Eight losses. 33 year bowl streak broken. First losing season in 41 years.
To say Rich Rodriguez’s first year at Michigan has been a disappointment would be the understatement of the year. The team ranks dead last in offense in the Big Ten, the secondary gets burnt more than my morning toast, and there have been minimal improvements seen on the field on Saturdays.
However, there is one more chance to salvage the season this Saturday.
It’s Michigan-Ohio State week and the game represents a chance for a coach to save face amongst his fan base. Michigan is trying to break a four game losing streak against the Buckeyes, and a win in Columbus would mean the best 4-8 season any Michigan team has recorded.
Coaches at both schools are measured by how they do in this game. Coaches have been fired for their inability to beat the other, just go ask John Cooper. Cooper was perhaps the best 10 game coach Ohio State ever had, he just couldn’t win that 11th game against the Winged Helmets. Heck, Woody Hays was on the brink of being fired but then beat Michigan and, well, the rest is history.
If you win in this series you are the toast of the town. That’s why Jim Tressel has taken on God like status in Columbus because of his 6-1 record against the Wolverines. Lloyd Carr started with such a record before the tide swung to the rivals.
When Rich was hired by Michigan most were willing to give him a free pass in his first year. History had shown that his first season at a school is miserable, but that he can turn it around given time.
However, even the most die hard Michigan fans couldn’t have envisioned a season with three wins. Rich officially used up his free pass after the Toledo game, where Michigan lost for the first time ever to a school from the Mid American Conference.
Since then, the temperature of Rich’s coaching seat has grown hotter and hotter with each passing week and each passing loss. You could tell the pressure had gotten to Rich after the Purdue game where Michigan officially broke their bowl streak. He was short with reporters who had the nerve to think the first losing season at Michigan in 41 years was a big deal.
His team currently sits at 3-8, the most losses a Michigan football team has ever recorded, and remember, Michigan has been playing football for 129 years. With a loss at Ohio State the heat on Rich would be volcanic, and it would last all the way until Aug 2009 when Michigan opens their season.
Rich would constantly be on defense against reporters throughout the winter and spring months, having to answer the same questions all off season, and in 2009 the kiddy gloves would come off. The fans and alums would have nine months to stew and complain on sports talk shows throughout Michigan.
However, a win on Saturday? Well, that would change everything wouldn’t it? If Rich could pull the biggest upset in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry—yes even bigger than Bo’s 1969 upset—it would buy him an offseason of peace from the media, fans, alums, and boosters.
The media would be gentler, the fans anger would be lowered, the alums would be happy to finally beat Ohio State again, and the boosters would be satisfied as well. Everyone would be riding a wave of emotion leading up to the 2009 campaign, people would start saying, “You know, he just might work out here.”
If Rich can pull this one off he will buy himself another nine months of good will with the fans.
If not, well, he might as well be walking on the sun. I hope he brought his sunscreen.