Michigan Wolverines: Lloyd Carr

Big Ten Monday mailbag

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
5:00
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Hope you all have caught your breath after a thrilling weekend of basketball action. Three Big Ten teams are still dancing, and my home state is about to go up in flames.

But enough about hoops. It's always football time around here, and this is a time when I answer your burning Big Ten questions.

3-2-1, shoot:

Adam from Houston, Texas, writes: Hey, Brian, two questions: 1) What are the "must-do's" for Braxton Miller to hoist the Heisman Trophy this year? I think in some fashion, watching tape on the former OSU Heisman winner Troy Smith can help. Smith was a much better passer than Miller, but was a threat running when he had to. I think he also has to show up mentally for big games. It was obvious even through the TV against Northwestern and Michigan State (read: away from home) he was rattled. Does growth as a "field general" increase his chances at all, or will it only come down to performance? 2) What is your preseason Heisman list?

Brian Bennett: Heisman talk in late March. I love it!

This is going to sound overly simplistic, but more than anything, Miller needs numbers and wins to get into serious Heisman contention. In the past two seasons, he has thrown for just more than 2,000 yards, with a 1,000-yard rushing season in each. He had 28 total touchdowns in 2012, 36 last season. Those are good, but not eye-popping, stats. Consider that last year's winner, Jameis Winston, threw for more than 4,000 yards and had 44 total touchdowns. Given the way offenses are heading, big-numbers guys such as Winston and Johnny Manziel are going to stand out.

To do that, Miller needs to continue to make strides as a passer, and his receiving corps -- especially with favorite target Philly Brown gone -- needs to step up and help him out. He also needs to stay healthy and upright behind a rebuilt offensive line.

And, of course, spotlight victories are tremendously important. Winston played for the national champs. Manziel beat Alabama. Miller was in the discussion the past two years because Ohio State won 24 consecutive games. For the first time this year, he'll have some tough early tests against Virginia Tech, Navy and Cincinnati. Big performances and wins in those games could give Miller a head of steam.

Finally, my preseason list would naturally include Winston -- even though it's virtually impossible to win the Heisman twice -- along with Oregon's Marcus Mariota, Baylor's Bryce Petty, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Miller. Winston and Manziel came out of virtually nowhere to win, however, so next year's Heisman could go to somebody we're not even discussing right now.


Rich from Des Moines writes: Brian, I'm sure whenever you do a post like the coaches tournament, you get crushed by people for leaving out their favorite coach/player/whatever. That's not my intention. Rather, I just want to ask why a few coaches that seem obvious for inclusion to me were not only left out of the bracket but not even mentioned in the closing paragraph as notable but not quite worthy of making the cut: 1. Biggie Munn, MSU: I understand he only coached one season in the Big Ten. But Tom Osborne coached zero seasons in the Big Ten; 2. Lloyd Carr, Michigan: While I am a committed UM hater, not mentioning him seems like a pretty big omission; 3. John Cooper: I know he is ridiculed in many quarters. I ridicule him for failing to understand the importance of the Michigan game, calling it just another game. But the guy won a lot.

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the (very-long-and-since-edited question), Rich. Going through this exercise proved one thing: there is a tremendous and rich history of outstanding coaches in the Big Ten. I know going in that we couldn't make everyone happy. We like to keep these types of fields short so they don't overwhelm the blog, but I probably could have expanded it to a 64-team field. As it was, we went to a 12-team tournament instead of the eight-entry bracket we used for the players' and championship teams' tournamaent.

To address your specific questions, longevity made a difference in our choices. So while Munn did great things at Michigan State, he only coached there for seven seasons, including one in the Big Ten. We also wanted to diversify our field as much as possible, so while Carr also accomplished a whole lot, Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost seemed like better choices for Michigan. Cooper has some outstanding seasons, particularly 1993, 1996 and 1998, but he's not exactly beloved by Ohio State fans and we already had Woody Hayes and Jim Tressel. You can't please everybody. Just look at some of the controversial seeding in the men's basketball tournament.


