It's hard to believe, but B1G 2015 is already on Week 5, and what do you know? IT'S MICHIGAN WEEK! Which, let's be honest. It's still strange to see a bad Michigan. It's not bad necessarily, but it's definitely weird. Anyhow, to keep Graham and Brian's awesome work going, we're bringing you a Harbaugh-sized potluck discussing everything from bowl eligibility to terrible offensive lines, skill player potential and Jake Rudock to what to expect from the Michigan defense. We'll finish up with some great ideas from your friendly neighborhood OTE writers about what they'd do if they were Dave Brandon.
Speaking of which, one of the best things Michigan could have ever done was get rid of Dave Brandon. He was a clown on a lot of levels, including apparently emailing people back like a petulant 14 year old who learned what email was, and you can't help but wonder if Michigan is about to go on a run like modern Domino's... You know, moderately better than the terrible it was? Sure, that works. Anyhow, in honor of the late, great Dave Brandon, we're doing the potluck Domino's style. (leave it to the University of Michigan to just buy their way out of making something for the potluck) WHEEEEEEE!!!
Appetizer - Stuffed Cheesy Bread
There was always potential for 2014 Michigan to be good. The highly rated recruits, the next step in the Hoke system, history, the fact that Michigan had only missed a bowl twice since 1975, and well, come on, this is Michigan. Bad or not, it couldn’t be worse than 2013. Then the season started and it was a cluster all around. So, out goes Hoke and in comes HARBAUGH which, I might resort to using all-caps for him because it feels like that’s the reverence Michigan is putting on him. Thinking to last season and judging how good HARBAUGH is, what should we reasonably expect in 2015? Is this team really bowling?
Mike Jones: They should be bowling. Hoke brought in a lot of talent in 2013-2014 and Harbaugh should do a better job at developing it than Hoke because hell, anyone can do better than Hoke. If the Wolverines can settle on a QB and actually utilize some of the talent that they have, their schedule will allow them to at least win six games. At least.
Andrew Kraszewski: Yes, they should be bowling. As bad as Hoke was, he only missed the postseason by one game. Even if the noncon proves to be as tough as it looks- a road trip to Utah, home games with Oregon State and BYU- their conference schedule is fairly friendly. Both rivalry games are at home, Michigan dodges Wisconsin yet again and doesn't see Nebraska either. This version of Michigan will need to be a lot better on the road than Hoke's teams were, but it's not hard to envision that happening. The 7-9 win range should be doable.
Thomas Speth: Michigan has more undeveloped talent than any team in the nation. Maybe Harbaugh can develop that talent. If he's really worth the hype this team should win 7+ games. If he doesn't there's only 2 answers. 1- Harbaugh is not in fact the best coach in the history of football 2- Hoke was awesome at recruiting players that were super overrated.
Brian GIllis: With 41 bowl games now (or are there even more than that?), I think anything less would be a disappointment. I’d put a realistic over/under at seven wins.
LincolnParkWildcat: Harbaugh is a proven college coach and a program builder. I believe Hoke left him some decent recruits, so I expect anywhere from 6 to 9 wins his first season.
Side Dish - Specialty Chicken: Crispy Bacon and Tomato
MJ: Are we forgetting that the Wolverines have Ty Isaac? The 5-star recruit originally committed to USC and had offers from every school in the country. At 6'3, 225, I think the Wolverines power running game will be fine if the offensive line doesn't completely fall apart.
AK: The rumblings I hear indicate that, at least to start, OC Tim Drevno's offense will be fairly conservative in the pass game. That would make Rudock your perfect fit as a stopgap while Harbaugh is off on Dagobah with Zach Gentry or John O'Korn or whichever of the 4 dozen QBs on the roster ends up being the chosen one. As far as weapons go, Butt should be a-tootin' (hee hee) along at full steam, 18 months removed from his ACL tear once the season starts. Amara Darboh is pretty much my definition of an exactly average college WR, so he'll continue to exist I suppose. Beyond that, better hope one of Hoke's collection of tall guys actually has some heretofore undisplayed receiver skills.
