Come and get your grades, Big Ten teams. All this week, we're handing out our marks for every Big Ten club's 2014 season performance in the following areas: offense, defense, special teams, coaching and overall showing.
Next up: Michigan
Brady Hoke changed offensive coordinators in the offseason, and Doug Nussmeier came in from Alabama pledging to establish a stronger run game and help the quarterbacks. Instead, Michigan finished dead last in the Big Ten in total offense -- something that should never happen -- and 13th in scoring at just 20.9 ppg. Devin Gardner, who'd shown promise amid some erratic play the previous two seasons, took a big step backward while throwing 15 interceptions against just 10 touchdowns. Yet backup Shane Morris was worse, and Gardner remained the best option. The inability to develop a quarterback or a dominant offensive line ultimately cost Hoke his job.
Greg Mattison's defense was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disastrous season in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finished third in the Big Ten in yards allowed per game and got strong play from All-Big Ten linebacker Jake Ryan, among others. This was more of a solid defense than a dominant one, however, as Michigan created just 10 turnovers all season -- by far the fewest in the Big Ten -- and padded its numbers against bad offensive teams like Indiana, Penn State and Northwestern.
Special teams: C-minus
Michigan was below average in the Big Ten in punting, kickoff returns and punt returns and had a kick blocked at Rutgers that could have won that game. Matt Wile did hit three crucial field goals in the win over Penn State, but there weren't a lot of memorable plays on special teams beyond Dennis Norfleet's George Clinton-approved dance moves.
Hoke consistently brought in highly-rated recruiting classes, but four years into his tenure, his offense still lacked any kind of strength on which to hang its hat and there was no sense that was going to change. The gross mishandling of Morris' concussion during the Minnesota game and the pregame stake gaffe vs. Michigan State made it appear that this staff didn't have enough awareness of what was happening around it. Give Hoke some credit for keeping the team together while everything was crumbling, however, and to even have a chance to get to a bowl game the final week was a minor achievement after a 2-4 start. That and Mattison's work with the defense is all that keeps this from a failing grade.
Championships are expected at Michigan, but this year's team had almost as many public apologies (three) as victories (five). Embarrassingly bad performances against Notre Dame, Utah and Minnesota plus another one-sided defeat at the hands of Michigan State led to fan outrage and Hoke's dismissal. A 3-3 finish at least prevented even more damage, and the cupboard isn't entirely bare for Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines have had seasons with worse records than 5-7, but few compare to this one in terms of regrettable moments.