|Michigan Wolverines Could Kiss Dominance Goodbye for Some Time.
||[Oct. 15th, 2005|08:30 am]
The Michigan Wolverines suffered a catastrophe which I expected at the hands of Minnesota last week in Ann Arbor, losing the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota after last-minute defeat.
Minnesota celebrated, like any oft-dominated team would. Minnesota's Golden Gophers have produced a fantastic year of play, to date, and they look forward to continuation against the Wisconsin Badgers. The Badgers lost by porous defense to the doormat, Northwestern, last week.
However, there is no joy in Ann Arbor, as the mighty Wolverines have lost their might. Oklahoma, another perennial college football powerhouse, also suffers a similar season. Last week, the Sooners allowed their asses to be handed liberally by rival Texas in the Red River Shootout.
Rivalry games mean the most in amateur sport. At the pro level, players and teams change hands so often as to make rivalry more of an individual against individual. In college, despite recent scandals of illegal gifts and contributions of boosters to student athletes, the large majority of student athletes remain true amateurs, and the spirit of team sport and school achievement carries a heartbeat.
Unfortunately, Michigan's heartbeat flatlined against Minnesota. After resuscitation against Michigan State with a win in East Lansing, Michigan slipped in their own home. The Golden Gophers nicked the jugular of the Wolverines. The Nittany Lions, however, show great power, and after a win against Ohio State, they could slip into the hospital room and suck out all the Wolverine blood.
Michigan hasn't featured a losing record in every sense of forever. Michigan is the most successful college team. Unfortunately, they do not enter today's game with the full confidence of Bo Schembechler, former Wolverines coach and icon of Michigan power.
Bo doubtful U-M can rebound
October 13, 2005
FREE PRESS NEWS SERVICES
In Bo Schembechler's 21 seasons as Michigan football coach, he endured only one season in which his team lost more than four games.
With a 3-3 record this year, the Wolverines already are close to that territory.
"I don't know whether they can put it together or not; I really don't," Schembechler said Wednesday while speaking on a conference call featuring 16 former coaches who make their own weekly rankings called the Master Coaches Survey.
"They don't have a real good offensive line, their back is playing on one leg. The quarterback hasn't looked as good as they thought he would, and they lost a great receiver before the season, and now their safeties are out.
"Well, I don't know."
Other coaches didn't feel so bad about U-M's situation.
"I think that's great for college football," said Frank Kush, a former Arizona State coach who was an All-America at Michigan State. "I hate to see teams dominate like SC is dominating the West, whether it's Michigan in the Big Ten or Tennessee or whomever it may be. I think the great thing about collegiate athletics is the parity and everything else. It makes for an intriguing game and better interest throughout the country."
Most of the other coaches on the call -- Alabama's Gene Stallings, Iowa's Hayden Fry, Washington's Don James and Brigham Young's LaVell Edwards -- have watched their schools go through tough seasons since their departure. But it's a new experience for Schembechler, who remains close to the U-M team.
"The same thing is happening at Oklahoma that's happening at Michigan," Schembechler said of the 2-3 Sooners. "Both of those teams are struggling, and usually they're right up near the top. It's one of those things. This reminds me of my 1984 team. We were 6-5, and they wanted me to go play the national champion with LaVell Edwards."
Brigham Young beat Michigan in the Holiday Bowl and won the national title in Schembechler's only non-winning season (6-6). That memory stirred some laughter among the coaches Wednesday.
"After the season, Barry (Switzer) sent me a telegram and said, 'Congratulations on doing something only five other teams have done,' " Edwards recalled to roaring laughter.
Schembechler sounded dismayed at Michigan's missed opportunities this season.
"They had so many injuries early, and they got off to a bad start and they didn't look good and they got beat by Notre Dame," Schembechler said. "They should never have lost to Notre Dame. My God, they had the ball down there and they should have won."
Bo's teams, however, did not feature a recruiting game on the level that Carr's teams compete. In previous generations, high school stars merely held attention within the football network. Today, in the information age, a kid who scores 4 touchdowns in a homecoming game could find his performance in video highlight reels on the internet.
In 2005, recruiting is frenzy. Every school battles for attention of top student athletes across a nation. Also, kids react like they always have. They are quick to judge, and they hold bias. When a dominant team skids to mediocrity, they go elsewhere.
Michigan should take special care to play their very best against Penn State, regardless of outcome. The coaching staff should have a good story in place to explain this season as a fluke. Bo Schembechler should wring his hands a bit. Ann Arbor should suffer in silence.
For Penn State, a loss would mean less than it would to Michigan. Every loss, at this point, for Michigan, is one lost piece of future, student by student.