TS: Someone, anyone has to develop from all those starz Hoke was pulling in.
BG: Michigan has some talented offensive players, but few proven ones – particularly at the skill positions. That means a lot will fall on the shoulders of presumed starter Jake Rudock. If Rudock plays well, that will go a long toward a successful season for Michigan. Much of the criticism of Rudock seems to have centered around him playing too conservatively. However, after Michigan’s last couple of seasons, steady, if not spectacular, play at quarterback would be welcomed. It will be interesting to see which running back emerges or whether a receiver makes a leap this season, but the key to this season is Rudock (and the offensive line). And while there’s no guarantee that Rudock will be the starter, it’s pretty clear that no other eligible QB on the roster is ready to lead the offense at this point, so if Rudock doesn’t get the nod, well … take the under.
LPW: I honestly don’t know how good Michigan will be this year on offense. They’ve been floundering for a while. Jake Rudock was to me yet another generic Iowa quarterback, so I dont think he’ll light the world on fire in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s receivers stunk last year, and haha they have a receiver named Jake Butt. I bet Harbaugh misses the O-line he had at Stanford at some point this year, but I could be completely wrong. I’m curious to see how Graham or Brian answer this question.
AY: I've seen enough as a football "writer" to know that the least important part of a power run game is the running back. It's all about the offensive line, man, and if HARBAUGH can get the Maize and Blue unit playing greater than the sum of its parts (as opposed to less than the sum like the last two years), then the coach's offense will make a star out of any back.
DJ: There is virtually none of either and Michigan returns 4 of 5 players on a shitty OL to say the least. Needless to say, there are concerns.
JC: So I cheated on this question a little bit when I wrote it in that I'm probably underselling Michigan's offense in 2014 considering how terrible they really were in 2013. And by underselling, I mean, hey look, the run game was just bad instead of terrible? I don't know. The thing about the Harbaugh hire is that this is probably the best situation for the Wolverines as far as scheme that makes the fanbase happy marrying scheme that will work. I actually think Rudock will progress under Harbaugh as well. Call it a hunch, but just being able to play looser, and having a better QB coach, will be more than enough to show his greater potential. That's a plus of having a QB oriented coach I suppose.
GoForThree: Nothing tickles my Schadenfreude funnybone like the thought of Jake "Iowa State Trucked Me and I Got Benched For Awhile" Rudock as the savior of Michigan. The Michigan OL somehow achieved Penn State OL levels of turnstile blocking last year while avoiding the same level of criticism. Needless to say, they'll be better this year on offense. And by that I mean they'll achieve 4.7 YPA rushing.
Salad - Pasta Primavera
Something that is also not overlooked, Michigan has an offensive line problem. Despite Brady Hoke literally recruiting at the highest level at that position, this unit was bad. They allowed a shade under 6 TFL per game and the trail of dead QBs the Wolverines had on the sideline would lead you to believe the actual numbers should have been worse. So in comes 2015 and four out of five starters are back with Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Gasglow, and Kyle Kalis represent most of the line from last year. They were improved – again – from 2013 but still represent a lot of work to go. New OC Tim Drevno knows line play, though, so maybe optimism? Similar to questions about the offense in general, what should we expect from the line? Will this unit be an asset in 2015?
MJ: Harbaugh's success developing a power run game is partially due to his ability to develop offensive lines. As we all know, Hoke couldn't develop a Tombstone Pizza (he just ate them raw). I don't think that Harbaugh's arrival is going to signal some sort of miracle change but I do think it will at least bring a certain level of competency.
AK: This, I don't know. I'm not sure if Michigan intends to stick with the same blocking schemes Doug Nussmeier used in his one year in Ann Arbor or go the reboot route. Experience counts for the most on the OL and at QB, so logic would suggest with 4 starters and multiple other upperclassmen back, this group will at the very least be completely out of excuses if they're no better than mediocre again. It is worth noting that Graham Glasgow was suspended in the spring for violating his probation from a prior DUI, which has to mean he's on his Very Super Duper For Reals This Time Last Chance; if he puts a toe out of line, Michigan's back down to one interior lineman with significant game experience.
