With an 8-5 season fresh in Michigan fans’ minds, the Wolverines have hardly looked dominant in the team’s 2013 campaign.
Despite an impressive 6-1 record, Michigan found its back against the wall in narrow fourth-quarter wins over Akron and UConn and had to score 63 points to outlast lowly Indiana. The Wolverines’ only loss was the ugliest of all, as Michigan surrendered a game-tying five-play, 80-yard drive in 23 seconds against Penn State and freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, then squandered three different opportunities to win at the end of regulation and overtime.
Now, the big boys are coming to town. Michigan’s final five games of the regular season, all in November, are at Michigan State (7-1), versus Nebraska (5-2), at Northwestern (4-4), at Iowa (5-2) and versus Ohio State (8-0). Based on the way Michigan has played this season, it’s not out of the question to suggest the Wolverines could lose three of those games. Or four. Or five.
But more importantly, a losing record in November could mean the spark of a few coals under Brady Hoke’s coaching seat. After all, isn’t Michigan supposed to be competing for Big Ten titles? Another 8-4, 7-5, or, (gasp!) 6-6 regular season might force fans to forget about an impressive 11-2 Sugar Bowl-winning campaign in 2011, if they haven’t already.
Although Hoke’s predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, seemed doomed from the moment he arrived in Ann Arbor, even a beloved figure like Lloyd Carr felt his seat heat up in the midst of a 7-5 season in 2005. Without social media at the time, websites like www.firelloydcarr.us became the primary internet voice of disgruntled fans during Carr’s worst season as Michigan head coach. With one five-loss season under his belt, Hoke already has as many five-loss seasons as Carr did in 13 seasons as Michigan’s head coach—and he could be flirting with another one in 2013.
To be fair, with the Big Ten up for grabs and the Wolverines currently tied for second place in the Legends Division, Michigan can still compete for a Big Ten Title this season. In fact, Brady Hoke’s team could theoretically lose one of the next five games and still play in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7. The team just hasn’t given much reason to believe, yet.