Tag Archives: Michigan Wolverines

30 at 30 Lists #28: Memories and Moments from Michigan’s CFP National Championship Season

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

30. Everything that came before this season
#TueFact: Michigan football has more devastating losses on my personal list than any of my other favorite teams. Ten of the top 30 spots on that infamous list belong to Michigan football. The joy of this moment of Michigan winning the CFP national championship cannot be fully appreciated without first recalling the anguish the Michigan fanbase has endured since they last won a national championship in 1997.

That was the last year before the BCS. Head coach Lloyd Carr and Heisman trophy winning cornerback Charles Woodson led the Wolverines to a 21-16 Rose Bowl win against Washington State, and the 12-0 Wolverines were voted number one by the Associated Press. However, Michigan was voted number two behind undefeated Nebraska in the Coaches Poll, leaving them with a split national championship. Carr would go on to coach Michigan for 10 more seasons. The team finished ranked in the top 20 in nine of those 10 seasons, but they never finished higher than 5th and lost four games in a row against Ohio State to close out Carr’s career, including the number-four-ranked game on my list of most devastating losses.

After Carr retired, Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez as the new head coach. Rodriguez tried to bring the spread offense to Ann Arbor, but the experiment was an infamous flop. The team went 3-9 in his first season, becoming the first Michigan team that failed to qualify for a bowl game in 33 years. They failed to do so again the following year after a 5-7 season. The next year they went 7-6, finishing with a 52-14 loss in the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State. Rodriguez was subsequently fired.

Enter Brady Hoke. Hoke inherited the electric Denard Robinson at quarterback, and led Michigan to an 11-2 record in his first season as head coach, which was capped off by a 23-20 win over Virginia Tech. The team finished the season ranked 12th in the nation. However, it was all downhill from there. The 2012 team went 8-5 and lost in the Outback Bowl to South Carolina. The 2013 team went 7-6 and lost in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl to Kansas State. The 2014 team went 5-7 and missed out on bowl season altogether. Hoke was fired after the season.

On Dec. 30, 2014, Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh as the school’s new football coach. Optimism was high in Ann Arbor. Harbaugh arrived on the heels of having success turning losers into winners at San Diego State and Stanford as well as in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers. Moreover, Harbaugh was a beloved Michigan man who had played quarterback for the Wolverines in the 1980s.

Although he lost his first game as Michigan coach against Utah, Harbaugh quickly got Michigan back to its winning ways. In his first five seasons at the helm, his teams went 10-3, 10-3, 8-5, 10-3, and 9-4, a far cry from the low water marks of his predecessors Rodriguez and Hoke. Yet there remained a lot of questions from the Michigan faithful because while he was winning games, he was losing the big ones, often in painful fashion. He started 3-2 against Michigan State but lost the infamous “trouble with the snap” game. He started 1-4 in bowl games with the lone win coming at the end of his first season. The most damning stat though was undoubtably his 0-5 start against Ohio State, including a double-OT loss in 2016 (aka the “JT Was Short” Game) and four other losses by an average of 23 points per game.

The COVID-shortened 2020 season marked the low point in the Harbaugh era, and arguably, in the history of the Michigan football program. The team went 2-4, winless at home, and canceled The Game against Ohio State citing “an increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases and student-athletes in quarantine over the past week.”

That offseason was marked by a lot of reflection and change within the Michigan football program. Heading into the 2021 season, Coach Harbaugh made it clear what the goals were. “Well, I’m here before you, enthusiastic and excited as I ever am, always am, even more to have at it, to win the championship, to beat Ohio and our rival Michigan State,” Harbaugh said. “That’s what we want to do, and we’re going to do it or die trying.”

Although they did lose 37-33 on the road against Michigan State, Michigan made good on the other two promises. On Nov. 27, 2021, on the strength of five rushing touchdowns from Hassan Haskins on offense and three sacks from Aidan Hutchinson on defense, Michigan defeated Ohio State 42-27, snapping the program’s 8-game losing streak against the Buckeyes and giving Harbaugh his long-awaited first win as a coach in the rivalry. A week later they beat Iowa 42-3 to win their first Big Ten championship since 2004 and earned themselves a number two ranking in the College Football Playoff. They were beaten soundly 34-11 by Georgia in the CFP semifinal at the Orange Bowl on Dec. 31, 2021.

