Should Michigan's Hoke Be On The Hot Seat?
By Matt Natali
Brady Hoke is 25-10 in his third season as Michigan's coach, but is that good enough for the program with the most wins in college football history?
Hoke has tallied a reasonable record considering the dark days of Rich Rodriguez (15-22) that preceded him. But Michigan expects more.
This is, after all, the Maize and Blue and the winged helmets. This is Hail to the Victors and The Big House. This is Bo Schembechler, Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost. This is Tom Harmon, Desmond Howard and Charles Woodson. This is 11 national championships.
The Wolverines didn't resemble that history in dropping their second straight game Saturday to Nebraska, 17-13.
“I’ve got to do a better job coaching those guys," Hoke said after Saturday's game.
Michigan also has lost Big Ten games to Penn State (43-40, 4OT) and rival Michigan State (29-6). Coupled with near losses to hapless Akron at home and winless Connecticut earlier this season, this team has fallen well short of expectations.
As the preseason favorite in the Big Ten’s Legends Division, Michigan was on track, defeating then-No. 14 ranked Notre Dame, 41-30, in early September to climb to No. 11 in the AP poll. Now Michigan is unranked in the polls and BCS standings.
The Wolverines (6-3, 2-3 Big Ten) have rushed for a combined minus-69 yards in the back-to-back losses, including 14 sacks on quarterback Devin Gardner. Saturday snapped a 19-game winning streak in Ann Arbor and represented the first home loss under Hoke, who accepted responsibility.
“You always have a plan that you think is going to work and you change your plan all the time every week,” Hoke said. “I think there are some things that we did pretty well but there are a number of things I need to do a better job of coaching the kids on."
Michigan’s latest stumble knocked the Wolverines out of the race for the Big Ten title game. The Legends Division winner likely will be decided this week when Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) travels to Nebraska (7-2, 4-1).
Wolverines fans expressed displeasure Saturday in a flurry of boos as frustrations came to a head.
Right now, Hoke’s Wolverines are not Michigan. The mess Rodriguez made left him a smaller window and a shorter leash to rebuild the program. Time is running out.
“We’re trying to get fixed, to be honest with you. We’re trying to do that,” Hoke said. “(We’re) not tackling, not blocking, not covering, not throwing the ball, not running good routes — all of that stuff is concerning.”
Is it premature to say Hoke should be on the hot seat? Maybe. Maybe not.
The Wolverines have road games at Northwestern (4-5, 0-5) and Iowa (6-4, 3-3) before playing bitter rival Ohio State (9-0, 5-0) in Ann Arbor on Nov. 30 to close out the season. Beating the Wildcats and Hawkeyes and adding an upset against the Buckeyes would ease the pressure.
“We just have to go to work and keep working at it,” Hoke said.