Michigan head coaches don’t make a name for themselves with victories over Minnesota or Indiana.
They are judged by how their teams perform against key national and regional rivals such as Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
As Brady Hoke enters the back stretch of his third season at the helm, his teams are .500 against these squads—and undefeated Ohio State is looming at the end of the month.
|Michigan vs. Rivals Under Brady Hoke (4-4)|
|Year||Notre Dame||Michigan State||Ohio State|
|2011||W, 35-31, Home||L, 28-14, Away||W, 40-34, Home|
|2012||L, 13-6, Away||W, 12-10 Home||L, 26-21, Away|
|2013||W, 41-30, Home||L, 29-6 Away||TBD, Home|
Michigan remains undefeated at home under Hoke, but Ohio State is just plain undefeated under Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes have equal success when playing at home or on the road.
The biggest concern for Michigan has to be the utter dominance that in-state rival Michigan State showed in its recent 29-6 victory.
The Spartans defeated the Wolverines in East Lansing, 28-14, during Hoke's first season. While the Spartan defense manhandled the Wolverine offense, the game was still in doubt late in the fourth quarter until a pick-six put the game out of reach for Michigan.
Michigan managed a 12-10 victory last season at Michigan Stadium, winning on a field goal as time expired.
This season, the game was over prior to halftime, as the Spartans scored a touchdown to take a 13-6 lead. Michigan had struggled to score two field goals in the first half—even banging one attempt off the goal post—and never threatened the rest of way.
The loss was stunning not only for the score, but the regression it represented for a Michigan team that was again dominated by an opponent it has long considered to be its "little brother," as Fitzgerald Toussaint put it in an interview with MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner.
The Michigan offense was completely dominated. Quarterback Devin Gardner was sacked seven times, with scant protection provided by his offensive line that had no answer whenever the Spartans dialed up a blitz.
The Wolverine offense finished with minus-48 rushing yards. The same Wolverine offense that had erupted in its previous game versus Indiana for 63 points and 751 yards managed just 168 yards versus the Spartans.
|Michigan's Offensive Futility: Drive-Ending Stats|
|Down||Yards to go||Result|
In the postgame press conference, Hoke spoke with Baumgardner about the state of the rivalry.
"I don't think there is a gap, I think they played awfully well. They executed awfully well. I don't think we did,” he said.
The result and the statistics point to larger problems than just execution.
The Michigan offensive line has struggled to protect Gardner all season. Against weaker opponents, he used his athleticism to make plays. However, the Michigan State defense completely shut him down.
|Michigan Rivals' National Rankings Offense/Defense|
Michigan will need to find answers before Ohio State comes calling at the end of the month. If the Wolverines were outscored 29-6 by an offense ranked No. 86 in the country, just imagine what kind of damage the Buckeyes could inflict.