Franklin from Norman, Okla., writes: What's with all the negative Michigan reporting these days? It seems like you guys are getting a kick out of it. It is quite clear that Adam does not like Michigan but I thought you were different. You guys are acting like Michigan is about to get hit with Penn State sanctions. Also, while you guys are all high on Michigan State and Ohio State (rightfully so), the upcoming season Michigan has will shock both of you. You are underestimating the impact coach [Doug] Nussmeier will have and the reorganizing that Brady Hoke did.

Brian Bennett: What you call "negative reporting," Franklin, I just call reporting. When a player as well known as Taylor Lewan gets charged with assault for an incident after the Ohio State game, that's news. When a starting offensive lineman gets suspended for the spring and the opener, that's news. No matter how much you love the Maize and Blue, I can't imagine you feel good about how the Brendan Gibbons saga has unfolded. I promise you that Adam and I derive no pleasure from reporting about off-the-field incidents and in fact would much, much rather just stick to writing about games and more pleasant stories. But stuff happens, and there's no way to deny that it hasn't been a great few months for the Wolverines this offseason. The best way to get past all that is to win, and the team certainly has the talent to do so, though many questions remain at several positions. I'm heading up to Ann Arbor this weekend and am eager to see how things are going this spring.


Jeff from between Omaha and Lincoln writes: Some of the coaches would like to be able to make scholarship offers earlier to help eliminate the flipping toward the end. This makes perfect sense to me. Teams need to make plans and have backup plans in place. However, doesn't this also work in reverse? A three-star athlete might want to go to a top-level program, but can't receive that offer because a commitment from a four- or five-star kid who said he wanted to go to that school. Isn't there a degree of discrimination happening here? If an athlete makes a commitment, he should be held to it. If he's not ready, the school can move on. The only exception should be if a coaching change is made. I'd like to see a few athlete-based lawsuits pop up against the rule-makers and see what happens.

Brian Bennett: Discrimination isn't really the word, but there are some complicating factors with coaches being allowed to offer earlier and an early signing period. Some players simply develop later while guys who are stars as juniors stagnate, especially once they get a big-time offer. Head coaches, assistants and roster plans change all the time. If big changes are made to the recruiting calender, I'd like to see some protections and restrictions in place. Limit the number of kids who could sign early to, say, no more than half the class. Allow anyone who signed early to get out of his letter if the head coach leaves afterward. These are some of the issues that need to be debated, in my opinion.


Drew from Detroit writes: Two quick questions... which B1G schools would you say have the best and worst football/basketball combo? Also, what's the difference between a "mailbag" and a "mailblog?"

Brian Bennett: Michigan State gets the nod from me for best combo, especially after just winning the Rose Bowl and for all its basketball success under Tom Izzo. But Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin are not far behind at all. As for the worst combo, right now it has to be Purdue, which finished last in the Big Ten in both sports. Historically, it's probably Northwestern, which is dragged down by a basketball program that still has never made the tournament.

As for the 'bag/'blog thing, I've always called it a mailbag, while Adam prefers mailblog, for whatever reason. That's not a piece of wordplay I particularly enjoy, but I've been known to make many groan-inducing puns. So to each his own.
As the coach hiring season nears an end, we're examining the Big Ten coaching landscape and some recent trends. We wrap up the series today with a look at the importance of coaching continuity in the Big Ten going forward.

It's no coincidence that a historic downturn in Big Ten football has coincided with a historic stretch of instability among the league's coaches.

[+] EnlargeKirk Ferentz
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesIowa's Kirk Ferentz has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach.
Think back to 2005, a season that ended with two BCS bowl wins and teams ranked No. 3 (Penn State) and No. 4 (Ohio State) in the final polls. Seven of the league's 11 coaches had been at their schools for six or more seasons. Ohio State's Jim Tressel, three years removed from a national title, logged his fifth season in Columbus. Three coaches -- Penn State's Joe Paterno, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez and Michigan's Lloyd Carr -- all had held their jobs for more than a decade (in Paterno's case, four decades).

The Big Ten coaches that year had combined for four national championships, five Rose Bowl titles and seven BCS bowl victories.

