So yeah, the Michigan-Ohio St. game went about as I expected. Despite the score, the defense wasn't all bad. In the first half in particular they were very strong (two bad big plays aside). If the offense could've managed to do more than go three and out on nearly every single possession, it might've been a decent game. You just can't leave a vulnerable defense on the field the entire frigg'n game.
I think what I find the most concerning about the games lost this year is that Michigan consistently put up a good (or at least decent) fight in the first half, including the games against Penn St. and Ohio St. Then they just went out and were obliterated in the second half. I think if the coaching staff deserves flack for anything, it's probably that.
As for the rest, what can you do? When you lose your four year starter at QB, your all time leading rusher, a left tackle that went #1 overall in the draft, and your top two wide receivers, not to mention your heir apparent at QB (Ryan Mallett in this case) deciding to transfer and your starter at QB for half the season being a walk-on; well, adding a new coaching staff to the mix and instituting a completely new offensive scheme is kind of the perfect storm. In hindsight, my belief in this team having a .500 season or better wasn't just hopelessly naive, it was utterly insane.
So the Rodriguez era begins with the long hollow sound of gas being passed. I still have a hard time not being optimistic about the future. Not so much next year. I think the possibility of us starting another freshman QB next year is strong, unless a healthy sophomore Threet is a lot better than an oft-injured freshman Threet. That rarely works out all that well.
Still, the current non-conference schedule includes Notre Dame, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. Surely they can eek out two wins there (hey, it could happen) and you have to believe we'll get a patsy schedule for a fourth non-conference game. Throw in an extra Big-10 win or two and you're at .500. Not great, but if this year was spent crawling, expecting the program to do more than stand up and take a couple steps next year is being a bit unrealistic.
Ultimately, unless the team goes out and craps all over itself again next year, you have to give it time. That's not something Michigan fans are used to. Call us arrogant if you will, but I'm 34 years old and this is the first time in my lifetime the team hasn't at least gone to a bowl. It's the first time they haven't finished at least a couple of games north of .500. Despite the recent strike of suck against Ohio State and a lot of really poor bowl showings, it's still easy to take a run like this program has had for granted. There is an extent that you can understand fans wanting someone's head on a platter. Fortunately the people in charge of such things generally have cooler heads than those of us in the ranks of fandom.
The best thing fans can do, is to stop howling from the rooftops and recognize this is going to be a process and that to abort it now (as some idiots are calling for), is beyond counter-productive. It's absolutely stupid. We're in this for the long haul and we're not going to know if it's gonna work out or not for at least another two years.
In that spirit, I say bring on 2009!