Temperance is a Virtue

It's not the fans fault that the carriage got put in front of the horse when we started 5-0 out of the gate. Denard's shoelaces flapping in the wind clouded the fact that we still aren't really a very good football team. Our 5 wins were against mediocre opponents...plain and simple. In fact, I'll be so bold as to say that these 5 wins and 1 loss feel so familiar, it's easy to get 2009 and 2010 confused.

You look back at last season, we have a couple good wins against bad teams, a win against an FCS opponent, a close win against a bad Irish team, a close win against a mediocre Indiana team, and a loss against an upstart but still decent Sparty squad.  

Yes, 2009 and 2010 are eerily similar. 

That's what makes this week's Iowa game so important.

We must beat Iowa. Plain and simple. This is the season, folks. There is no other way we can salvage this year. After Iowa we go into a bye week. If we go into it with a second consecutive loss after starting off 5-0, the season could spiral out of control. After the bye week, we travel to Penn State for a night game which has disaster written all over it...even though Penn State is just as vulnerable as we are.

It all starts with Iowa. A win against them means the prospect for a successful year is still attainable. It would be the landmark victory for Rich Rodriguez's career at Michigan. It would make us bowl eligible for the first time in 3 years. It would prove to the irate and disgruntled Michigan fans out there that there is still reason for hope.

And a loss would send Wolverine Nation into the depths of despair. We'll have two weeks to rail on Rich Rodriguez and Greg Robsinson. We'll have two weeks of talk radio and blogs demanding the firing of the entire coaching staff and then demanding the hiring of Jim Harbaugh.

I'm not here to say a win will cure all, but it would surely help wash away that horrible Michigan State aftertaste. And right now, isn't that all we're looking for? 

...to stop the bleeding?

The best, and toughest thing Rodriguez and his team can do right now is pretend the Michigan State loss never happened. It's almost impossible, but you still have to learn from our mistakes, sure. But move on. It's the only way to survive in the Big Ten. Last year the Sparty loss derailed us for a few weeks, and by the time we had a chance to catch our breath, it was too late. Of course there are a lot of other factors involved, but fundamentally it's very similar to last year. In 09 we lost a heart-breaker in overtime. This year it was a total domination. Two different kinds of losses, but one very similar feeling.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm not in the camp that wants Rodriguez to fail at Michigan. There are a lot of people who want that, but I'm not one of them. If I wanted that, then by default I would want Michigan to fail...and that's just not right. I want to win, no matter who's the coach. I still believe that we can win with Rodriguez. We've seen signs of life from this offense that Michigan fans have never seen before. Heck, we went from not knowing who the starting QB is going to be, to having a Heisman front-runner in two weeks. How does that happen?!?

It happens when you have a system of smart, efficient football, and a bunch of players who have bought into that system and believe in it. That's good coaching. A good coach knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players.

Rodriguez didn't throw those interceptions last week. He didn't drop all of those passes. He didn't get those penalties. He didn't miss those tackles. He didn't blow those coverages. In my opinion, this loss was nothing more than MSU cashing in on our mistakes. We handed that game over to them on multiple occasions...and they took it. We simply looked like a young team that was trying to hard.

Now the defense is a whole 'nother story. We're stunningly young and inexperienced in the defensive backfield. Our linebackers are doing alright, with the exception of Obi Ezeh, who hasn't made the kind of off-season progress you would suspect from a senior playing in his last season. He's constantly just playing out of position or just running himself right out of the plays. I don't get what he's doing out there, but it's time to take a look at some other players.

The D-line is a strength that I think we saw glimpses of last week against Sparty. Instead of rushing just 3 to the QB like we've done the first 5 weeks of the season, we rushed 4...and sometimes blitzed up to 6 or 7. And the funniest thing happened. It actually worked. 

Go figure. You give a QB less time to throw, he won't be as efficient. Huh.

I'm not saying out defense is good...of course not. But sometimes, they're only as good as they need to be. I think last week, giving up 34 points was about what we all expected...only it was the offense that failed to produce this time. 

We don't have the kind of defense that can win us a game, but I think we have the kind of defense that can keep us alive if, and only if the offense is putting up points. We're not a championship team, yet. But we can still get to 8 wins if we improve every week. And it all starts this Saturday at 3:30.

If you want Michigan to lose this game...if for no other reason that you want the coach fired...then you have a long way to go before you can call yourself a Michigan fan. A fan wants to win...no matter what. A fan supports their team, through thick and thin. A true fan doesn't wish for a loss only so you can start from scratch with a new guy. I am so sick and tired of people saying this coach has to go. First of all, it's not up to you. Secondly, these players are committed to this coach. They believe in him. He's attempting to rebuild a ravaged team from the ground up, his way. If you get rid of him now, you better be ready to accept another 3-4 years of struggling ineptitude. Because that's at least how long it will take to get another coach's players in here to run his system.

If you want to cheer against us, then go cheer for state. But their bandwagon is filling up pretty quick so you better hurry. Anyone who was at the game last week can tell you that. This week, Michigan fans are getting reminded who, among all of their friends, are MSU fans. For some reason, Sparty fans are all of the sudden proud to Sparty fans again. And Michigan fans are already calling this year a failure.

Hey, I heard the Lions won last Sunday. I think I have a Lions hat in my attic somewhere.

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