Since 2005, the Big Ten has gone through 17 coaching changes (not counting Nebraska's after the 2007 season). Seven teams have made multiple changes, including Penn State, which introduced new coaches earlier this month and in January 2011 after not doing so since February 1966. Last season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson was the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders division. He was hired in December 2010.

As the Big Ten invests more in its coaches, it also must ensure it has the right leaders in place for the long haul.

"If you believe strongly in the person you have," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told ESPN.com, "continuity is invaluable."

Few programs value continuity more than Iowa, which has had two coaches (Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry) since the 1978 season. Ferentz, who just completed his 15th year at the school, has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach. He's one of only four FBS coaches to start before the 2000 season (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Troy's Larry Blakeney are the others).

Iowa awarded Ferentz with contract extensions both in 2009 and 2010, the latter a whopping 10-year deal with a salary of $3,675,000. The Big Ten hasn't set the pace nationally in coach compensation, but Iowa's pledge to Ferentz, often the subject of NFL rumors, jumps out. Ferentz's salary is frequently debated and scrutinized, especially when Iowa struggles like it did in 2012, but Barta's loyalty to him hasn't wavered. Iowa rebounded to win eight games last season.

"Because of that commitment, we made our statement," Barta said. "We're going to fight through this with the person in whom we have great confidence and trust. There's no guarantees in life, but because of Kirk's past performance, because of his long-standing approach at Iowa and his proven success, it was a risk I was willing to take. Knock on wood, so far it has worked out terrific."

Barta sees a similar approach from Big Ten schools like Michigan State, which won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles in Mark Dantonio's seventh season as coach. Dantonio in 2011 received a contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life," and his newest deal is expected to more than double his salary from $1.9 million in 2013.

"Continuity breeds success," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said, "and that's the hardest part sometimes on the institutional side, to keep that commitment, keep that contract whether it's an assistant or a head coach. … It requires a high level of confidence and a high level of trust."

The day of playing musical chairs with coaches, of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right.

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon
There have been similar long-term commitments at other Big Ten schools. Northwestern awarded coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract in 2011. When Indiana hired Wilson, it gave him a seven-year contract, longer than the initial deals new coaches typically receive. Athletic director Fred Glass links Indiana's lack of continuity -- the school has had five coaches since 1996 -- with its on-field struggles (only one bowl appearance since 1993) and knows the school needs a more patient approach.

"Stability is an important thing in our league," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who applauded recent moves like MSU retaining Dantonio and Penn State hiring James Franklin. "The best example I'll use is men’s basketball where we're having tremendous success, in large part, because of the stability we have in a number of our programs. I think we need to get that in football."

While Big Ten football has struggled in recent years, the league is surging on the hardwood, in large part because of veteran coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo (19th year), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (13th year) and Ohio State's Thad Matta (10th year). Six of the league's 12 basketball coaches have been in their jobs for at least five seasons.

Continuity doesn't guarantee success, but it often correlates. Barta has tried to create "an environment of longevity and long-term commitment" at Iowa, while also recognizing the pressure to win and, in some cases, the need to part ways with a coach.

"The day of playing musical chairs with coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right."

After several years of transition, the Big Ten hopes it has the right men at the top -- and the ability to keep them there.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
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Hanging out in SEC country this weekend, but the Big Ten is always on the brain.

Let's check the inbox ...

Greyson from Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, I believe those fans who are calling for Brady Hoke's head need to simmer down a little bit. If they look back, Lloyd Carr lost four games in each of his first two seasons, and that was without having to go through a complete overhaul of the offensive system. The Sugar Bowl gave a false sense of accomplishment, but Michigan has an excellent defensive coordinator, and five players on USA Today's All-USA High School Football Team. It is ugly growing pains with the offensive line this year, but with all the youth there, as well as who is coming in, I think if Michigan fans can sit on their hands for another year or two, they will be extremely happy they did.

Adam Rittenberg: Some really good points here, Greyson, especially about the Sugar Bowl inflating the expectations for Hoke. The hard thing to reconcile is the exceptional recruiting and the mediocre results, although many of those players need more time to develop. The other difficult thing for Michigan fans is seeing a team that doesn't reflect the values Hoke preaches about, especially toughness along the line of scrimmage. Michigan should always be able to run the ball, but Hoke's teams have had a hard time doing so the past two seasons, and especially in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see how the season ends, but I don't think a coaching change makes much sense now.


Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Adam, as a B1G fan I'm actually pulling for 'Bama and FSU to win out. Why? Because I think it would be better for the B1G to have Ohio State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl while Wisconsin and Michigan State beat good SEC teams in Florida than to have the Buckeyes serve as the next sacrificial lamb for the Tide. I know some think FSU can give 'Bama a game -- but they are no better analysts than those who thought ND would last year. I live in ACC country and the ACC is atrocious this year. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Lance, if your assumption is Alabama would smash Ohio State, then the scenario you outline is certainly better for the Big Ten. A Rose Bowl win, one of few for the Big Ten in recent years, would help perception, and so would a strong overall bowl record. I think Michigan State and Wisconsin could hold their own against good, but not great, SEC teams in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. And this scenario would prevent Big Ten teams from moving up a spot, creating potential mismatches.


Grant from San Francisco writes: Hi, Adam. I feel like the Taylor Lewan suspension (or lack thereof) got glossed over last week. In 2011, when William Gholston was suspended, it was all we heard about in the days before, during, and after the ruling. What was the difference exactly between the two actions (there was a face mask twist, a punch to the head and extracurriculars in both cases) that led them to not suspend Lewan? And if there is not a true difference, what does this say about the priorities of the B1G brass? When Hoke called Lewan's actions "unacceptable," I at least expected some punitive measures from either Michigan or the B1G. I guess I just must not understand the definition of the word "unacceptable."

Adam Rittenberg: Grant, my apologies for not addressing this earlier. The difference with William Gholston is a punch was thrown and caught on camera. If you recall, the Big Ten referenced the punch and not the face mask twist in its ruling on Gholston. Does that mean the league condones what Taylor Lewan did? You could argue it considers face mask twisting part of the game, while a punch clearly crosses the line. I'm not saying it's right, and I thought a partial-game suspension would have been warranted for Lewan. But his display wasn't as blatant as Gholston's, regardless of the circumstances.


Chris from Madison, Wis., writes: Very hypothetical situation here, but if Ohio State wins out and makes the national championship game, Michigan State loses to OSU in the B1G championship game and Wisconsin wins out, MSU is 11-2, UW is 10-2* and both are in the top 14 of the BCS. Assuming the Rose Bowl wants the 100th Granddaddy of them All to be a B1G/Pac-12 battle, which team do you see getting the at-large spot?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, it's pretty unlikely both teams would be in the top 14. But if so, I think the Rose Bowl would go with Michigan State. The Spartans haven't been to Pasadena since after the 1987 season, while Wisconsin has been each of the past three years. Michigan State would be a more appealing choice even if it lost its last game.


Derek from Eden Prairie, Minn., writes: Hi, Adam. I have not been overly optimistic about the Gophers bowl chances. I have been a loyal fan all my life and know the realities. So my question is a BIG "what-if." What if the Gophers win the legends and lose to OSU. Are they in contention for an at-large BCS bid? Again. it's just a what if, from a daydreamer in an off week.

Adam Rittenberg: Derek, that's probably a pipe dream, as Minnesota still doesn't appear in the BCS standings. The Gophers would have to rise into the top 14 after beating Wisconsin and Michigan State and then stay there after a loss to Ohio State just to remain eligible for at-large selection. That's not happening this year, but Minnesota still should go somewhere nice for its bowl.


Fatback from Newark, Ohio, writes: Just trying to figure out how Carlos Hyde isn't getting any love for any awards. He has 701 yards with 7.3 yards a carry in only five games. Yes he has played in six games but had just five carries in the game against FAMU. He is on pace to have 1,122 yards and he will become the first Urban Myer back to gain 1,000 yards. Is the reason he is getting no love due to the fact that he missed the first 3 games?

Adam Rittenberg: The suspension definitely hurts Hyde when it comes to national awards consideration. Other backs simply have better numbers, and while anyone who has watched Hyde respects his game, it's hard to give him the edge when others have played in more games. It's more about what the other backs are doing throughout the entire season than what Hyde hasn't done. He'll certainly be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors.