In 2022, Michigan rolled through the regular season 12-0, including a 45-23 road win against Ohio State, marking the first time the Wolverines had beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus in 23 years. They beat Purdue 43-22 in the Big Ten championship game, and Michigan once again earned a number two ranking in the CFP. Unfortunately, the season ended in the semifinals for a second consecutive season. Despite being favored, Michigan lost 51-45 to TCU. The loss left Michigan fans disappointed after a great season. After the game, quarterback J.J. McCarthy vowed the Wolverines would be back.

Continue reading 30 at 30 Lists #28: Memories and Moments from Michigan’s CFP National Championship Season

Grieving After The Game, 2016 Edition

The 2016 edition of The Game between the Michigan Wolverines and Ohio State Buckeyes will go down in history as a classic chapter in arguably the greatest rivalry in sports. Unfortunately for me and Michigan fans everywhere it was another painful chapter in which we ended up on the losing side. Michigan blew a 17-7 lead, a trip to the Big Ten Championship, and (likely) its hopes at a spot in the College Football Playoff, prompting me to update my 30 at 30 list of “The Most Devastating Losses of My Life as a Sports Fan.” Yesterday’s double overtime thriller jumped all the way to number six on my depressing countdown (a list that I really wish I didn’t have any more cause to update). Yesterday’s loss for Michigan marks the third time The Game has made the list. In my time as a Michigan fan, which dates back to the early 1990s, only the 2006 edition of The Game was as a more devastating loss against Ohio State.

Recovering from a devastating loss is never easy. Unfortunately, I am experienced when it comes to grieving sports losses. As miserable as Saturday’s outcome made me feel, I knew I needed to process the loss and eventually get on with life. Over the past 48 hours since the game ended, I have been mourning the loss through the sports fan’s equivalent of the traditional five stages of grief. I have borrowed some of that language here and edited other parts of it to more accurately reflect a sports fan’s perspective. (I don’t mean to trivialize grief and mourning. The loss of a loved one is obviously much more traumatic than the loss of a football game. I shouldn’t even have to write that sentence, but I wanted to be clear.) However, I also cannot pretend not to grieve after yesterday’s loss to Ohio State. No, it wasn’t life or death. However, the pain of a devastating sports loss like the one Michigan suffered on Saturday—a rivalry game on the road in double overtime—is real. And if you’re a diehard fan like me, you probably know the feelings associated with grieving a devastating sports loss all too well.
Continue reading Grieving After The Game, 2016 Edition

A Cold Winter in Ann Arbor

The calendar turned to December and Michigan’s football season was already over. That’s still hard to believe. But after a 3-9 season that was disappointing even for the most cautious Wolverine supporter.

They fell well short of my 6-6 preseason forecast. They lost to Toledo and were humiliated by Ohio State. They lost an unthinkable five games in the Big House and six games against the Big Ten.

There were very few bright spots during coach Rich Rodriguez’s debut season in Ann Arbor. The historic comeback against Wisconsin to open the Big Ten season was one highlight, but Wisconsin was clearly overrated back then as they needed overtime to defeat Cal Poly and finished the regular season 7-5.

The biggest concern for Michigan has to be inconsistency from virtually every position on the field. No quarterback looked like he had a firm grasp of the offense. The defense surrendered 35+ points on five occasions. And turnovers were a season-long plague.

No one expects another losing season in 2009, but it won’t be easy for the Wolverines to get above .500. After all, a 6-6 mark next year would mean doubling the team’s win total.

While the focus will be on recruiting this year and what kind of players Rodriguez can land after a 3-9 campaign, player improvement will be the real test for the coach. A new bunch of freshmen can’t be expected to turn the program around all on their own next year. How will the players who have now been in the system for a full year show improvement in 2009? If they don’t get any better, that’s a serious cause for concern.

Michigan has already seen several players depart the program (in addition to graduating seniors), so it’ll also be interesting to see who steps up as a leader of this team. Running back Brandon Minor seems to fit that mold, but he shared carries with several backs during his junior year. Will be step up as a senior to restore pride to the maize and blue?

