As Brady Hoke said on his first day on the job in Ann Arbor, "Football is a tough man's game", and Michigan found that out yesterday for the 5th time this season. It's not that Michigan isn't a tough football team. They just played tougher teams who found ways to win. Michigan played the toughest teams in the land, and found out the hard way where they stand nationally compared to the best of the best.
When it's all said and done, Michigan's 5 losses this season will come from teams with a combined record of 57-6.
In the game of football, much as in life, you get what you deserve. Like when the refs clearly handed Michigan a first down it didn't earn, and then on the very next play, JaDeveon Clowney single-handedly took it back from Vincent Smith in the most awesomely brutal way possible.
That's the football Gods making it right. That's when you know it's just not your day.
Team 133 had it's flaws. Huge talent gaps on the depth chart, young kids playing everywhere. They had an offensive line held together with two good tackles and a mash of interior players never quite ready for prime time, despite the fact they were all seniors. And even though Devin Gardner finished the year the obvious starter at quarterback, it took a Denard injury and a Russell Bellomy flame out to realize it.
The defense was the star of the team. When Michigan had little to no signs of life on offense, it was the defense that kept them in games, whether they deserved to be in them or not. And make no mistake, the defense will only continue to get better as they get older/more experienced.
And maybe that's the bigger narrative here. 2012 was all about gaining experience. Team 133's legacy could very well be defined as preparing Team 134, 135 and so on. At least I hope so. I hope those 5 losses still burn. Losses have become all too commonplace in Ann Arbor in recent years.
2011 was a season of many highs...a season of redemption in many ways. 2012 was the season of harsh realizations. The realization that you can not simply coach your way out of the Rich Rodriguez era of smaller, faster, but ultimately undersized talent. Rich is a good football coach, but he decimated the depth chart for Brady Hoke. We saw the effects of that immediately, with so many young faces on both sides of the ball, especially defense. Expect more of that next year on offense...especially along the line.
In all of Michigan's losses this year, it was painfully obvious that Michigan was out manned in many of the one-on-one matchups. That's where Michigan used to shine, but thanks to a few factors such as recruiting and coaching/scheme changes, Michigan's depth chart has been in a constant state of flux. Since 2007, they've struggled to get their footing. But slowly, it's coming back. Just not this year.
Yes, Team 133 deserved better, but that's not how it works. You don't win simply because you deserve to, or because you feel like it's owed to you. You win when you realize that you're better than the guy across from you, and then you go prove it to him.
Team 134's season starts today.