Ok, so the title of my article is a little misleading. There is no guarantee that the Wolverines will win the Big Ten in the 2011 season. But if you’ll let me entertain the thought, here are my reasons for believing they can. Jump on the Big Ten wagon for a few minutes here, will you? To help you do that there are two things about the Big Ten that you should know. First, winning the Rose Bowl is almost as good as winning the National Championship if you’re the Big Ten’s winning team. Second, we play to win the Big Ten first and the national championship second. Ok, now that you’re aboard, let’s take in the scenery together.
Up until Rich Rodriguez arrived, the University of Michigan hadn’t had a losing season in football since 1967. There was a coach named Bump, and the United States was expanding its role in the Vietnam War. You read that right; the Vietnam War. That was a hell of a long time ago. To have a winning record for that long really makes a school feel like it’s entitled to the wins it has, no matter who’s coaching, we win. That’s how it always felt to us, and I doubt many Wolverine fans have even absorbed the fact that we’ve had back to back losing seasons, I’m not kidding.
We’ve been to the Rose Bowl 20 times while Ohio State has smelled it only 13 before their upcoming appearance. As far as college football goes, even the holy Notre Dame hadn’t been so blessed. We had a system called Pro-Style Offense, and by golly it worked. We still own the highest win total in the game, and the highest win percentage too!
Then along comes the rest of the college world telling us that we needed to get with the program. The future of college is in the spread, they said. We ignored them at first, and we were fine. We kept on winning our conference, and kept on going to the Rose Bowl. If we didn’t go to the Rose Bowl, we played teams like Florida, the spread-style champions, and we beat them in epic shoot outs (see 2007 Capital One Bowl).
So what happened? When did we shift from wanting the Big Ten title, to wanting the National Championship instead?
I think it was somewhere between losing in an epic showdown with Texas in the Rose Bowl, and losing terribly to USC in an epic Rose Bowl letdown, just after an epic showdown with those Buckeye bastards for a shot at the national title. I think that someplace in all that, we decided we needed the spread too.
So then how in the world could I assume that Michigan will win the Big Ten in 2011? The first season under RR certainly didn’t show it. We broke more winning traditions in that one season that I thought possible in ten. What about the second season? We didn’t win out, not in the second half of the season at least, but we didn’t lose by much. But there were two things that shined in 2010: Tate Forcier in the first half of the season, and then the defense against Ohio State. But there were also two things that didn't: the defense in the first and second half of the season, and then Tate Forcier against Ohio State.
Again, you wonder why I think Michigan will win in '11? I'm saving that for another article. I need some time to think.