It didn't take Rich Rodriguez long to tarnish Michigan's reputation in football. In his three seasons as coach, Rodriguez ran a program that included the first losing season by the Wolverines since 1967, nine losses in one season that set a school record, the program's most lopsided loss in bowl history and NCAA rules violations. There's more, but you get the picture.



CHICAGO -- It didn't take Rich Rodriguez long to tarnish Michigan's reputation in football.

In his three seasons as coach, Rodriguez ran a program that included the first losing season by the Wolverines since 1967, nine losses in one season that set a school record, the program's most lopsided loss in bowl history and NCAA rules violations. There's more, but you get the picture.

Michigan showed Rodriguez the door following last season, then hired Brady Hoke, a former Michigan assistant who reworked programs at Ball State and San Diego State before taking over one of the most respected college football machines. More importantly to the folks in maize and blue, he's got an attitude.

"Well, I don't think we're rebuilding, period,'' Hoke said. "I mean, we're Michigan. We've got kids who understand that they're Michigan. I don't put any stock into that.''

Maybe it's the 884 wins that stand as the most in college football history, or the 42 Big Ten titles that also rank first among league schools. Despite the losing seasons and last year's finish, Michigan's attitude survived the three-year hybernation.

"When you put on the winged helmet, that jersey, that maize and blue, you play for something bigger than ourselves,'' said Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.

Michigan returned eight starters back on both sides of the ball, led by Robinson, the preseason offensive player in the conference who led the Big Ten and ranked second in the nation with 4,272 total yards last season. He finished sixth in Heisman balloting and was recognized as the Big Ten MVP.

But Robinson shifts from the spread under Rodriguez to a pro-style attack with Hoke, who brought respected offensive coordinator Al Borges with him from San Diego State. Robinson will take snaps under center but also operate out the shotgun, he said.

The speedy Robinson is known more as a runner (1,702 yards, 14 touchdowns) than a passer (2,570 yards, 18 touchdowns, 11 interceptions). Don't expect Hoke's plan to take Robinson away from his strengths.

"He ran the same offense in high school, which is a plus,'' Hoke said. "One of the big differences is the mechanics of taking the snap from center, the footwork, the run game, the foot patterns, the play-action game. He was ahead of the curve a little bit.

"People usually don't say that about me, but we're smart enough to have elements he does well from what he did in the past in the spread in our offense.''

The disaster under Rodriguez came because of the Michigan defense. The Wolverines allowed 347, 330 and 458 points in the three seasons under Rodriguez -- the only three seasons in the program's history when the Wolverines allowed more than 300.

Last season, Michigan gave up 35.8 points per game to rank 108th among 120 FBS teams. Illinois scored 65 in a triple-overtime loss to Michigan. Mississippi State ended Rodriguez's run with a 52-14 victory over Michigan in the Gator Bowl.

The pro-style offense will actually help prepare the defense, Hoke said.

"There are two sides of the ball in the game of football,'' he said. "I'm a defensive coach. When your defense plays against a pro-style offense all spring long and all fall camp, you build a toughness and an edge because the schemes themselves are different.

"This is a physical football league, physical offenses, people that run the football. We think we can play better defense by the fact of how we do things on the offensive side of the ball because they feed off each other.''

Michigan plans on fattening up again. After three lean years, the Wolverines are acting like it never happened.

John Supinie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JohnSupinie.


Big Ten Conference football capsules

In predicted order of finish

Big Ten title game

Nebraska def. Wisconsin



Coach: Bret Bielema, 49-16 in sixth year at Wisconsin and overall.

2010: 11-2 overall and 7-1 (T-1st) in the Big Ten. Lost to TCU 21-19 in Rose Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 21st among 120 teams in 2010 in FBS in total offense, 445.1 yards per game; 20th in total defense, 321.8.

Starters back: 5 on offense, 6 on defense.

Notable losses: QB Scott Tolzien, RB John Clay, OT Gabe Carimi, TE Lance Kendricks, DE J.J. Watt.

Big question: How good will QB Russell Wilson be after transfering from North Carolina State?

Outlook: Wisconsin reminded everyone that power football, while not flashy, still wins big in the era of the spread. It won't change this season with the Badgers.

Coach Bielema says: "Wisconsin is what it is. We're not real sexy. We're not the first girl taken to the prom. We're a group that lines up, goes to work, does things the right way.''


