Brady Hoke will continue his quest to return Michigan football to greatness.
Michigan athletic director David Brandon has dispelled far-fetched rumors of Hoke’s possible departure, and the team now prepares for a disappointing bowl game, while rivals Michigan State and Ohio State battle for the Big Ten championship.
After finishing 7-5 and stumbling through a November to forget—a month that began with a 29-6 thumping at the hands of in-state rival Michigan State and ended one two-point conversion short of defeating global rival Ohio State—the mood is a melancholy blue in Ann Arbor.
But the season could have been far worse. Michigan narrowly avoided two other losses that would have dealt a death blow to its postseason travel plans and most importantly deprived the team of 15 much-needed additional practices to evaluate talent for next season.
What a difference two plays could have made (bad)
A mere two plays separated Michigan from a possible 5-7 season, missing a bowl game and raising a ruckus that might have even made David Brandon reconsider his support for Hoke.
How far was Michigan from maize and blue Armageddon?
Imagine this alternate history.
Sept. 14. Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl finds receiver Zach D’orazio in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass, as time expires. FINAL: Akron 30, Michigan 28.
Nov. 16. Officials dally just a second or two in setting the ball on Michigan’s field-goal attempt. Time expires before the snap. FINAL: Northwestern 9, Michigan 6.
Michigan finishes 5-7 and misses a bowl game. Much unhappiness ensues in Ann Arbor.
What a difference two plays could have made (good)
Oct. 12. Michigan kicker Brendan Gibbons makes his first field-goal attempt in overtime. FINAL: Michigan 37, Penn State 34 (OT)
Nov. 12, In the third quarter at the Ohio State 14-yard line, Michigan kicks a field goal instead of attempting to convert a fourth down. FINAL: Michigan 45, Ohio State 42.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner pulls the ball down after seeing a seam open in the Ohio State defense and runs for the two point conversion. FINAL: Michigan 43, Ohio State 42.
Michigan finishes 9-3. Fans are upset that rivals Ohio State and Michigan State will battle in the Big Ten Championship Game but are happy to have beaten Ohio State to finish the regular season. Michigan’s bowl prospects are bright.
Michigan completed the season 7-5. Michigan’s only hope for a New Year’s Day bowl is a return trip to the Gator Bowl, which brings back memories of the failed Rich Rodriguez era.
Whatever happens next season, it’s important to remember how close Michigan has played opponents in 2013. On one hand, Hoke never lost this team. They played hard, never quit and bought into the "Michigan Man" rhetoric espoused by Hoke and his staff. However, a better team wouldn’t have found itself so close to disaster against subpar teams (UConn, Akron and Northwestern) and losing to mediocre teams like Iowa and Nebraska.
Will another year of conditioning and a new wave of recruits have Michigan competing next season for the Big Ten title?
"Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future," to quote a great prognosticator.
AD Brandon believes that Hoke is on the cusp of returning Michigan to glory. Michigan fans hope he’s right.
It’s been tough enough losing annually to Ohio State, but to see Michigan State in line for a Rose Bowl berth is unbearable.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conference Source.