It's been 15 years since Michigan grabbed a piece of a national title.
And despite the roller coaster that has been 2013, the Wolverines (6-1, 2-1) have a legitimate shot at landing in the Rose Bowl or a different non-championship BCS game this season.
But that's the thing—a "non-championship" game is in the future, not the big one for it all.
With coach Brady Hoke calling the action, Wolverines fans anticipate the day that their team becomes a true national contender, not just an OK bunch from the Big Ten.
Alabama. Oregon. That's the league Hoke wants to join—the league of heavyweights.
As of now, climbing to the ranks of the Ducks and the Tide seems to be a pipe dream. Holding onto that 1998 Rose Bowl victory over Washington State seems to be the norm. Wishing on a star—a 5-star, for that matter—is it for the time being.
Once Hoke gets all of his recruits in place, Michigan should be good to go.
Shooting for 2015
The Wolverines won't ever win a BCS championship, but starting next year, they can make a run through the playoffs. A bracket system may play to Michigan's strengths.
Hoke's teams have the tendency of playing down to competition, so with a win-or-go-home mindset, the playoffs should provide enough motivation to get the job done.
Welcoming another highly touted group of freshmen next fall, Michigan will have more pieces to fit into its national title plans.
Jabrill Peppers, for starters, is the No. 1-ranked athlete of the upcoming class. He's committed to Michigan, of course, and his presence could be enough to lure in the likes of Da'Shawn Hand, one of the top-rated defensive ends.
Imagine that class. Imagine the expectations. Imagine a championship.
Of course, great teams typically have great quarterbacks. Whether that's Shane Morris, a top-gun quarterback from the 2013 class, or Wilton Speight, another big-armed slinger from the 2014 crop, remains to be seen.
But it's clear that the pro-style offense will be in full effect.
Compensating for the loss of left tackle Taylor Lewan, a senior and All-American, and right tackle Michael Schofield, a senior who once had All-Big Ten potential, will be the trick for Hoke. His line has already taken a beating this season. Losing Lewan and Schofield certainly won't help matters.
Good thing Hoke and his staff know how to recruit. Those blue chips will eventually translate into wins. That's the idea.
It's difficult not to point at Michigan's rich history, but it's become more of a crutch than anything else. Perfection, or as close to it as possible, is expected when a player straps on the winged helmet. The whole "Michigan Man" philosophy is inspiring, sure, but there comes a time when reality takes over.
Today, the Wolverines aren't elite; they were years ago but not now.
It's time to start thinking of the "now," not the "then."
Mattison Makes UM a Contender
Defense wins championships, or so it's been said.
So tell that to defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, who's in his third year with Hoke at Michigan. Mattison was the mastermind behind rock-solid Baltimore Ravens defenses before hitting the collegiate ranks in Ann Arbor.
With him, Michigan should always be viewed with great respect. Without him, well, the story pretty much writes itself—get ready for another defense-optional period of Wolverines football.
Switching gears: The following stats need improvement (other than points per game). They could have been written out in this article, but a visual puts things into perspective.
It All Starts within
Owning their own yard should be the first concern for the Wolverines. Ohio State, their archnemesis, is the cream of the crop in the Big Ten. Obviously, winning division and conference titles comes first.
Michigan can't be the second fiddle in its own league. That's precisely why some don't view it as a power. Alabama owns the SEC. Oregon is the big deal out west.
National titles? Let's start on a smaller scale and work from there.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
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