so much for that
till The Game.
Is there such a thing as off season bulletin board material? If so this ought to motivate the players and coaches as they work at building this program. Bob Hunter in the Columbus Dispatch (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/sports/stories/2008/11/23/osufb_hun...):
Put it this way: Ohio State-Michigan has suddenly begun masquerading as an OSU-Toledo game, a switch not without a touch of irony considering the Wolverines lost to Toledo this season.
But the rivalry is tottering not simply because Michigan has had an embarrassment or two, or because of an unprecedented five consecutive OSU wins in the series, or because Michigan has just finished the season 3-9, or even because the Buckeyes hammered their hapless rivals 42-7 yesterday in Ohio Stadium.
It is tottering because the Wolverines looked so weak yesterday that it's hard to imagine they're looking at a quick fix. This is a team so bad that even the rivalry couldn't lift it up, and this is a rivalry that injects so much emotion in the game that it sometimes makes mediocre teams look pretty good.
Rich Rodriguez is a good coach, but he's not Moses. After Michigan's woeful performance in the Horseshoe, it seems clear that for Rodriguez to lead his team out of the Big Ten's second division -- not even one of college football's lower-middle-class neighborhoods these days - it's going to take more than a few top recruits.
Hunter goes on to all but predict that Ohio State wins the next two meetings. And then gets in a litte dig:
Some rivalry, eh?
If this keeps up, those little gold pants Ohio State players receive for winning the Michigan game may eventually become worthless trinkets around here. They used be rare as a gold doubloon. Now they're like loose change. Fifth-year seniors have five pairs.
The Buckeyes fans are clearly enjoying things. But you have to think this kind of talk will serve as good motivation for Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines as they work to regain their winning ways and the respect that comes with it.
File this away for the future.
I awoke early this morning. I had to sit up in bed and quickly hold my torso to stop the turning going on inside. I felt like throwing up, I felt like punching my guy, I felt like peeing on a stick to explain this sudden morning sickness. No, it's not some sort of Schwarzenegger type scenario in which I am going to comically go through pregnancy. It's the same feeling that I wake up with at least one Saturday every November. It's the flames of passion and hatred that storm through my belly and out my urinal tract (which strangely reminds me of Spring Break). Today is the day gentlemen (and possibly a presumably sexy female), today is the day that "the horror" ends. And when the dust settles from the plane crash in the mountains, it is today when we find out either we are all dead and that this was the worst thing to happen to our college football lives, or whether we all have survived this nightmare. Except for the co-pilot of course, but he's anti-semetic.
It has always been said that the importance of the Michigan-ohio state game is so great, that if one team were to lose all their games, but win "The Game", that the season would be a good one. Today is the closest we have ever come to that statement, so we get to try it out.
This game is the one where I, and many others, pull out all the stops to ensure that nothing interrupts this game. I have already ordered and refrigerated my pizza for today's game so that I can just pull it out at halftime, I will turn my cellphone off, I will unplug the internet, I will lock the door to my bedroom, and I will watch this game on the edge of my seat with every ounce of emotion I have in my sumo-wrestler-like physique poured into my 27" standard definition TV. Why, because this is the way it's been done since I was 13.
This year has a new coach, and new system, new logo on the jersey, a bunch of guys I hadn't heard of before the Utah game, and of course, a never before seen record. Yet somethings remain the same. Michigan travels to Columbus, they will be booed, they will be taunted, they will face the gapped toothed faces of so many cousin fuckers it's unimaginable to the normal human being. And when it is all over, I will either celebrate like hell, or I will hide under the blankets and replay every disastrous moment from the game in my head over and over, until I get hungry and have to get more pizza.
Go Blue! And remember, no matter what: It's Great To Be A Michigan Wolverine!
I was able to talk with Michael Rosenberg, the Detroit Free Press columnist and author of War As They Knew It, at an event here in Columbus back in September. And after our chat Michael was gracious enough to agree to answer some questions via email. I figured Ohio State Michigan week would be a good time to take him up on that offer. I posted Ten Questions to him regarding his book (see above) over at Collected Miscellany, but wanted to focus more on football in this set of ten.
