As the season nears, more and more pressure is being placed upon Lllloyd Carr to have a breakout season. For instance, Tom Dienhart predicts that the coach will need to beat OSU and/or win a BCS birth to keep his job.
It’s a tough call. Usually, when a coach is on the hot seat, there’s a clear-cut reason why. Most of the time it’s because he’s not winning, like Zook at Florida. Sometimes it’s because he’s lost control of his team, like Cooper at OSU.
For Lllloyd, there’s a plethora of possible reasons for his recent lack of success. Some fans will claim that he’s just a victim of bad luck; that a season and a half full of devastating injuries limited his options. Some claim that the game has changed, but the coach hasn’t – pointing out the “basketball on grass” style of football so prevalent now in the Big Te(leve)n, but not practiced by Carr.
Some even claim that there is no problem whatsoever. A popular missive from UM fans in most online forums is that across their five losses, UM only lost by a total of 21 points. Of course this ignores the fact that the team was only three snaps away from having a 4-7 season… as two victories came in OT and one came in the final second of the game against Penn State.
Combining the two arguments into one big picture, UM lost five close games, while squeaking by another three with a victory. Whichever way you look at it, having eight nail-bitingly close games in a season is a problem for any coach in Division I-A, especially more so for the one sitting on the treasure chest up at Ann Arbor.
Throw in the fact that the best recruits in the state of Michigan have been splitting to other schools before the ink is even dry on their high school diplomas, and it’s no wonder that Lllloyd finds himself on the hot seat.
I believe that this is the season when we really find out who coach Carr is. He’s already reshuffled his coaching staff, which is usually the final act of a coach who’s been given one last chance. I’m not sure his fate resides on an arbitrary goal, like 10 wins or a BCS berth or a victory against Sweater Vest, but on an overall impression of how he wins or loses. It’s one thing to suffer a loss from a better team (OSU 2005), but it’s another thing to repeatedly find ways to beat yourself (Notre Dame 2005).
My personal prediction is that UM “returns to form” this year. I wonder what state of chaos the national title picture would be in if UM and OSU met on November 18th, both undefeated…