Coach: Luke Fickell, first year at Ohio State and overall.

2010: 0-0 overall and Big Ten after vacated 12-1 season 7-1 (T-1st) in Big Ten.

NCAA rankings: 20th in total offense, 448.6; 4th in total defense, 262.2.

Starters back: 7 on offense, 5 on defense.

Notable losses: QB Terrelle Pryor, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, DE Cameron Heyward, LB Ross Homan, LB Brian Rolle.

Big question: Do Buckeyes fans blame Jim Tressel as much as Terrelle Pryor for the mess in Columbus?

Outlook: With a No. 18 preseason ranking, the Buckeyes say they've adopted the underdog role. That's must be hard to comprehend for the six-time defending Big Ten champs.

Coach Fickell says: "I had no time to sit and think. I had no time to feel sorry, to have a whole lot of emotion. I had to stand up.''


Coach: Ron Zook, 28-45 in seventh year at Illinois, 51-59 in 10th year overall.

2010: 7-6 overall and 4-4 (T-4th) in Big Ten. Defeated Baylor 38-14 in Texas Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 45th in total offense, 397.1; 38th in total defense, 351.3.

Starters back: 8 on offense, 6 on defense.

Notable losses: RB Mikel Leshoure, LB Martez Wilson, DT Corey Liuget.

Big question: Can Illinois earn bowl berth in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992?

Outlook: This team is going to score points. What happens on defense will determine the Illini's postseason fate.

Coach Zook says: "Everybody knows everybody. That's the thing that's exciting (on offense) about coming back the second year.''


Coach: Joe Paterno, 401-135-3 in 46th year at Penn State and overall.

2010: 7-6 overall and 4-4 (T-4th) in Big Ten. Lost to Florida 37-24 in Outback Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 68th in total offense, 372.2; 35th in total defense, 346.8.

Starters back: 7 on offense, 7 on defense.

Notable losses: TB Evan Royster, TB Stephfon Green, OG Stefen Wisniewski, LB Chris Colasanti.

Big question: Can JoePa get through the season uninjured after getting knocked out of practice by a wide receiver earlier this summer?

Outlook: The Nittany Lions stumbled on offense last season, and there still doesn't seem to be an obvious pick at quarterback.

Coach Paterno says: "I'm old enough to know my limitations and young enough to know how to handle them.''


Coach: Danny Hope, 9-15 in third year at Purdue, 44-37 in eighth year overall.

2010: 4-8 overall and 2-6 (T-9th) in Big Ten.

NCAA rankings: 104th in total offense, 311.6; 62nd in total defense, 369.0.

Starters back: 7 on offense, 9 on defense.

Notable losses: QB Rob Henry, TE Kyle Adams, RB Dan Dierking, DE Ryan Kerrigan.

Big question: If the Boilers don't sell football tickets, how are they going to pay for basketball coach Matt Painter $2.3 million per season for eight years?

Outlook: With Robert Marve's knee slow to heal, the Boilers consider splitting time between Metamora's Caleb TerBush and Rochester's Sean Robinson at quarterback.

Coach Hope says: "I look back at 2010 and think it only served to make us a stronger football team and a better prepared team for this season.''


Coach: Kevin Wilson, first year at Indiana and overall.

2010: 5-7 overall and 1-7 (11th) in Big Ten.

NCAA rankings: 54th in total offense, 387.5; 90th in total defense, 410.2.

Starters back: 6 on offense, 6 on defense.

Notable losses: QB Ben Chappell, WR Tandon Doss.

Big question: How long did it take Wilson, the former Oklahoma offensive coordinator, to realize he's no longer working with the same talent level?

Outlook: Wilson is a fiery competitor who already got into a confrontation on sports-talk radio with former Illini/Colts QB Jack Trudeau, but his Hoosiers must also show some fight.

Coach Wilson says: "I want our fans to be excited about it, but they're not going to be until we win games and do the things that winners do.''



Coach: Bo Pelini, 30-12 in fourth year at Nebraska and overall.

2010: 10-4 overall and 6-2 (T-1st) in Big 12 North. Lost 19-7 to Washington in Holiday Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 44th in total offense, 398.1; 11th in total defense, 306.8.

Starters back: 7 on offense, 7 on defense.