On defense, all eyes are on Brandon Graham. The defensive end led the team with 10 sacks this season. He could enter the NFL Draft, but if he returns, he would give the Wolverines a great anchor on their defensive line.

When it comes down to it, expectations will be low again next year. Undoubtedly, Rodriguez will feel the pressure, especially if Michigan struggles out the gate. But no one seriously expects them to contend in the Big Ten next year. What they have to do is so progress and not in the form of a one- or two-game improvement.

The program and coach Rodriguez deserves a one year pass. It would’ve been tough for anyone to overcome the loss of Jake Long, Mike Hart, Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett, Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. But next year, there’s no excuse to miss a bowl. After the worst season in the history of Michigan football, Rodriguez better improve in a big way. Otherwise people will be calling for his head. Patience is short in the what-have-you-done-for-me-now world of college football.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

The Other Struggling Michigan Program Makes Headlines

During rivalry week, it’s hard for anything to upstage the Michigan-Ohio State game for fans of the maize and blue. But the Wolverines—who hope to spring the upset on the Buckeyes on Saturday—play other sports, too. Take basketball, for instance.

While nothing can compare to the history of their football program, the winningest in college football history, the University of Michigan’s basketball team has a pretty impressive history of its own. They won the 1989 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship and revolutionized the game with the Fab Five’s back-to-back title game appearances in ‘92 and ’93.

However, the past decade has been a forgettable stretch. The Wolverines haven’t played in an NCAA Tournament game since 1998 and that game doesn’t officially exist as it was later forfeited because of a scandle that wiped the success of the Fab Five and much of Michigan’s success in the 90s from the records.

So, as the Wolverines tipped off against #4 UCLA last night at Madison Square Garden, in the semifinals of the 2K Sports Classic, no one was expecting much. But second-year coach John Beilein had his team ready. They played a tenacious 1-3-1 zone that frustrated the Bruins offense. And their offense dealt admirably with UCLA’s renowned defense. The Wolverines showed poise, patience and a penchant for making some clutch plays down the stretch.

It all resulted in an impressive 55-52 upset victory, earning Michigan a championship date with Duke tonight. A win over the Blue Devils would be huge. Not only would they win the early season tournament, they’d also earn back-to-back wins against highly regarded big name teams, which look really good on a postseason résumé.

Postseason basketball for Michigan has meant nothing but the NIT for the past decade. They could very well change this season. Aside from three challenging games the ACC—they will play against Duke a second time on December 6 and are at Maryland December 3 —the Wolverines’ remaining non-conference schedule should be relatively easy.

They close out the month of November against Norfolk State and Savannah State. In December, after Maryland and Duke, they play Eastern Michigan, Oakland, Florida Gulf Coast and North Carolina Central.

At worst, Michigan should be 8-3 heading into conference play. They have one other non-conference game in February against Connecticut. If Michigan can manage to beat either Duke or UConn and finish in the upper tier of the Big Ten, which has just three teams currently ranked in the top 25, the Wolverines should make a trip to the Big Dance for the first time this century.

Don’t look now, Rich Rodriguez, but the other imported coach from West Virginia may be setting the bar for second-year expectations for Michigan sports revivals. And after a big win against UCLA, the bar just got raised another notch.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

The Game, 2008 Edition

How big is the annual meeting between Michigan and Ohio State? Well, it’s know simply as “The Game.” And, in 2000, ESPN dubbed it the greatest rivalry in North American sports.

The past few years have added to the rivalry, especially the 2006 game when undefeated #1 Ohio State met undefeated #2 Michigan for a chance to play for the BCS championship. But the Buckeyes have clearly had the upper hand since Jim Tressel took over as their head coach in 2001. Tressel has lost just once against Michigan.

This year? Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez makes his debut in the rivalry, and the forecast is gloomy, to say the least. At 3-8, Michigan has already secured the record for most losses in the school’s history. With a sub-.500 record, they’ve already snapped the streak of 33 consecutive bowl appearances.

All that remains is Ohio State.

As poor as Michigan has played, this is the ultimate chance for revenge. The Buckeyes win at least a share of the Big Ten title with a victory, and could still earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. A loss versus Michigan would end their hopes of playing in any of the BCS bowls.

