‘Give ’em the works, Cubby! We ain’t got a minute to lose! This ain’t a newspaper story — it’s a career! Why, they’ll be naming streets after you!’
I know all of us have discussed ad nauseam how Michigan's last couple of years have been, whether here, or with your friends, or at the local crack spot. There were several things that have happened over the last few years that were rationalized at the time but in hindsight were indicators of the decline of the program (e.g. Ball State 2006).
During this barren bowl season I decided to take an objective look at our bitter rival to see if there were any similarities. Please make no mistake, I'm not guaranteeing OSU's imminent demise any more than I guarantee Michigan's next National Championship (while I, of course, hope for both). I assure you the point of this post is not to dissect Michigan's recent shortcomings but to draw some parallels to Ohio State's current state of affairs.
The first similarity is predictable play calling with little to no adjustments. A perfect Michigan example is the 2006 Rose bowl which saw Michigan and USC go into the half tied at 3. USC proceeded to come out throwing and put up 29 points while Michigan continued it's zone left runs until it was too late. On to OSU. While there are enough examples in recent years the thing that sticks out most to me are other teams' postgame comments. Just this year Rey Maualuga and Colt McCoy both gave indications that either a) OSU did exactly what they did on film (Maualuga) or b) their coverage was predictable enough for the WR to call a play (McCoy).
Another similarity is when a great team wins a close one to a lesser opponent they are expected to roll on. Michigan's example is Ball State 2006, which everyone treated as a trap game after the fact and woke up to Appy State the next year. This year OSU played a close game against the vaunted Ohio University Bobcats that they barely escaped at home.
We all know the diluted argument (which will never be settled) that it's better to get to a BCS game and lose than not get there at all. To which I say: bullshit. First of all, as a fan, I would take a victory over Florida in the Capital One Bowl over a BCS beatdown any day. Secondly, ALL of us have to remember how frustrating the annual "showdowns" in Pasadena were getting. Maybe getting to one and getting beat is a moral victory; 3 in a row is just pathetically uncompetitive.
The last example (unless anyone wants to chime in) is the fact that Tressel was hired because of his "big game" experience and abilities. He held up his end of the bargain for the first couple of years, but in recent memory hasn't shown up. The most telling stat is OSU's record against opponents ranked in the Top 10 since "The Game" in 2006, which is 0-5. In the same span Michigan's record against Top 10 opponents is, get this, 3-4. (If you count the 2006 season the records go OSU [2-5] and Michigan [4-5]. Remember one of OSU's wins and one of M's losses were The Game FWIW).
To summarize, in my humble opinion, I honestly believe that as Michigan goes the Big Ten goes (for the most part). Michigan has been sliding for years, but it wasn't truly evident until the Buckeyes were getting exposed. Imagine being in Columbus thinking "How can we beat Michigan every year but not win a bowl game?" (On the other hand how can we beat Florida while they run laps around OSU...?) The truth is Michigan hasn't been very good, plain and simple. And the only time they were was when they were, yep, unpredictable. You know Urban Meyer had the same reaction all of us did when Michigan lined up 5-wide on the first play from scrimmage, which was: WTF?!
This is purely for discussion's sake only. No predictions, merely observations. Please don't get me wrong; I am not insisting or assuming that Tressel is out or doomed, I'm just trying to look at some gradual trends that we didn't notice on Michigan's behalf over the last few years. But I'm also realizing that without Michigan on top, the Big 10 simply cannot support itself. The balance of power has to be restored.