Mike from Ossian, Iowa, writes: All right, Rittenberg, you coward. So what's the scoop? The week that I send you a question about how you can justify ranking Minnesota ahead of Iowa even though Iowa has the head-to-head victory over the Gophers and four losses to teams with a combined three losses, you don't have a mailbag? Huh? No answer? I think I know why. It's because you know I'm right. You know that you can't defend your ranking. You know that Iowa should be first, but you were just looking at records. Shame on you, Rittenberg. Shame on you. Boom. Lawyered.

Adam Rittenberg: Boom, lawyered? What does that even mean? The mailbag has been there every week, pal. The power rankings always have been how a team is playing right now, not how a team was playing in late September. I've made that clear since the power rankings started on this blog. Iowa has dropped three of its last five games; Minnesota is on a four-game win streak with a victory against Nebraska. You can't use head-to-head results as the sole mechanism for determining power rankings. If Iowa wins its final two games, then there will be a debate about which team should be ranked higher. But Minnesota is the hotter team right now.
Braylon EdwardsTom Pidgeon/Getty ImagesBraylon Edwards in 2003-04 was the last Michigan receiver to wear the No. 1 jersey.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- At some point in the future, a Michigan wide receiver will wear the famed No. 1 jersey.

The question now is when.

“Eventually, someone is going to wear the No. 1,” Michigan receivers coach Jeff Hecklinski told ESPN.com this week. “I don’t know who it is going to be, because somebody has to be good enough and earn it that way.

“But again, eventually, that’s going to happen at some point in time.”

Hecklinski was quick to add he did not know if that would happen this season, next season or at a point beyond that. The No. 1 jersey has not been worn by a Michigan receiver since Braylon Edwards wore the number in 2003 and 2004.

In all, six Michigan receivers have worn the number: Anthony Carter (1979-1982), Greg McMurtry (1986-1989), Derrick Alexander (1990-1993), Tyrone Butterfield (1994-1996), David Terrell (1998-2000) and Edwards.

All but Butterfield played in the NFL.

“When you get it, there’s a certain thing that goes with it,” Terrell said. “Now adding all that extra stuff into it, it wore it down, man. Now, let’s see what happens. If they go and do it, they know the ones. Coaches know. Lloyd (Carr) picked me for it. I don’t think they were wrong.

“They know how to pick things. These people know what their job is.”

[+] EnlargeJeremy Gallon
Jesse Johnson/US PresswireJeremy Gallon is the best receiver on the current Wolverines roster. Could he switch numbers?
Hecklinski, though, said the No. 1 jersey isn’t something that will be promised during recruiting.

“It’s earned,” Hecklinski said of the jersey. “I don’t control that. Coach (Brady) Hoke doesn’t control that. You’ve got to earn that. Your play dictates that. Coach Hoke has a say on it, but he doesn’t say, ‘Oh, I think this could happen or think that could happen.’

“We just watch you play. It’s the same thing when people say is a kid going to redshirt? We don’t determine that. If he’s ready to play, he’s going to play. If he’s not ready to play, he’s going to redshirt. So that’s where I think, there are things that are earned throughout your career. Those are goals you should have.”

Between its current roster and recruiting, Michigan has several viable candidates for whenever the school chooses to dust off the No. 1.

Senior Jeremy Gallon is one of the best blocking receivers in the Big Ten and has the potential for a 1,000-yard season this year. In its 2014 recruiting class, Michigan has a commitment from the No. 8 wide receiver and No. 72 overall prospect, Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian). In the 2015 class, the No. 1 athlete and No. 3 player overall in the ESPN Junior 300, George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./ East Lake), has also verbally chosen the Wolverines.

WolverineNation Mailbag 

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
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Brady HokeAP Photo/Carlos OsorioIt's difficult to project what would have happened to Michigan football if Rich Rodriguez had not been hired. Brady Hoke was at Ball State and was not a candidate back in 2007.

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Football season begins this week with the opening of Michigan’s fall camp. In a month, the Wolverines will have their first game and all of the questions that have been asked over the past four months will have the beginnings of some resolution to them.