For the Wolverines, this is a daunting task and a huge opportunity. Forget the disappointment of this season. The seniors on this Michigan squad are in danger of graduating having never beaten the Buckeyes. That’s not a legacy they want to leave behind.

For Rodriguez, a win would do wonders to ease the mounting pressure bearing down on him after one year at the helm. Even the most patient Wolverine fan is having trouble holding back now. I thought my modest preseason projection of six wins was palatable. Yet heading into the finale, they have achieved merely half that win total, and Rodriguez is receiving the brunt of the blame.

By setting the bar low with their performance this year, Michigan is in good position to show improvement in 2009. But Michigan fans want more than improvement. They expect to be in competition for the Big Ten title year in and year out, and they expect to be a national title contender. Clearly the team is far from that as it is presently constructed.

Until they re-establish that consistency, there’s only one way Rodriguez and the Wolverines can ease the pain of the maize and blue faithful: beat the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is beatable. They’ve suffered defeats at the hands of USC and Penn State already this season. They also start a freshman quarterback, Terrell Pryor, who will certainly be in the spotlight on Saturday afternoon. Pryor spurned Michigan and Rodriguez’ recruiting efforts, choosing to sign on at archrival Ohio State instead. Pryor will have the home crowd behind him for this year’s game, but he’s sure to be under attack from the Wolverines defense.

No one expects Michigan to win this game. Many think it won’t even be close. But rivalry games are different. Win or lose, this is Michigan’s last game of the year. Essentially, this is their bowl game. If Rodriguez can’t get his team fired up to play well in this one, it’s going to be a long offseason in Ann Arbor.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

First to Seven Wins?

September means two things for me: my birthday (on the 7th) and the start of football season. As a diehard fan of the Michigan Wolverines and Oakland Raiders, my expectations are tempered for the 2008 season.

Michigan already started the Rich Rodriguez era with a disappointing, if not entirely unexpected, loss in the home opener against Utah.

The Raiders will host the Denver Broncos as the second part of the week one Monday Night Football double header. And after losing more games than any NFL team in the past five seasons, no one’s expecting big things from the Raiders. They should be better than last year, though.

The way I see it, seven wins would be a successful 2008 season for either team, but I’m predicting neither one gets there. My preview of each team follows:

Michigan Wolverines

8/30/08 vs. Utah
RESULT: Loss 25-23

9/6/08 vs. Miami (Ohio)
SUMMARY: An easy opponent allows the Wolverines to bounce back at home and earn Rodriguez’s first victory at Michigan.

9/13/08 at Notre Dame
SUMMARY: After being outscored 85-21 the past two seasons, you can bet the Irish will be fired up for a chance to kick Michigan while the program is down. An experienced Wolverines offense will turn it over early and often leading to a big win for Notre Dame.

9/27/08 vs. Wisconsin
RECORD: 1-3 (0-1)
SUMMARY: Michigan opens the Big Ten schedule at home against a Wisconsin team currently ranked number 11 in the AP poll. The Badgers punished the Wolverines with 232 yards on the ground last year despite a banged up P.J. Hill carrying just 5 times for 14 yards. Expect similar results with the bruising Hill back and healthy this time around in The Big House.

10/4/08 vs. Illinois
RECORD: 1-4 (0-2)
SUMMARY: Juice Williams and the Illini fell to the Wolverines at home amid their run to the Rose Bowl last year, and Michigan struggles with athletic quarterbacks like Williams.

10/11/08 vs. Toledo
RECORD: 2-4 (0-2)
SUMMARY: While Michigan fans know not to take any game for granted after last year’s Appalachian State debacle, this is a must-have and should-win game versus Toledo in the middle of their schedule. They need to be careful not to look ahead to Penn State.

10/18/08 at Penn State
RECORD: 2-5 (0-3)
SUMMARY: The Wolverines have owned the Nittany Lions for more than a decade, having won nine straight games dating back to 1996, but Penn State looks poised to end the streak this year. Expect a close game that finally goes against the Wolverines in this rivalry that has been the bizarre Ohio State feud in recent years.

10/25/08 vs. Michigan State
RECORD: 3-5 (1-3)
SUMMARY: The in-state rivals will have a wounded Wolverines team up against the ropes, but two thirds of the way through the season, Michigan’s offense shows visible improvement and wins in impressive fashion to avoid an 0-4 mark in the Big Ten.

