It's been said every year:
"This is the year that Michigan will win the Big Ten."
"Michigan will play in the Rose Bowl."
"Cheer up, it was just a down year. Michigan will be great this time around."
Well, maybe this year, the collective fan base at Michigan will be right. With only four games to go in the regular season, there is a chance that the Wolverines could find themselves squaring off against the Leaders Conference Champion at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Saturday's win against Purdue showed that Michigan has the resolve to win, if not so much the talent. Nonetheless, Michigan could be a surprise team, provided they play well enough in their last four games.
Here are five reasons why Michigan has a good shot at winning the Big Ten.
Last year, Michigan lost two of their six games to Iowa and Ohio State. One of the main reasons whys was because of their top quarterbacks.
Ricky Stanzi was the quarterback for the Hawkeyes, leading them to a 7-5 record, among the wins was a 38-28 game against Michigan.
Stanzi left for the NFL after the 2010 season, getting drafted by Kansas City. Taking his place is James Vandenberg. Vandenberg has led the Hawkeyes to a 5-3 record so far, with the three losses coming against unranked Leaders conference leader Penn State, in-state rival Iowa State, and, on Saturday, Legends conference doormat Minnesota.
That sure says a lot about Iowa.
Meanwhile, Michigan's top rival Ohio State, in the midst of the Tattoo Parlor Scandal, lost Terrelle Pryor, who fled with his tail between his legs and his reputation marked, to the open arms of the Oakland Raiders. Replacing him is Braxton Miller, who so far has knocked Ohio State out of the Top 25 for the first time since November 14, 1999, and led the Buckeyes to a 5-3 record.
Think about it: two quarterbacks who gave Michigan trouble, now out of college. It might just make things a bit easier for the Wolverines.
Of the four opponents the Wolverines have left on their schedule, only one is ranked: Nebraska.
Nebraska has done extremely well in their inaugural season in the Big Ten, losing only one game to Wisconsin. Led by Taylor Martinez, the Cornhuskers are ranked 10th in the nation, ahead of everyone else in the Big Ten.
Although I have given reasons why Nebraska is good, the records show that Michigan has the advantage, at least historically. In six meetings between the two schools, Michigan's record is 3-2-1.
Aside from that, Nebraska is also in the Legends conference, and it seems very likely that whoever wins this game will represent the Legends in the championship.
Another point: The Huskers have never seen Denard Robinson or Fitzgerald Touissant play, just pushing that out there.
I'll admit that I was a detractor when I heard the team was bypassing LSU coach Les Miles for Hoke, in fact, I never heard of Hoke until his hiring. Nonetheless, what he's done in just a few months with the Wolverines greatly offsets the mess that Rich Rodriguez made in three years.
Not only has he brought the team to its best third quarter record since Lloyd Carr's near-perfect 2006 season, he's also brought the pro-style offense to Denard Robinson. Although many people thought that he wouldn't be able to handle it, Robinson has been very effective in this offense, and remains a Heisman candidate.
Defense also has been great for the Wolverines, as they have the sixth fewest points against.
Although I am not a proponent for small-school coaches for the reason that they aren't completely experienced against conference titans, I will admit that Hoke hasn't bowed under pressure and so far has turned this team into a legitimate contender.
Of all their seven wins, only one has been decided by less than 15 points.
That was the amazing comeback against Notre Dame under the lights of Michigan Stadium, 35-31.
As previously mentioned, Denard Robinson has effectively stepped into the pro-style offense with no noticeable chinks in his armor, not even in the 28-14 loss against Michigan State.
In addition to Robinson, who also is a candidate for the Heisman, the offense consists of dynamic playmakers such as Fitzgerald Touissant, Junior Hemingway, Jeremy Gallon, and Roy Roundtree.
While they may not stand out as much as Justin Blackmon, Alshon Jeffery, Michael Floyd, or Trent Richardson, they still get the job done, and it shows through all their wins.
This photo was taken the last year that Michigan played in the Rose Bowl: 2006. Is it possible that there is a chance that the Wolverines have a shot at this year's installment? Yes.
Hoke's philosophy has brought the team this far. So long as they remain consistent, they have a shot at representing the Legends in the Championship game and winning that game and going to the Rose Bowl.
Iowa, Illinois, and possibly Ohio State could be deposed rather easily, but Nebraska will be a challenge. Nonetheless, Michigan has fared well against the Big Ten thus far, and it is feasible to envision a Rose Bowl bound Michigan.
Even if they don't win the Championship or don't make it, they could still play in the Capital One Bowl or any of the other Big Ten-sponsored bowls, after all, they did qualify on Saturday vs. Purdue. However, consistency and motivation will play an important role in the next four weeks for Michigan.