TS: See answer from 2. Has it been mentioned Brady Hoke is not very good at developing players? Someone should look into that.
BG: Offensive line play was probably the most frustrating aspect of the Brady Hoke era. Hoke had designs on building the Wolverines around a strong run game, and seemed to be recruiting to do just that. True, Michigan was forced to play a young offensive line the past couple of seasons, but youth or not, the development just wasn’t there under Hoke and o-line coach Darrell Funk. Other than quarterback play, the extent to which Harbaugh and offensive coordinator and former NFL o-line coach Tim Drevno can develop Michigan’s collection of former top recruits into a functioning, if not dominating, offensive line will be the key not only to this season, but future seasons as well.
LPW: Like I just said, I think Harbaugh will miss the guys on his old Stanford O-line. It’s inconceivable how the Michigan o-line could be that bad last year. Maybe they just need a firm kick in the butt from Harbaugh to play up to their potential. I want to know how good the strength and conditioning guy Harbaugh brought with him is compared to the guy Hoke had and the infamous Mike Barwis.
AY: I think the combination of returning experience and HARBAUGH's history of power football at Stanford and in the NFL bodes well for Michigan. Throughout his Bay Area tenure, the coach has been successful at running the ball, and if he can mold this line into a winning unit, it will go a long way towards giving Michigan a decent run game that is a new quarterback's best friend. I'm guessing that HARBAUGH will be successful at that.
DJ: Um, see answer to question 2? I don't know what to make of Michigan in 2015 with the addition of Harbaugh, but it was just really bad last year. Are the players that bad and Hoke had a fantastic skid of recruiting busts? Did he just suck at developing? We will see but it's the biggest question mark by far
GF3: Yeah, I'm with DJ. See question two. They'll improve by virtue of the fact that they're the same people and they're still alive and healthy and have all their mental faculties. Maybe at season's end all their QBs will possess their mental faculties as well. That would be a definite improvement over 2014.
Main Dish - Well, Pizza and stuff, right?
Defensively, Michigan was pretty good last year allowing only 4.77 ypp last season. That number is mostly bolstered by a stingy 3.21 yards per rush, though the pass game was far from awful. With a new coaching staff and guys like Jabrill Peppers coming back, will we see this team get better or will learning a new staff require a little bit of a step back to move forward?
MJ: They'll get better. Or else.
AK: Greg Mattison agreed to stay on, so that'll presumably help the transition. I wonder if any other former Super Bowl winning-NFL DCs have ever woken up to find themselves as collegiate position coaches and what that thought process is like, but I digress. They have their share of holes to fill, especially at DE where both starters graduated/were booted off the team for serial criminality. Overall, though, the large majority of the two-deep comes back, and given that they were already pretty good, this should be a unit Michigan can lean on while the HBIC does his thing.
TS: I maintain that there's no way Michigan goes backwards from 5 wins. On either side of the ball. Although if they do... HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
BG: With all the questions on offense – and all the unproven players – Michigan is going to need the defense to stand tall this season. And while it suffered some key departures, it returns more established players than does the other side of the ball, so such expectations aren’t a stretch. Expect the defense to play well this season.
LPW: There’s no way in hell Mattison is happy to be demoted, but he’s probably glad to still have a job. The stats sound good, but I’m skeptical they can perform at a higher level. They might need a season to get better. Or, Harbaugh can pull a Brady Hoke and kick butt the first year with the veteran players left over from the previous regime.
AY: You can talk about scheme all day, but talent and experience are the most important things to a winning defense. Does Penn State's Bob Shoop really have a much better scheme than the defensive coordinators under Bill O'Brien? Maybe, but I think the real reason PSU was so good on defense last year was a deeper, more talented pool of players. As long as the front seven can pressure the QB and the secondary can stick with opposing receivers, any scheme will look great.
