Monday, September 10, 2012

Rich Rod or 1998

There is a lot of talk out there about how these first two games of 2012 are a reminder of RR circa 2010. Get blown out by a highly ranked team (Alabama = Wisconsin/Ohio State) and win a close game against a team M should be much better than (Air Force = Indiana/Illinois/Purdue). But this start kind of reminds me of the 1998 start and I'm not sure if that is better or worse.

In 1998 M was coming off an undefeated season and a share of the MNC. In 1997, Jim Hermann (with some minor help from Charles Woodson) had turned a defense that had been just OK under his predecessor (Greg Mattison) into the dominant defense in the country. Hermann won assistant coach of the year honors and was probably on his way to being Lloyd Carr's ultimate successor.

The 1998 season started with M giving up 36 points at Notre Dame and 38 to Syracuse. M had trouble stopping the Irish ground game as Jarious Jackson and Aubrey Denson led the Irish to 280 yards on the ground. Although turnovers and short field helped the Irish - allowing scores on 5 straight possessions was a drastic difference from the 1997 D for Michigan.

The next week Donovan McNabb pretty much did whatever he wanted against Hermann's D jumping out to a 24-0 lead before M made it close in garbage time 38-28.

Although no one on the 2011 defense had the national acclaim that Charles Woodson did in 1997. The losses along the D-line from team 132 seems to have affected the 2012 defense just as much.

The bight side is M went through 1998 as constantly being the highest ranked 2 loss team (as much a Michigan Tradition as any) and ended up with a 10-3 record, with a bowl win over an SEC school and a share of the conference title.

On the down side - Hermann's defenses were never anywhere near as good as the 1997 squad. This lead to his departure following the 2005 season and relative obscurity as a NFL position coach. Maybe Mattison isn't quite the genius we thought he was in 2011...

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