Winning 10 games this year wouldn't just be ideal for Michigan Wolverines coach Brady Hoke—it would be necessary if he wants to be talked about alongside former great head men in Ann Arbor.
Hoke has already gained the respect and admiration of Wolverines followers by winning 19 games in his first two years. This pair of seasons have all but erased the three-year debacle known as the Rich Rodriguez era.
A Sugar Bowl triumph after 2011's 11-win campaign got him off to a wonderful start, but an 8-5 record in 2012 and an Outback Bowl loss to South Carolina set back Hoke, even if momentarily.
With 10 victories in 2013, Hoke would certainly have his program in BCS bowl consideration. With 10 wins, the Wolverines would contend for a Big Ten title, too. However, reaching the 10-win plateau would also have historical implications.
In his first three seasons with Michigan, former coach Lloyd Carr, a Bo Schembechler disciple, won 29 games. Carr's initial trio of falls with Michigan was capped by a national championship in 1997, but, perhaps more importantly overall for the Wolverines, he posted a 3-0 mark against bitter rival Ohio State.
So far, Hoke is 1-1 against Ohio State, but getting 29 wins in three seasons would be a monumental success as far as starts are concerned for Michigan coaches. He's a perfect 14-0 at home, the best record of any Michigan coach in his first two years since Fielding Yost went 15-0 from 1901-02.
Beating Ohio State in 2013 is obviously a goal—and an attainable one, at that. And judging by Michigan's favorable home slate due this fall, Hoke has a shot at maintaining dominance in his own backyard—The Big House.
For Hoke's name to be whispered in the same sentence with the likes of Schembechler, Carr, Yost and Gary Moeller, establishing an authoritative presence in the Big Ten this fall—his third year—is a must.
Look back at the first three years of the aforementioned coaches' careers, and you'll find that success almost immediately followed after a solid third season. Moeller had a pair of Rose Bowl appearances by the time he completed his third season in Ann Arbor.
Schembechler had won 2 of 3 versus the Buckeyes and appeared in two Rose Bowls before 1972, his fourth campaign as Michigan's head coach.
But take a further look back in Wolverines history, and you'll discover that the initial three-year stretch was crucial for legends like Bennie Oosterbaan, who posted a 2-0-1 advantage over Ohio State and led the Wolverines to a Rose Bowl appearance after the 1950 regular season came to an end.
A Solid Year No. 3 Almost Always Leads to Better Fortunes
After Schembechler coached his way to 28 wins during his first three falls with Michigan, he had a 10-1 record in 1972. Not only was Michigan an elite power at that time, but its defense was incredibly effective, surrendering just 57 points in his fourth session (1972).
Building a brick wall-like defense was the key for Michigan.
And when analyzing Hoke's recent recruiting classes, it looks like the Wolverines are well on their way to becoming a power capable of stifling even the most electrifying offenses in the nation.
Just food for thought, obviously, but Schembechler found his niche after three years. The same could be true for Hoke if he follows suit and takes the same approach as his predecessors.
Carr went 10-3 in 1998 after a sparkling 12-0 season the previous year, which landed the Wolverines a national championship. The 1997 team was one of the greatest teams to ever play in the Big Ten, and Carr took that momentum, ran with it and hardly ever looked back.
Winning at least 10 games was expected, and he did that six times after year No. 3. To say that Hoke will do the same is merely speculation, but it emphasizes the potential success to come should he win at least nine games in 2013.
The Wolverines scratched and clawed their way to two straight 8-4 seasons after Moeller's third fall. Michigan pounded the Buckeyes, 28-0, in 1993, his fourth season, and demolished North Carolina State in the Hall of Fame Bowl, 42-7.
Granted, the three-year rule isn't always true. Oosterbaan won 21 games with Michigan before struggling mightily to contend for respect in the Big Ten. He ended his career in 1958 and never won a Big Ten championship after getting a share of one in each of his first three years.
Harry Kipke strung together 24 victories from 1930-32 but failed to reach the same level with a modest 17-win stretch before leaving Michigan in 1937.
Records can be reviewed, trends can be spotted and speculation can run rampant. But it doesn't matter how it's sliced for Hoke at this point—a 10-win campaign in 2013 should be a priority. A bright future for Hoke in Ann Arbor doesn't depend on it, but Hoke's tenure with the Wolverines would get a boost from it.
Coaching records courtesy of The Bentley Historical Library.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81