Some questions about football -- and a quick look into Michigan basketball -- populate this week’s Michigan mailbag, filled with your questions.

Exit Interview: TE Brandon Moore 

March, 4, 2013
3/04/13
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'Exit Interview' is a concept started at WolverineNation last year where we chat with Michigan athletes not returning for next season.

Brandon Moore is the last of an era at Michigan. He was recruited by Lloyd Carr as the No. 6 tight end in the Class of 2008, signed with Rich Rodriguez and played for he and Brady Hoke -- although not as much as Moore planned.

Moore had two career catches and spent most of his senior year injured.

Q: You came into Michigan somewhat highly touted and your career had ups and downs. How do you view your career?


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EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Some thoughts after No. 8 Michigan State's 75-52 pulverizing of No. 4 Michigan on Tuesday night at the Breslin Center.

Overview: As Adreian Payne lifted his arms toward the home crowd, trying to get it louder with 7 minutes remaining in a game no longer in doubt, the Spartans forward looked like he wanted more.

All of Michigan State appeared to want more. Meanwhile, Michigan looked like it just wanted to travel the one hour southeast back to Ann Arbor as fast as possible. The Wolverines had already gone deeper than usual into their bench to play guard Eso Akunne and by then it didn’t matter, because nothing John Beilein's team was doing worked.

Michigan State dominated, almost from tip to final whistle.

Yes, it is tough to win on the road in the Big Ten, but for a program touted as a national-title contender all season, this was Michigan’s last chance to win a significant road game in the Big Ten. And it failed. Miserably.

The second-half comebacks Michigan had at Indiana and Ohio State didn’t show up, either, mostly due to Michigan State’s ability to control the paint and body up the Wolverines’ big men.

It all led to Michigan State’s first 20-plus-point victory over Michigan in over a decade, when the Spartans beat the Wolverines 71-44 on Jan. 30, 2002.

Turning point: Michigan State guard Keith Appling made three consecutive jumpers, including a 3-pointer in transition with 16:32 left, to give Michigan State a 48-29 lead and whipped the already-hyper Breslin student section into a loud, jumping, delirious frenzy of white shirts going nuts at every possible opportunity.

Key player: Spartans senior Derrick Nix punished Michigan’s four-headed big-man rotation inside in the first half and helped to open up everything else for the Spartans. Nix finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists on 7-of-10 shooting.

Key stat: Zero first-half points for Tim Hardaway Jr. After scoring 18, 23 and 18 points in the previous three games, respectively, Hardaway couldn’t find anything in the first half. He missed all six of his shots, including four 3-pointers. This from a player who brought Michigan back a week earlier against Ohio State by making six 3-pointers, then followed it up by making what was almost the game-winner at Wisconsin on Saturday. Without Hardaway's production, Michigan struggled to shoot 27.3 percent from the 3-point line in the first half. Hardaway would finish with two points.

Miscellaneous: Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, former coach Lloyd Carr and former Michigan basketball player Zack Novak all watched the game from behind the Wolverines' bench. Hoke and Michigan State counterpart Mark Dantonio had a brief chat before the game right behind the benches. … After not scoring in double figures for almost a month, Nix now had back-to-back games with 10 points or more.… This ends a rough four-game stretch for Michigan, which started the sequence as the No. 1 team in the nation. After a 1-3 swing with games at Indiana, Michigan State and Wisconsin and a home game against Ohio State, the Wolverines have some major regrouping to do.

Next game: Both teams receive something of a breather in the Big Ten. Michigan State travels to Nebraska for a game Saturday; Michigan has a home game against Penn State on Sunday.
While Greg Mattison might be recognized as the best recruiter among Michigan assistants, it is clear that running backs coach Fred Jackson deserves some recognition, as well.

Not only has he been on the Michigan coaching staff for 20-plus years -- working with Gary Moeller, Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke -- but given the recruits he was able to bring in for the 2013 class, fans will enjoy a more streamlined run game.

As dazzling as some of Denard Robinson’s jaunts were, Michigan hasn’t really had an up-the-middle, smashmouth run game in the recent past, but Jackson is convinced that with his three 2013 running back signees, the Wolverines will be able to do just that.

