Pipe dream? You betcha. But before we begin putting check marks in the appropriate columns, let’s embrace the opposite end of the hypothetical.
If the BCS rankings were based on the ability to send a field goal unit on the field in awkward, frantic fashion, the Michigan Wolverines would be the nation’s No. 1 team after Week 12.
There would be no debate over the country’s best. In fact, we’d give Michigan the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 spots as well. It’s our BKS rankings (Bowl Kicking Rankings) and we can do what we want.
Despite the team’s glaring holes on offense, the offensive line’s frustrating inability to protect the quarterback and the overall underwhelming performance of the team in 2013, the special teams delivered against Northwestern, somehow sending a game that had no business continuing into overtime.
From that point, quarterback Devin Gardner scored in triple OT to give Michigan the conference road win. It was not pretty, it was not easy and it was not all that much fun to watch for anyone. But hey, a win is a win.
Basically, it was a fitting next chapter in the 2013 season.
Nothing has come easy, and the result is a 7-3 overall record and spot outside the latest BCS rankings. Not being included isn’t shocking. In fact, given how this team has played in recent weeks, an inclusion would prompt a full investigation into the so-called computers and voters deemed worthy of such of influence.
Despite Michigan’s lack of presence among the nation’s elite, however, it could play an enormous role in deciding this year’s national championship.
After the Wolverines travel to Iowa—a game in which they’ll play the role of underdog and could very well lose—they will come home to take on, you guessed it, Ohio State.
Don’t cover your eyes yet, Michigan fans. Don’t look away in fear. There will be ample time for that if necessary, and it could very well be necessary. For now, prepare for your role as spoiler and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
As the debate over whether No. 3 Ohio State should be ranked above an unbeaten No. 4 Baylor wages on, Michigan is sitting somewhat quietly in the corner, waiting for its turn against the Buckeyes.
The assumption, of course, is that the Buckeyes’ lone remaining stumbling block could be the defensively charged Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship. Otherwise, they’re golden. Michigan isn't even part of the equation.
Given what we’ve seen in recent weeks, this assumption feels safe.
Yet, there’s something glaring about the final obstacle Ohio State will have to overcome, despite the enormous canyon standing between them. Given the teams the Buckeyes have beaten on the road this year, Michigan—with all its flaws and imperfections—will serve as a dramatic step up in class in front of a crowd that will embrace this moment as the team’s Super Bowl.
Ohio State's four road wins are against teams with combined conference record of 0-26. Hard to complain about Baylor jumping Buckeyes.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) November 18, 2013
That’s not exactly saying much, of course. Ohio State’s schedule had been this team’s Achilles’ heel well before the season even began. This talk has continued week after week, and now it’s a matter of hoping for losses from others.
Or at least that’s the narrative that seems to be taking shape. Bigger than the rivalry matchup with Michigan—a series that the Wolverines lead 58–44–6 all-time—is the Iron Bowl and Baylor’s upcoming road game against Oklahoma State.
Perhaps this will be when the help arrives, and the dream blueprint will fall into place for Ohio State. It will beat Indiana (well, yeah), it will crush Michigan in Ann Arbor and it will handle Michigan State in the B1G Championship to play its way into the national championship because the losses came on schedule.
Rarely does it all play out this cleanly. Unexpected games tend to arrive and college football tends to have its say before it’s all said and done. Michigan could very well serve as Ohio State’s “boy, that escalated quickly” game, as lopsided as it might seem right now.
The Wolverines certainly don’t lack overall talent, despite what your television tells you weekly. It is not broken, please don't return it.
Gardner does have the ability to take over a game if he’s not throwing it to the wrong team. Freshman running back Derrick Green finally got a sufficient workload against Northwestern, and perhaps he could be the spark that ignites this team at the right time. And maybe, just maybe, the offensive line will learn to block.
This part seems like a long shot, but there’s always hope.
With rivalry games such as this, there’s always room to expect the unexpected. Even though Ohio State has won eight of the last nine matchups and will likely enter this game a significant favorite, all hope is not lost for Michigan.
Not yet, at least.
Ohio State will serve as the team’s bowl game before the actual bowl game—a moment when it can play spoiler to a team it would love to spoil. While the focus with the Buckeyes will remain on the teams not on its schedule, Michigan has the chance to change this narrative.
And if for whatever reason this final regular-season game comes down to an improbable, manic Michigan field goal in the rain with seconds left on the play clock, perhaps a new chapter will be written.
It's that easy, really. Next scenario, please.