It's been an up-and-down season for the Michigan Wolverines, who have waxed and waned their way to a disappointing 5-3 record.
True, the year has seen some discouraging lows––the blowout versus Alabama; the blown game at Notre Dame. But it's also seen some unspeakable highs––beating Michigan State for the first time since 2007; the state of mind of the voters who ranked them No. 8 to start the season.
But the past is the past. The loss to Nebraska was devastating, but the Rose Bowl is still a realistic-to-achieve goal. All they need to do is take care of some business down the stretch, and they could still be sleeping with visions of rose petals dancing in their head.
Then again, they could also crash and burn to the tune of 5-7 and miss the bowl season altogether.
Here's a prediction on how the rest of the season will shape up.
11-3-12: Michigan vs. Minnesota
The Minnesota Golden Gophers shouldn't be taken too lightly––especially on the road where Michigan is 1-2 this season. The Gophers are 4-1 in the friendly confines of TCF Bank Stadium, and this game means a lot to them.
That being said, the Wolverines are sure to come out with a fire under their arse after the dud they laid at Nebraska. They're the better team and they have the motivation. That spells doom for the Gophers.
Prediction: Michigan Wins (6-3)
11-10-12: Northwestern vs. Michigan
This could easily be a trap game for the Wolverines. Were it not for a blown 12-point lead in the fourth quarter against Nebraska, the Northwestern Wildcats would be 8-1 and highly ranked right now.
The Wildcats play a unique, cerebral style of football, tailor-made to beat teams who beat themselves. That should strike fear into the hearts of Michigan fans, especially after watching them beat themselves against Notre Dame.
But Northwestern also lacks top-flight athleticism, which Michigan––or, more specifically, Denard Robinson––has. Expect it to be a close one, but Shoelaces should be able to pull it out.
Prediction: Michigan Wins (7-3)
11-17-12: Iowa vs. Michigan
The Iowa Hawkeyes could very well be playing for their bowl-game livelihood at this point, but Michigan will be playing for a whole lot more.
Should Nebraska lose one of their previous two games (I have them losing this week at Michigan State), Michigan will be back in the driver's seat for a spot in the Big Ten Championship.
With only Ohio State remaining, that means a win here would essentially put them in a two-game playoff for the Rose Bowl.
I doubt they'll be overlooking the Hawkeyes with that on the line.
Prediction: Michigan Wins (8-3)
11-24-12: Michigan vs. Ohio State
This is the one everyone will be talking about. One would think Michigan would have more incentive to win than the Ohio State Buckeyes. They're the ones who are bowl eligible. They're the ones who can still make a BCS game. They're the ones who will come out more fired up.
But to think that would be admitting you know nothing about this rivalry.
Urban Meyer's introduction to Ohio State-Michigan will be a grueling one––bowl suspension or not. The Buckeyes have been playing for pride all season, and they've been doing it pretty damn well.
Michigan will throw everything they've got in a raucous Horseshoe Stadium, but in the end, Ohio State is too big, too strong and too well coached to lose a game this huge at home. Michigan leaves with its head in its hands.
Prediction: Ohio State Wins (8-4)
1-1-13: Michigan vs. Florida (Capital One Bowl)
Assuming we're all still here after the Mayan apocalypse, the Wolverines will have their hands full in this one.
Florida had a resurgent season in 2012, much like the one Michigan had in 2011. After years of disappointment, they began to look once again like a national contender.
Michigan has the size to match up with an SEC program, but their size doesn't have the requisite speed. As we saw against Alabama, these guys are truly in a league of their own.
Prediction: Florida Wins (8-5)