Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/7/11

The Michigan Wolverines are 9 games into the Brady Hoke era with a 7-2 record and are ranked 21/22 in the polls. They are fresh off an aggravating loss at Iowa and staring down one of the most critical 3 game stretches this program has faced in a long time. First up is a road trip to Illinois, who is coming off a bye week. Then they host Nebraska and Ohio State in the final two weeks of the regular season. What happens during that crucial 3-game stretch will go a long way in charting the course for Michigan Football.

Brady Hoke

There isn’t a player on Michigan’s roster that has won a championship at the collegiate level. This team is still learning how to win and trying to regain the swagger that was once an integral part of Michigan Football. Coach Hoke knows and understands this better than anyone. The work that he and his staff are putting in behind the scenes is undoubtedly intense and exacting.

It’s important to keep in mind the magnitude of the job that Brady Hoke was entrusted to. Michigan Football for numerous reasons had unraveled over the last few years and Hoke is responsible for putting it back together. It’s a task he has embraced and with his background is fully qualified to accomplish. He has the full support of his Athletic Director and has seemed to unite Michigan’s massive alumni and fan base.

The on-field results are convincing, especially on defense. Last year Michigan ranked 110th nationally in total defense and 108th in scoring defense. Through 9 games this year they rank 28th in total defense and 10th in scoring defense. That is a remarkable turnaround. It’s being done with virtually the same personnel except for a handful of freshmen mixed in.

The offensive coaches have had the more delicate task of converting a spread-option offense, led by a masterful triggerman in Robinson, into a west coast/power running scheme. At times this transition has been seamless, at other times it looks as though Robinson is being bottled up. The good has produced the 14th ranked rushing offense in the country, the bad has seen the passing offense tumble 46 spots from last year’s ranking (36), and the ugly has been 13 interceptions from the QBs, including 12 from Robinson.

I’ve heard people suggest Denard Robinson should be benched. That is simply nonsensical. There are grumblings about Offensive Coordinator Al Borges and his play calling. I think what we’ve seen from him as a commendable and creative attempt to blend the personnel he inherited with the scheme he runs. There are always growing pains with a change in philosophy. The defense had nowhere to go but up. So the growing pains are more noticeable with the offense because it was pretty darn good last year.

Now is not the time to question the coaching staff or doubt the players. As Gene Hackman said in Hoosiers when fans were chanting We want Jimmy, “This is your team.” In his book Three and Out, John U. Bacon perfectly describes a large chunk of Michigan’s fan base.

If Episcopalians are “God’s frozen people,” then a segment of Michigan backers could be called the Episcopalians of college football – less fans than opera critics, sitting quietly in their seats, waiting for someone to screw up so they can show their friends how much smarter they are than the coaching staff. More than a few Michigan fans are simply not happy unless they’re not happy. 

Don’t be one of those fans, enjoy the process, celebrate the triumphs, and ready yourself for an exciting era of Michigan Football. It’s ok to mourn the losses, but don’t think you mourn them more than the coaches and players do.

Hoke has assembled a first-rate coaching staff and these guys know what they are doing. Nobody, not the players, not the coaches, not the fans, likes to lose a game. However, before the season started, if somebody would have said Michigan will be 7-2 after 9 games and ranked in the Top 25, everybody would have been more than happy with that. This team was unlikely to run the table so we shouldn’t be surprised at the 2 losses. If anything they have, at least to this point, exceeded expectations. As Michigan Basketball assistant coach Bacari Alexander likes to say, “Grow Blue”.

You can follow me on Twitter @isportsRob

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