Streaks at Stake for the Wolverines

Michigan hasn’t lost to Penn State in 12 years. But Michigan lost to Toledo just last week, and Penn State hasn’t lost a game all season. Clearly, the streak is in jeopardy.

I can’t remember back to 1996, the last time the Nittany Lions won against the Wolverines. I also can’t remember a Michigan team this bad.

Expectations were low for the inaugural season of the Rich Rodriguez era but the come-from-behind win over Wisconsin coupled with a loss against previously 1-4 MAC squad Toledo has the maize and blue faithful upset.

After watching the Badgers stumble the past two weeks against Ohio State and Penn State, that Big Ten opener may not have been quite as big as we thought. Wisconsin still should’ve won the game, but the result told us more about Wisconsin—they aren’t very good—than it did about Michigan. (They aren’t very good either.)

The Wolverines are likely to see their nine-game winning streak against Penn State snapped on Saturday. Many are even predicting a 30+ point blowout. If that’s the case, they’re likely to see another even more impressive streak end. Michigan has played in 33 straight bowl games. At 2-4, they’re in grave danger of becoming bowl ineligible long before the season finale against rival Ohio State.

The Wolverines have no sure victories left on the schedule. Following Penn State, they will play vs. Michigan State, at Purdue, at Minnesota, vs. Northwestern and at Ohio State. It seems highly unlikely that the Wolverines will pull out a 4-2 mark down the stretch, which would require at least one victory against a team currently unbeaten in Big Ten action.

The easy thing to do is point to new coach Rich Rodriguez and his struggling offense. I say hold on. Check out what I wrote when he was hired. College football is an instant gratification sport, but the Wolverines fans need to bite their tongues this year—tough as that may be.

The difference between Michigan and my other football team, the Oakland Raiders, is that Michigan has a proven coach, and that coach has a plan. Rodriguez simply needs his players to run this system. I expect them to win the Big Ten by 2010 after he’s signed a few recruiting classes. Until then, it’s probably time to say goodbye to those streaks. They were fun while they lasted.

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