In a disappointing season for the Big Ten in general, no team is likely more disappointed today than the Michigan Wolverines.
Sure, Ohio State isn't eligible for the Big Ten Championship game or a BCS bowl, but hey, at least they dramatically overplayed expectations and finished undefeated. Ditto for Penn State, a team few thought would finish anywhere close to 8-4.
Wisconsin was incredibly disappointing, but still has a shot at the Rose Bowl despite a 7-5 record (thanks NCAA sanctions!).
Heck, if Northwestern had been better in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats would be in the Big Ten Championship instead of Nebraska.
Still, it's Northwestern—the Wildcats will gladly take a 9-3 record.
Outside of Michigan State, no team has been more disappointing than Michigan. Out of conference, they were smoked by Alabama and beaten by a Notre Dame team they were favored against (though, to be fair, Notre Dame turned out to be better than advertised).
In conference, the team lost a key game against Nebraska that will keep them out of the Big Ten title game. Oh, and they also lost the last game of the season to Ohio State, but that's not really a big deal, right?
Oh wait, that's a season-killer in Michigan. Ouch.
Coming into the season, Michigan was one of the favorites to win what looked like a pretty strong conference. Neither one of those beliefs came to fruition. Heck, Denard Robinson—the team's Heisman hopeful before the year began—lost his starting job after suffering nerve damage in his elbow.
It's possible that Michigan won't even get the second most appealing Big Ten bowl game, the Capital One Bowl, against an elite SEC opponent.
There are two scenarios at play here: If Nebraska beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game and goes to the Rose Bowl, either Michigan or Northwestern will get the Capital One bid. While Michigan is the bigger brand, Northwestern has the better overall record and will likely have a slightly better ranking.
If Wisconsin heads to the Rose Bowl—everyone's worst nightmare outside of Madison—it's possible Michigan could get passed up for the Capital One Bowl and Outback Bowl and drop down to the Gator Bowl.
Ouch. That would be another disappointment for the Maize and Blue.
No matter where this team falls, they need to end the season on a high note. The Capital One Bowl would be a great opportunity for that, where they could potentially play Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M or South Carolina.
Even the Outback Bowl would pit them against an SEC team and give the Wolverines one last chance to prove their mettle.
However, the Gator Bowl would be a major disappointment and leave the Wolverines with a much less appealing—albeit winnable—contest.
Whatever the case may be, Denard Robinson and company need to go out in style. This year has been a major disappointment for this Michigan team.
At least they can still usher in the New Year with a win and a fresh start for next year's group.
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