So here they are:
1. How did the rivalry between Bo and Woody change Michigan football?
Michigan is the all-time wins leader, all-time win percentage leader and plays in the greatest rivalry in college football. So naturally, Michigan fans like to think the program has been one of the best in college football since its inception. That is largely true, but in the 1960s, Michigan State surpassed Michigan on the field and in fan interest. If Bo had not succeeded and MSU had hired a fabulous coach to replace Duffy Daugherty, who knows what would have happened?
Bo put Michigan football back at the forefront of college football, where it has remained ever since. He also gave the rivalry incredible life - even if you didn't care about Michigan or Ohio State, you knew Bo and Woody. It created a momentum for Michigan football and the UM-OSU rivalry that has never really abated.
2. Is it fair to say that Michigan has underachieved in the years following the 1997 National Championship?
No, I don't think that's fair. Michigan never had a losing season, won an Orange Bowl, played in three Rose Bowls and won several other January bowl games in that period. Were other programs better? You might be able to find five or six. You won't find 10. So I don't think "underachieved" is a fair term.
3. What do you think is behind the apparent weakness of the Big Ten when compared with SEC or Big XII? Is this just a cyclical thing with recruiting, etc. or has the Big Ten lost its edge in fundamental ways?
I think it is cyclical. Contrary to popular opinion, the SEC is not far ahead of every other league every year. The Big Ten held its own in bowl games against the SEC. That's just a fact. People concentrate on the national-title games and ignore all other evidence.
Having said that, I do believe the Big Ten is down this season. Almost every program is in transition in some way. Let's see where the league is in three years.
4. Was hiring Rich Rodriguez a mistake in your opinion?
I don't know yet. I think it's a strange fit and Rich should have won more games with the talent he had this year. I think he has given himself a thin margin for error with some of his actions. But I also think he is a bright coach who has a great track record, and of course he deserves time to turn this around.
5. What was his biggest mistake and what has been his best decision so far?
His biggest mistake was not settling that lawsuit against West Virginia. He got very little out of fighting it, except some embarrassing depositions involving him and his agent and bad publicity (some deserved, some not). It just wasn't worth it. He dug his heels in, and Bill Martin encouraged him to do so, instead of finding a way to end the ugly mess. I don't see how anybody can look back and say it was worth it for him.
As for his best decision, that's hard to say right now. Rich is sticking by his gut, though: recruiting who he wants, implementing his system, doing everything exactly as he wants to do it. I would say (and I think he'd agree, actually) that his best decision probably won't be clear until two or three years down the road. Maybe it's the decision to recruit somebody or a hire he has made that will pay off later.
6. How long do you think it will take for him to build a competitive program?
It was a competitive program when he showed up. It should have been more competitive this year, though obviously there are talent issues. I think it's reasonable to expect a winning season next year and contention for a Big Ten title in year three or four. I don't see how this team contends for the league championship next year with a freshman quarterback and so many losses on defense.
7. Has the Ohio State dominance of late reduced the luster of the Ohio State rivalry?
The rivalry has always seen stretches like this. Bo once went four years without beating Ohio State. It happens. I don't think the rivalry is in any danger of going away or losing importance. It has always been incredibly important in Columbus, and if anything, OSU's dominance has made it more important in Ann Arbor.
8. When was the last time Michigan was this big of an underdog going into The Game?
As far as I can tell, the answer is 1934. Michigan was 1-5 entering the game and had scored 15 points all season. Ohio State won 34-0. This shouldn't surprise anybody - it's rare to see Michigan this bad, Ohio State this good and the game in Columbus.
9. If you had to pick one early indicator of a possible Michigan upset, what would it be?
Um ... an extra week of eligibility for Tom Brady? I really don't know. Michigan's best chance to win a battle is with its defensive front. If that happens, and U-M forces Terrelle Pryor into some freshman mistakes and the Wolverines make a play or two on special teams ... stranger things have happened. But not many.
10. If they were to pull off the upset, where would it rank in terms of the rivalry?
I checked the history, and couldn't find one instance when a team as down as Michigan faced a team as good as Ohio State, especially on the road - and won. This would be the biggest upset in the history of the rivalry.