DJ: I think defense is the strong point with Michigan, and Peppers gives them a lockdown corner to allow the pass rush to work. I don't think much of a step back happens.
GF3: Even if the defense stays the same, which we have to admit was pretty decent, the team gets better. Rutgers should be a win. And they get NW in a cross-division game. Gary Andersen can't beat the B1G East, so there's almost no way Michigan can't exceed 5 wins this year. Oh, and Harbaugh.
Dessert - Chocolate Lava Crunch Cake
So we all know the sad tale of Dave Brandon. From chairman of Domino’s pizza to Athletic Director of Michigan, he was a walking PR disaster it felt like. My favorite thing he ever did was put advertising everywhere, and my favorite advertisement had to be the giant Kraft macaroni noodle that was more or less forced out. Count me as someone who found that to be a great tie-in. So, think about your team. What terribly awesome food brand would your school add in front of the stadium if you could?
MJ: Hy-Vee sponsors everything in Iowa. The shower I took this morning was sponsored by Hy-Vee. If it isn't sponsored by Hy-Vee, it's Iowa Corn, Pioneer or one of the 5,000 insurance companies in Des Moines. Or if you're Iowa and you enjoy being sponsored by archaic inventions, which is sort of ironic, you allow yourself to be sponsored by Mediacom. I, for one, advocate that our stadium be sponsored by something awesome like Toppling Goliath. How about, Toppling Goliath Field at Kinnick Stadium or something? Yeah, sounds nice. How about we also start selling beer at games? Also nice.
AK: That's your favorite thing, Jesse? Over Cokegate? [ed note: IT WAS A GIANT MACARONI NOODLE AND PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS! AMAZING!!! -jc] Over the textbook display of passing the buck after Shane Morris' concussion? Over denying responsibility for skywriting over East Lansing even after the plane company spilled the beans on who hired them? Brandon was certainly the gift that kept on giving. Miss you, Dave :heart:
Oh, your question. I guess Spartan Foods would be an on-point sponsor. MSU's lack of a signature dish means I don't have a great answer for this, I'll use a lifeline and call the Spartantariat to the comments on this one.
TS: Culver's. Because it's, delicious, Wisconsin, and I just had it for lunch. Also they already do a bunch of advertising so not much would change. Is that a cop out? WHERE ARE THE GIANT CHEESE CURD STATUES BARRY?!?!
BG: You bring up the giant macaroni noodle, it’s funny, looking back at all that Brandon did (and I’d prefer not to), it’s hard to believe that the "halo" of giant letters that former AD Tom Goss installed around the exterior of the stadium created such a fuss at the time.
LPW: I’d like Northwestern to bring back the free Goose Island beer tents. Beer is food, right? Ok, for real, I’d love to have a Portillos restaurant outside of Ryan Field.
insertname: Jug filled with Surly
AY: Cracker Barrel. Because when I drive by those billboards on the way to State College, I really feel like I'm in the middle of nowhere. Also, maybe a big Sheetz logo to troll the Wawa people. Or a big Wawa logo to troll the Sheetz people.
DJ: Uhhhhhhhhh, something something old bay. I really don't know what to put here since no food company I can think of is unique to Maryland except McCormick who makes spices. Ninja edit in: I'm an idiot. The answer to this question is Ledos Pizza, and I don't know why that was not my immediate answer to begin with. I'll go buy one tonight to make amends.
C4B: Well, we're already serving Papa John's and Chik-Fil-A at Memorial Stadium, so do we need another brand for this? [ed note: YES WE DO! GIANT PIZZA BOX FOR KIDS TO PLAY ON FOR INDIANA!]
JC: I know that most Nebraska fans think that a giant bronzed Runza in front of Memorial stadium would be the greatest thing ever, but I'm more on team ConAgra. Specifically, since we're in the great B1G country, I propose a giant Ro*Tel can as you walk in. How great would that be?
GF3: French fries dipped in Frosty. You're welcome, America.
Disclaimer: Domino's is a pizza chain that sells lots and lots of things. You can order everything that I listed here from them. That's really all I have to say about that.