11/1/08 at Purdue
RECORD: 4-5 (2-3)
SUMMARY: Michigan kicks off November by winning consecutive games for the first time all season.

11/8/08 at Minnesota
RECORD: 5-5 (3-3)
SUMMARY: Minnesota barely held on against Northern Illinois in their season opener, so this could be the only game all season when Michigan is favored to win on the road.

11/15/08 vs. Northwestern
RECORD: 6-5 (4-3)
SUMMARY: Northwestern keeps this one closer than it should be, but the Wolverines win their fourth straight to get above .500 for the first time all year heading into the finale.

11/22/08 at Ohio State
RECORD: 6-6 (4-4)
SUMMARY: Michigan would love to play the role of spoiler, but the Buckeyes, who may already have the Big Ten title clinched by this point, won’t allow it, continuing their recent dominance in this bitter rivalry.

Michigan finishes the season 6-6 (4-4 in the Big Ten) and plays an early December bowl game. Because let’s face it, if they’re bowl eligible, they’ll get an invite.

Oakland Raiders

9/8/08 vs. Denver Broncos
SUMMARY: The Raiders usher in the Darren McFadden era in style with a win at home on Monday Night Football against the rival Broncos.

9/14/08 at Kansas City Chiefs
SUMMARY: The Chiefs are nothing special this year, but Arrowhead is always a tough place to play. The young Raiders offense struggles and falls on the road.

9/21/08 at Buffalo Bills
SUMMARY: The Raiders’ stout secondary frustrates Bills quarterback Trent Edwards and leads the silver and black to a 2-1 mark.

9/28/08 vs. San Diego Chargers
SUMMARY: In a battle for early-season division supremacy, the Chargers will make it clear that they are head and shoulders above the Raiders and the rest of the AFC West with a convincing win.

10/12/08 at New Orleans Saints
SUMMARY: The Raiders cannot keep up with the high-powered Saints on the scoreboard, falling below .500 for the first time all season.

10/19/08 vs. New York Jets
SUMMARY: With Brett Favre at the helm, the Jets are nothing like they were in 2007. New York hands Oakland its second straight defeat.

10/26/08 at Baltimore Ravens
SUMMARY: Baltimore is one of the few teams in the league with a less-proven quarterback than Oakland. Whether it’s Joe Flacco or Troy Smith, this game features multiple interceptions for the Raiders defense en route to victory.

11/2/08 vs. Atlanta Falcons
SUMMARY: Potentially, the Raiders could be facing their second straight rookie quarterback if the Ravens and Falcons stick with rookies Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, respectively. That spells a two-game win streak for the Raiders and a first-half finish at the .500 mark.

11/9/08 vs. Carolina Panthers
SUMMARY: The Raiders squander a golden opportunity to get back above .500 with a poor effort against the Panthers.

11/16/08 at Miami Dolphins
SUMMARY: The Raiders continue to hang around in the AFC playoff picture with a win over an improved but not threatening Dolphins team.

11/23/08 at Denver Broncos
SUMMARY: The Broncos enact revenge from week one in a critical divisional matchup that, once again, prevents the Raiders from eclipsing the .500 mark in November.

11/30/08 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
SUMMARY: Oakland earns a season split with the Chiefs. Darren McFadden has his best game of the season, now in a starter’s role for the Raiders.

12/4/08 at San Diego Chargers
SUMMARY: The Chargers deal Oakland’s playoff hopes a near-fatal blow in this Thursday night showcase game.

12/14/08 vs. New England Patriots
SUMMARY: The Patriots, battling for a first round bye, dispose of the Raiders in embarrassing fashion.

12/21/08 vs. Houston Texans
SUMMARY: In a battle of former number one picks, the Texans’ Mario Williams gets the better of the Raiders’ Jamarcus Russell. Williams records three sacks and pressures Russell into two costly interceptions in a big win for the upstart Texans. The loss assures the Raiders of a sixth consecutive losing season.

12/28/08 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RECORD: 6-10
SUMMARY: In a Super Bowl XXXVII rematch, the result stays the same, although score is closer.