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Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr -- like many others -- loved the Southeastern Conference on his final Harris Poll ballot of the season.

He also appeared to like many teams from smaller conferences ahead of the one he used to coach for over a decade.

Carr placed Michigan at No. 22 in his final ballot -- fourth among Big Ten teams behind Northwestern, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Also ranked ahead of the Wolverines on the ballot were Utah State and BCS-bound Northern Illinois at No. 20.

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Denard Robinson, Brady HokeLeon Halip/Getty ImagesBrady Hoke and the Wolverine have a big challenge Saturday night against Alabama.
Jim Delany has never suppressed his desire for Big Ten members to test themselves outside the conference.

It's why the commissioner puts together unquestionably the nation's toughest bowl lineup each year. It's why he spearheaded the short-lived scheduling alliance with the Pac-12.

Even as the Big Ten's losses in nationally significant games pile up and its last national title in football gets smaller in the rear-view mirror, Delany wants teams to measure themselves against the best.

Michigan has gotten the message, loud and clear.

The Wolverines open the season Saturday night against defending national champion Alabama in Arlington, Texas. Alabama has hoisted the crystal football in two of the past three seasons. The Tide boast a 55-12 record under coach Nick Saban and haven't dropped a nonconference game since the 2007 season, Saban's first in Tuscaloosa.

The big blue banner isn't the only one Michigan will carry onto the field Saturday night. The Wolverines are playing for their beleaguered conference, too.

"Saban is probably the coach of the decade, and Alabama's probably the team of the decade with two national championships in the last three years," Delany told ESPN.com on Monday morning. "Michigan's trying to re-establish a program and a team, and Saban has done a fabulous job of returning Alabama to its programmatic height. So for us, it's a big game. I don't think you can minimize it. It's an important game, a big game, a big stage, and those are the kinds of games we want to play."

(Read full post)

Carr to Hall of Fame: 'Tremendous honor'

July, 20, 2012
7/20/12
4:36
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Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr visited "College Football Live" today and talked about his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame and what it means, he also chatted about the college playoff system and shared his memories of Joe Paterno.
NEW ORLEANS -- Watching the first half of Michigan's season opener against Western Michigan in September, Lloyd Carr might have known he'd end up in New Orleans since the College Football Hall of Fame is honoring its inductees for this class at the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

He wasn't expecting his old team, Michigan, to necessarily join him.

"If you had told me back in August that this Michigan team was going to have the season they had and improve so much from start to finish, I go back to the first half against Western Michigan when we had problems stopping them," Carr said before a Hall of Fame luncheon Tuesday. "You fast forward to Nebraska, to me, it was a sensational performance in every phase of the game.

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Carr to be honored in New Orleans

December, 27, 2011
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As part of the d festivities surrounding next week's Allstate Sugar Bowl, add this to the list.

The College Football Hall of Fame will honor its latest class of inductees before the game and with other activities throughout the week in New Orleans.

And that class includes former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who was inducted into the College Hall at a dinner in New York on Dec. 6.

Carr and the rest of his class will be announced to the crowd during a pregame ceremony at the bowl on Jan. 3. It is part of the National Football Foundation's Hall of Fame salute.
Just as current Michigan coach Brady Hoke votes in the USA Today coaches poll, former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr also has a small say in the national championship race.

He's a Harris poll voter.

The Harris poll released its final votes today and Carr's ballot was somewhat consistent -- he had Michigan at No. 9 and Michigan State at No. 11. But he also had some surprises. He ranked Northern Illinois at No. 25 and somewhat shockingly had Clemson at No. 8.

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Former coach Lloyd Carr honored 

November, 19, 2011
11/19/11
9:20
PM ET
Former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr sat in front of the media after Michigan's 45-17 win over Nebraska on Saturday.

"This is a little bit nicer press room," Carr said of the renovated Michigan Stadium.

Carr retired after the 2007 season with a 122-40 record during his 13 seasons as head coach. He spent 28 years on the Michigan football staff, working as a defensive backs coach and as a defensive coordinator under Gary Moeller and Bo Schembechler.

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