Notable losses: OG Ricky Henry, WR Niles Paul, DE Pierre Allen, DB Prince Amukamara, DB Eric Hagg.

Big question: How much will the offense change after a coaching shakeup on that side of the ball?

Outlook: If quarterback Taylor Martinez can take a step forward, the Huskers defense should take care of the rest on the way to Indy.

Coach Pelini says: "We're not going to adapt what we do to the conference. We're going to hopefully make the conference adapt to what we do.''


Coach: Brady Hoke, first year at Michigan and 47-51 in ninth year overall.

2010: 7-6 overall and 3-5 (T-7th) in Big Ten. Lost 52-14 to Mississippi State in Gator Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 8th in total offense, 488.7; 110th in total defense, 450.8.

Starters back: 8 on offense, 8 on defense.

Notable losses: LB Jonas Mouton.

Big question: How did Hoke get so arrogant with a losing record in his first eight years as coach?

Outlook: Michigan moved from the spread to a pro-style attack, but it sounds like quarterback Denard Robinson can handle the switch.

Coach Hoke says: "This might sound arrogant, and if it is, it is. We're Michigan. We have a global education. We're the winningest program in the history of college football.''


Coach: Mark Dantonio, 33-19 in fifth year at Michigan State, 51-36 in eighth year overall.

2010: 11-2 overall and 7-1 (T-1st) in Big Ten. Lost 49-7 to Alabama in Capital One Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 53rd in total offense, 388.5; 43rd in total defense, 353.8.

Starters back: 6 on offense, 6 on defense.

Notable losses: OT D.J. Young, LB Greg Jones, LB Eric Gordon, CB Chris Rucker.

Big question: After winning 11 in the regular season and winning its first Big Ten title since 1990, how did the 42-point loss to Alabama in the bowl game affect the program's foundation?

Outlook: Dantonio elevated Dan Roushar, a former Illini assistant, to offensive coordinator, and he is expected to take more shots down the field.

Coach Dantonio says: "You think you're getting to the top of the mountain. You find out there's another mountain to climb as well. How we performed in the bowl game, we took a step back.''


Coach: Pat Fitzgerald, 34-29 in sixth year at Northwestern and overall.

2010: 7-6 overall and 3-5 (T-7th) in Big Ten.

NCAA rankings: 48th in total offense, 391.1; 97th in total defense, 426.1.

Starters back: 9 on offense, 7 on defense.

Notable loss: PK Stefan Demos.

Big question: When will quarterback Dan Persa be 100 percent after an Achilles injury late last season?

Outlook: When Fitzgerald turned down interest from Michigan, Northwestern won a big victory in the offseason, but Northwestern must tighten up on defense.

Coach Fitzgerald says: "(Persa) is 100 percent healed from the standpoint surgery. Now it's about adding strength, getting the conditioning level up, getting back to having fun.''


Coach: Kirk Ferentz, 89-60 in 13th year at Iowa, 101-81 in 16th year overall.

2010: 8-5 overall and 4-4 (T-4th) in Big Ten. Defeated Missouri 27-24 in Insight Bowl.

NCAA rankings: 57th in total offense, 382.9; 25th in total defense, 332.1.

Starters back: 5 on offense, 5 on defense.

Notable losses: QB Ricky Stanzi, DE Adrian Clayborn, DB Brett Greenwood, DB Tyler Sash, DT Karl Klug.

Big question: How will the fans take to Ferentz after a shaky offseason filled with arrests and players in the hospital?

Outlook: The program's image took a big hit in the offseason. With a limited number of playmakers, the Hawkeyes may also take a beating in the regular season.

Coach Ferentz says: "We have an opportunity right now to really grow. (I'm) eager to see how things develop.''


Coach: Jerry Kill, first year at Minnesota, 127-73 in 18th year overall.

2010: 3-9 overall, 2-6 (T-9th) in Big Ten.

NCAA rankings: 77th in total offense, 361.3; 76th in total defense, 392.2.

Starters back: 6 on offense, 8 on defense.

Notable loss: QB Adam Weber.

Big question: Will Kill's formula for rebuilding programs work at a BCS school that won 17 games over the last four seasons?

Outlook: With more substance than style, Kill is the opposite of his predecessor, Tim Brewster. Kill already rebuilt Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois.

Coach Kill says: "I've done this two or three different times. Of course, now we're in the Big Ten trying to do it.''