
The D-Line. Which of the high level recruits will step up and be an every down player?
ON THE SCHEDULE
What a cakey schedule this is. Michigan could stumble into 9-3 just because of the easy schedule. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Notre Dame provide the most difficult challenges. No Nebraska, Iowa, or Wisconsin.
Things could certainly go off course. An early loss to Utah or Minnesota could send the team into a spiral, just as a win over Notre Dame could prompt a 7-0 start before the trip to Michigan State. This was a relatively fragile, volatile team a year ago, one that nearly lost to Akron and nearly beat Ohio State, so having a staid schedule probably doesn't do much for Michigan fans' anxieties.
MICHIGAN FANS, BACON DISCUSSION
We will talk Hoke tomorrow. For now -
John Bacon, an astute observer of UM football, wrote an explosive piece about AD Dave Brandon. Bacon believes Brandon is hurting Michigan attendance and student excitement/participation. Apparently Brandon charges the highest student ticket prices in the B1G (almost $300 bucks for the season). Bacon writes:
Last week, the Michigan athletic department admitted what many had long suspected: student football ticket sales are down, way down, from about 21,000 in 2012 to a projected 13,000-14,000 this fall.
The department has blamed cell phones, high-definition TV, and a sweeping national trend – but those don’t tell the whole story.
How’d Michigan lose so many students so fast? Answer: a lot of hard work.
Athletic Director Dave Brandon has often cited the difficulty of using cell phones at Michigan Stadium as "the biggest challenge we have." But when Michigan students were asked in a recent survey to rank seven factors for buying season tickets, they ranked cell phones seventh — dead last.
What did they rank first? Being able to sit with their friends.
Monday: Cocktail Party Preview
Tuesday: Smartest Guy in the Room
Wednesday: Potluck Part One
Thursday: Potluck Part Two/Smoking Room
Friday: Keeping the Enemy Close