Rich Rodriguez and the Wolverines Hope to Play Well Under Lack of Pressure

Andy SteinContributor IAugust 12, 2008

Nobody talks about Michigan.  The big hype is Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Illinois.  There's even more talk of Northwestern.  Northwestern?  Seriously now.  Michigan is apparently all about Rich Rodriguez, right?  Wrong. 

Here's a little secret about the 2008 Wolverines: they are a Michigan football team.  Unquestionably the best two football powers in the Big Ten both historically and recently have been the Bucks and Wolverines. 

When a midwestern high schooler looks at colleges to play some big ball they look Big Ten first.  The cream of the crop will end up at Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State most likely.  (A few will pick Notre Dame.)  This only means one thing for the big powers: depth.

Those of you who are doubting the ability of the young Wolverines, remember what it was like four years ago.  Unproven true freshmen Chad Henne and the undersized Mike Hart were criticized.  By the end of the year they became powers in the conference.  True, Ryan Mallot transferred. 

True, Henne and Hart both left for the NFL draft.  Consider this...the last time Michigan was able to beat Ohio State was when the team was led by John Navarre, Chris Perry, and Braylon Edwards.  Rich Rodriguez is coming in with a brand new offensive scheme based on speed. 

It actually helps that he gets a new cast to work with, or he'd have to switch the mind-set of all the old players from the unfortunate Lloyd Carr system.

Do I think that Michigan will fight for a BCS opportunity? No.  However, you have to consider them a dark-horse for at least a share of the conference title.  Coming from a true Ohio State fan it almost hurts to say it.  But Michigan is still Michigan. 

They aren't going to suddenly be contending with Indiana for ninth place.  If Northwestern were to beat Michigan it would still be considered an upset.  And, of course, the last game of the year will have more on the line than just bragging rights.