Michgan Back as Ever

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 01/04/2012 10:13 PM
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Michigan Football — As Back As They've Ever Been

By Tony Gerdeman

When Brendan Gibbons' field goal split the uprights in overtime last night and Michigan walked away a 23-20 winner over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl, it gave the Wolverines their first BCS bowl win since an Orange Bowl win over Alabama following the 1999 season.

No longer will fans of the Maize and Blue have to point to that more-than-a-decade-old win over a team that lost at home to Louisiana Tech as their most recent BCS bowl win.

Instead, they can now point to a Sugar Bowl win over a Virginia Tech program that was 1-5 in BCS bowl games before Tuesday night, with the Hokies' lone win coming against a Cincinnati team that lost to Connecticut by nearly four touchdowns during the regular season.

What Brady Hoke did this season was fairly remarkable. He took a veteran team, infused the proper youth, got a defensive coordinator, was the recipient of a ton of good fortune, took advantage of a favorable schedule, and found great success.

Rest assured that all of those are needed for a successful season. When Ohio State won the BCS National Championship following the 2002 season, they had as much good fortune as you will ever see in one particular season, and eight home games, just like Michigan.

Even more recently was Ohio State's 2007 season that saw a November loss to Illinois cripple their championship hopes, but more good fortune befell them in the form of every team in front of them losing, and they managed to find themselves in a game against LSU that they probably shouldn't have been in.

Much like those two Ohio State examples, the Wolverines were scooping up charity this season like a kid standing in a wishing well.

How many times did Michigan's receivers bail out quarterback Denard Robinson, you ask? Almost every time.

How many mistakes did Michigan's opponents make this season? Let's answer that with another question—how many times have you seen a running back lose 22 yards on a single carry? That run alone almost told the entire story of the way teams played against Michigan this past season.

But that's what good teams do, and it's what Michigan hadn't done for years prior to this one. Finding ways to win and "forcing" unforced errors are a byproduct of preparation.

For that reason alone, Michigan is certainly "back". After all, finding a way to win is the first step to actually winning. Under Rich Rodriguez, they never bothered with finding ways to win, they were too busy finding ways to lose.

If there had never been a Rich Rodriguez Era, and we just went from Lloyd Carr's last season in 2007 to Brady Hoke's in 2011, wouldn't that feel like a very seamless transition?

There's very little question that Brady Hoke has Michigan on their way to being where they were in Lloyd Carr's heyday. But keep in mind, Carr's teams had three or more losses in ten of his thirteen seasons.

The ultimate goal shouldn't be to simply get "back", because "back" wasn't really as great as many may remember. The goal should be more. It should be larger.

The goal should be to make Michigan better than it has ever been before. However, to acknowledge that would be admitting that it hasn't been as great as Michigan Men want to believe it has been.

Therein lies one of the biggest obstacles that Michigan faces—the reality of their own fantasy.

Does Michigan want more, or are they satisfied with simply maintaining some favored past?

Brady Hoke brings back a senior quarterback next season, and their most significant offensive losses will be center David Molk and receiver Junior Hemingway.

The only significant losses on the defensive side of the ball are linemen Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen.

Personnel-wise, this is going to be a very similar team next season, and they will be bolstered by a top five recruiting class.

The schedule, however, won't be similar at all. The non-conference slate features a season opener against Alabama in Arlington, Texas, and is capped by a trip to South Bend.

Conference games on the road include Purdue, Nebraska, Minnesota and Ohio State.

If they simply split just the games that aren't at home, that gives them three losses next year without even discussing "Little Brother" coming to town.

A 9-4 record next season would again indicate that Michigan is indeed back, but that doesn't mean they should be satisfied with it.

Being "back" should just be the first step. Being "back" for Michigan is like moving back in with your parents after you moved out on your own and failed miserably.

"Hey, I'm back. I hope nobody touched the Star Wars stuff in my room. Mom, what time will the pizza rolls be done?"

There is more out there to be had for Michigan,but they have to want to find it.

If they don't, then they'll probably be "back" forever.

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