The Raiders finish the year on a serious down note with a four-game losing streak after a promising 6-6 start. Nonetheless, their six wins is still a two-game improvement from last year and the most the Raiders have won since they won 11 in 2002 on their way to a Super Bowl appearance.

The way I see it, both the Wolverines and Raiders finish the season with six wins (Michigan loses its bowl game) and losing seasons. Not a fun season at all.

Well, that’s what my fantasy teams are for!

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

15 Years After The Timeout

Last September, as I stood in the student section of the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich., and cheered the Michigan Wolverines on to victory against Penn State, I wasn’t thinking about the reason I was among the 100,000+ fans supporting the maize and blue.

Why not? Well, because, technically, that reason doesn’t exist.

The reason I cheered Charles Woodson’s Heisman trophy and national championship season of ’97 is gone. When Braylon Edwards single-handedly helped Michigan storm back from a 17-point deficit to defeat Michigan State, the reason I was ecstatic is extinct. When Manningham un-undefeated Penn State, when the D-line crushed Brady Quinn, when Mike Hart showed heart and when Henne sent Carr out in style against the Gators, my original reason for my Wolverine fandom was only a figment of my imagination.

That reason is the Univerity of Michigan’s 1993 men’s basketball team. Perhaps you know their starting lineup better as “The Fab Five.” Five sophomores: Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. And almost always with Webber listed first.

While the official records have caused that team’s NCAA Tournament wins to be vacated and their runner-up banner to be removed, the memory of that team remains very real to me.

Fifteen years after The Timeout, it still hurts to watch replays of that game. Down by 2 points with 11 second to play, Webber signaled for a timeout that his team didn’t have resulting in two technical free throws for North Carolina that sealed the deal for the Tar Heels to win the ’93 national championship.

Webber turned pro after the season with Howard and Rose followed after their junior years. But the Fab Five legacy lives on.

Bald heads and baggy shorts, swagger and success. The Fab Five captivated a nation when they arrived on the scene as freshmen as the most highly touted recruiting class ever. They didn’t disappoint either. Despite their inexperience, they led the Wolverines to the national championship game in 1992, losing to defending champion Duke in the finals.

However, it was their return trip to the Final Four in ’93 as sophomores that got my attention. I was eight years old and it is the first NCAA Tournament that I can remember watching. Michigan was young, exciting and flashy—all appealing traits to an eight-year-old basketball fan looking to latch on.

Webber quickly became my favorite player—I bought and wore his jerseys (Golden State Warriors #4 and Washington Bullets #2) so often that a friend at the Y actually thought my last name was Webber—and the Wolverines became my favorite team. I fell in love with the maize and gold colors, the school and even adopted the football team as my own.

As it turns out, Michigan is a football-first school, the winningest program in the history of college football. Ironically, I became a fan because of their basketball team, which despite winning the national title in 1989 with Rumeal Robinson, Glen Rice, Loy Vaught and company, was never the top ticket in town.

And recently, watching Michigan basketball has been nothing short of sad. The fallout of the scandal involving Webber and a former booster was significant. They were banned from postseason participation 2003 and haven’t fully recovered since. In 2004, Michigan won the National Invitational Tournament. They had a losing season in 2005 and returned to the NIT again in 2006, losing to South Carolina in the championship. Last year the Wolverines were bounced in the second round of the NIT. And this season, under new head coach John Beilein, the Wolverines once again find themselves under .500 and out of the postseason.

A school that won a title in ’89 and made back-to-back title game appearances in the early 90s hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1998. It’s almost as if the entire program stopped when Webber, who played for a team that doesn’t exist, called that timeout that didn’t exist.

I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait before Michigan is part of another tournament memory, but once it happens, I’m going to do whatever I can to pretend the past 15 years of lackluster Wolverine hoops didn’t exist either.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.

Wolverines Get Rich: Rich Rodriguez named as the new football coach at the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Wolverines football program never settles for less. But when Louisiana State University Head Coach Les Miles refused Michigan’s offer to be their next head coach, many maize and blue faithful worried about the future.

If Miles, a former player and coach at Michigan under Bo Schembechler, didn’t want the job, what did that say about the winningest program in college football history?

