In the world of sports, you never want to “settle.” For example, you don’t want to be “ok” with the Lions losing the last two home games simply because they were 5-0 before hand. You don’t want to “settle” with 3 points on a three game road trip if you’re a Wings fan.
Having said that, I’d settle if Michigan Football goes .500 the rest of the way. I’m well aware of how odd that sounds (contentment with a 7-1 team going 2-2 in its final four), but when you are coming off three of the most historically bad season in school history, you’ll take a nine win season heading into a bowl game with a smile.
First of all, Michigan fans should be used to nine win seasons. Lloyd Carr won 9 or 10 games just about every year he led the maize and blue. Carr won a national championship and ended in the top 10 4 other season. Do you remember his last 5 years? Three Rose Bowls, a win over the Tim Tebow lead Gators, and four of the five seasons ended with more than 9 wins. Ho Hum for a proud program.
Enter Rich Rodrigez. I’m not hear to bash everything he did. I’m just going to look at the simple facts. In three years, he won 14 games. He was blown out in his only bowl game. His 3-3-5 defense was in the bottom quarter of the nation all three season. Michigan just wasn’t good.
Now enter Brady Hoke. He’s one win away from matching the first two years of the Rich-Rod era in only his first campaign. The Michigan defense is ranked 28th in total yards against. Now, it’s not like the Wolverines have played Oklahoma, Houston, and other offensive juggernauts every week, but Michigan has done its job defensively every week.
Why settle for a 2-2 finish? Because I don’t want to see an 0-4 ending! Rich Rod had his teams sitting pretty after the first half of the season the previous two years. They crashed and burned right after. 4-0 and 5-0 starts still ended in sub .500 seasons. Fans don’t want to see that same fate this year.
The schedule is tough enough to fear four straight losses. First, they go to Iowa for just their third road game of the year. I love a home loaded schedule, but it does make the road games a much more difficult task. In addition, Iowa is coming off a loss to lowly Minnesota and will be looking to take it out on someone.
After that, Michigan goes to previously ranked Illinois. Since starting 6-0 and cracking the top 25, the Fighting Illini have dropped three straight to Ohio State, Purdue, and Penn State. Like Iowa, they will want to take it out on someone. Plus, they have next week off. They’ll be fired up to get back on the field and right their ship.
Following the road trip, Michigan finishes with maybe the biggest two games on their schedule. Nebraska comes into the Big House, possibly playing for a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game. Nebraska wins out, and the spot is theirs, having already beat Michigan State. A loss to Michigan really would open things up in the division.
Michigan closes the year against a small school from Ohio, I’m sure many of you have heard of them. The Buckeyes probably won’t be playing for a BCS bowl when they come to Ann Arbor, but Michigan couldn’t care less. This might be their best chance to end the Buckeyes reign in the rivalry. Braxton Miller is at least getting more comfortable, if not better, as his win over Wisconsin illustrates. But he’s still a freshman, and he still has to come win in Ann Arbor. No easy feat.
So, why do I say 2-2? I could absoutely see Michigan winning all four. The problem is I could see them losing all four too. No joke. Michigan may be 7-1, but look at who they have played. Notre Dame has three losses. The win over San Diego State is nice, but they only have 4 wins on the year. Michigan State got Big Blue again. After 8 games, I STILL don’t know how good Michigan is.
We will know soon though. The next four will tell us. Bottom line, take one of the next three and beat Ohio State, and I’m pretty sure this fan base will breathe a big sigh relief, as Hoke, excuse me, hope springs eternal.