Who would push Michigan over the edge?
A few things have been evident through nine weeks, but one tends to stand out among the rest: Michigan is a player or two away from serious national contention.
What if—and please play along, it's a bye week and there's not much else to talk about—college teams were allowed to trade? What if, and yes, it's a stretch to even think about, but entertaining nonetheless, Brady Hoke could call up a coach and strike up a deal?
Of course, value would be the first order of business. Already an unconventional idea to an extent, a college-trade proposal wouldn't pass the smell test if Team X could trade Bench Guy for Florida State's Heisman contender "Famous" Jameis Winston.
And to keep the idea somewhat doable and realistic, we'll limit Hoke's choices to in-conference rosters. Mark Dantonio's Michigan Spartans, who face Hoke on Nov. 2, would be fair game. So would Urban Meyer's No. 4-ranked Buckeyes, who end the season Nov. 30 at The Big House.
Also, there wouldn't be such a thing as huge, multiplayer deals. Just a swap, need for need. Dual transfers. Coaches doing coaches favors, if that could be imagined.
Start thinking "what if?"
Where are the areas of concern?
Right guard and center need attention.
Left guard could be addressed. Joey Burzynski, the starter, tore his ACL in Team 134's basketball-score win over Indiana. Kyle Bosch, a true freshman, played well in relief.
The Wolverines need a spark at running back, too.
But would Hoke execute a trade for another? NFL teams swap to remedy situations. Hoke probably wouldn't mind having that luxury.
Let's Make a Deal
Ohio State Buckeyes Have a RB
Trade For: RB Rod Smith
Trade Bait: RB Thomas Rawls, RB DeVeon Smith
Why Rawls and DeVeon Smith? Well, for starters, they're hard runners suited for Big Ten battlefields.
For one reason or another, neither back has seen much action this season. The so-so play of the offensive line has likely contributed to their time on the bench.
Hoke doesn't seem keen on gambling with anyone but Fitz Toussaint. He's the most experienced on the team, but he's struggled to regain form after a subpar 2012 that was mired by injury (broke right leg).
Hoke needs more from the position.
Thus far, he hasn't gotten it from Rawls, Smith or even Derrick Green, a 5'11", 240-pound frosh who entered campus as 2013's No. 1-rated prep running back, per Rivals.com.
Grade the trade (Feel free to take the discussion to the comments section):
Ohio State's Rod Smith could be the ideal back to complement Toussaint in the pro-style offense. Or he could take the No. 1 job and be the first option over Green in 2014.
The trade could work for a couple of reasons: Ohio State would get a young back who was rated as a 4-star recruit coming out of Warren Howland (Ohio) in 2013, via 247Sports. On top of that, the 5'11", 216-pounder was offered by the Buckeyes.
Perhaps that would be enough to interest Meyer, who has Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall ripping the competition for 6.2 yards per carry. Rod Smith is a bystander but has 12 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown.
He's a broken tackle in the making. And he was also offered by Michigan (Rich Rodriguez's staff).
Hoke would lose a little more than a year with Rawls and give up entirely on DeVeon Smith. But he'd get Rod Smith for the rest of this year and next.
Quarterback Devin Gardner wouldn't have to run nearly as much, saving the team from a total catastrophe. If Michigan lost him, it'd be game over.
Damien Harris, a 4-star running back via 247Sports, joins Michigan in 2015. In the meantime, Green and Drake Johnson, who was lost for the year in Week 1, would round out the backfield.
This proposed deal would cost Michigan depth, but Rod Smith's talent and experience (he redshirted as a frosh) couldn't be denied. The deal would be relatively equal on both sides.
As for the two-for-one scholarship trade, Meyer could redshirt DeVeon Smith in an attempt to stay at his limit.
Or he could deal him to another team. That's how this game works.
There is theoretical room to work with.
Michigan State Has Ideal LG
Trade For: LG Blake Treadwell
Trade Bait: WR Jeremy Jackson, WR Joe Reynolds
Just as a stopgap deal, landing Spartans left guard Blake Treadwell would add a wealth of experience to Michigan's ailing offensive line.
A four-year letter winner, Treadwell is a gritty senior who is partly responsible for the Spartans' rise on the O-line. At 6-1 (3-0), they lead the Legends Division. So why mess with a good thing? Dantonio's players are starting to come together at just the right time.
Grade the trade:
But Michigan State needs more force on offense if it's going to take a serious jab at a Big Ten title.
That being said, the addition of a wide receiver would be beneficial. Dropped balls have been a problem for Spartans wideouts since 2012; another sure set of hands would decrease drops.
Perhaps offering Jeremy Jackson, a 6'3", 209-pound senior, and Joe Reynolds, a 6'1", 196-pound RS senior, would generate interest for Dantonio, who'd be giving up a vital piece of his line.
But he'd get two possible short-term solutions for 2013. Quarterback Connor Cook's top options hover at or barely over 6'0", with the exception of Tony Lippett, who's 6'3".
The Spartans are a couple of offensive weapons away from a division title. Hoke isn't using Jackson or Reynolds, who have combined for eight catches this season.
Benefits for both sides.
Dantonio gets the two-for-one deal because he'd be giving up a solid offensive lineman for a pair of backups. On the bright side, he'd get added size and athleticism for an offense (No. 11 in B1G, 28.1 PPG) that owes a ton of points to its superb defense.
Kicking Toward Northwestern
Trade For: K Jeff Budzien
Trade Bait: K Brendan Gibbons, LB Cam Gordon
The Wildcats haven't been involved in many close games, so it's possible that coach Pat Fitzgerald won't need the senior for a game-winning kick. Stopping the run has been a challenge this fall, evidenced by an average of 169 yards surrendered per game.
Everyone involved is a senior. So it's another short-term deal here. No loss of years for either coach.
Grade the trade:
Gibbons, despite an 8-of-13 season, has made clutch kicks during his career (see 2011 Sugar Bowl, 2012 vs. Michigan State). Should Fitzgerald find himself in need, Gibbons could deliver.
But giving up Budzien would be worth getting Gordon, who's played well in the absence of Jake Ryan. With Nebraska, the No. 2 rushing team in the Big Ten, awaiting, along with Michigan and Michigan State, both streaky on the ground, it'd be a good idea to get someone capable of slowing down runners.
Hoke could sacrifice a linebacker at this point. He has Desmond Morgan, Joe Bolden and, soon enough, a fully healthy Ryan. He also needs a guy who can hit a field goal.
Michigan needed three points in overtime against Penn State.
Gibbons failed both times and the Wolverines lost, 43-40 (4OT). Against Akron, Michigan led 7-3 prior to Gibbons' 45-yard miss, which in hindsight, altered momentum.
The Zips hopped out to a 10-7 lead in the third before losing, 28-24. Budzien, in theory, would be an ideal fit.
Have fun with the bye week. Suggest a trade in the comments section and/or argue for or against the trades suggested in this piece.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.