In short, it signified that Big House smash-mouth football had grown stale. That’s why the hiring of Rich Rodriguez, formerly the coach at West Virginia, should be welcomed as a breath of fresh air in Ann Arbor.

Rodriguez, 44, likely didn’t settle for less either. Lloyd Carr made $1.5 million this past season. And while the terms of Rodriguez’s new deal at Michigan were not announced, all indications are that he will bring in well over $2 million per year as coach of the Wolverines.

Spread the wealth, Rich

Since 2005, Rodriguez’s teams at West Virginia have gone 32-5 and 2-0 in bowl games. Over the same span the Wolverines have gone 26-11 and 0-2 in bowl games. Rodriguez’s Mountaineers have dazzled opponents with his version of the spread-option offense, and the coach intends to bring that plan of attack with him to the Big Ten.

It will be a new brand of football for the Wolverines, who operated a more traditional pro-style offense under Coach Carr, featuring a power running game and strong-armed quarterback.
Now it’s a matter of finding players to fit the new coach’s scheme starting at quarterback. Freshman Ryan Mallett received valuable playing time this season at Michigan, but the 6’6”, 247-pounder does not fit the typical mold of a spread offense quarterback. While the Michigan faithful may not want to see Mallett jettisoned from Ann Arbor, the arrival of a prized recruit could lead to his departure.

Terrelle Pryor of Jeannette High School in Jeannette, Pa., is considered the number one quarterback prospect according to scout.com. He also had a suddenly renewed interest in attending Michigan once he learned Coach Rodriguez was the new coach. If Rodriguez succeeds in landing Pryor, the Wolverines will be on their way toward making this transition a successful one.

Time for a change

The change of pace could not come at a better time for the Wolverines. Their 2006 season came crashing down with losses to Ohio State and USC. Then the Wolverines, who began the 2007 season ranked number five in the nation, opened with back-to-back home losses. First, they suffered a shocking defeat against Appalachian State and then a 32-point blowout loss to Oregon.
In the four game losing streak that spanned two seasons, the Wolverines were exposed. For all their star power, Michigan was deficient in at least one key area – team speed – and programs across the country were blazing past them on the field and in the polls.

Coach Carr was and is part of the Michigan family. He followed in Bo’s footsteps and played a traditional, conservative style of football that won games, conference titles and even a national championship in 1997. But that was ten years ago. And his last victory over Ohio State? That came in 2003.

As much as Michigan is about tradition, the program needed a jumpstart. Along with the departing Coach Carr, the Wolverines will lose a heap of leadership from this year’s team: Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Jake Long, Shawn Crable and Jamar Adams headline a star-studded list of departing seniors.

That’s why Rodriguez’s hiring makes sense. The fact that he may have been the third candidate offered the position after Miles and Rutgers’ Greg Schiano is irrelevant. And the fact that he comes from outside of the Michigan family is not a bad thing.

With a big contract comes big expectations

Next year was going to be a rebuilding season regardless of the coach. Look for growing pains to surface early in 2008 as a young team tries to learn a new system. In fact, expectations should be tempered for the next two seasons while Rodriguez implements the new scheme and brings in fresh recruiting classes to fit his style of play.

His first few seasons at West Virginia were likewise lackluster, but after he brought in the athletes capable of running his system at a high level of efficiency, the Mountaineers took off. So while patience is not often practiced when it comes to college coaches, Rodriguez deserves two years free of frustrated fans calling for his head.

Clearly Rodriguez knows how to recruit talent (see: White, Pat and Slaton, Steve). Now that he can sell the tradition of the Big House and the Wolverines, he has no excuses. He should be able to land several top prospects each year and build the Wolverines back into a contender by 2010.

That will be his third season as coach, which means he’ll have three years of recruiting classes on the roster. By that point, his style of play should have them punishing teams throughout the Big Ten. Within four or five years, Rodriguez needs to have the Wolverines in the hunt for a national title.

Those are reasonable expectations for a school that has more wins than any other in the history of college football. Michigan fans don’t just crave success – they demand it. And for the maize and blue faithful, success is defined by winning national championships. Rodriguez’s hefty contract means he is being charged with delivering that success. Michigan fans will not be satisfied with anything less.

For more information, visit MattHubert.com.