Let’s take a trip down memory lane for a moment, shall we? The year is 2007 and the Michigan Wolverines are ranked number 5 nationally and are about to take on a FCS school few have heard of, Appalachian State. September 1, 2007 rolls around and the Big House is rocking as this current Michigan team has high hopes from their school and fan base. The Wolverines were supposed to completely obliterate the Mountaineers, and jump-start their journey to a national title. Only one problem, someone forgot to tell App.State quarterback Armanti Edwards. Edwards was running a circus on the Wolverines in their own house, and had Michigan faithful completely unsure of what to expect next, and what was next is something no one could ever predict.
With the Wolverines trailing by 2 in the final seconds, Kicker Jason Gingell lined up for a 37 yard field goal for the win. Trailing 34-32, if the kick goes through the uprights, Michigan saves face and avoids the embarrassment of losing week 1, as well as losing to a FCS team; but miss it, and it goes down as the worst loss in school history, and possibly in college football history. Gingell lined up to what he thought was going to be a hero situation, however, he didn’t get a shot to be a hero. His kick was blocked. Appalachian State was victorious, and Michigan was stunned. Losing an attempt at a perfect record, a shot at a national championship, and did nothing but guarantee to be a major headache whenever they were talked about for quite some time. Running back Mike Hart, Quarterback Chad Henne, and Left Tackle Jake Long all came back to school for their senior season for a shot at a nation title and national recognition, but what they got was a lot different from what they signed up for. They settled for a 41-35 Capitol One bowl victory over the #12 Florida Gators, led by sophomore Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow.
Just when Michigan’s program thought that the darkest days were over for their program, they replaced retiring Head Coach Lloyd Carr with West Virginia’s Head Coach, Rich Rodriguez. This was a move that many thought would revolutionize the program, and possibly even the Big Ten. Again, Michigan’s fans were wrong. 2008-2010 was the worst stretch of football that the Wolverines played in recent memory, and totaled just 15 wins during that stretch. Sure they won a game in 2009 63-6, but it was against Delaware State, an FCS school that they were supposed to beat, and actually did. They also had games that they won 67-65, with almost no defense played. Ironically enough, that game was ended with a defensive stop. With an embarrassing end to the 2010-2011 season, a 52-14 loss in the Gator Bowl against Mississippi State, the Wolverines severed ties with Rich Rodriguez, and hired San Diego State’s Head Coach, Brady Hoke.
Now back to the present. Hoke is now a figure in Michigan’s football program, mainly because of his impressive first season, going 11-2 and beating Ohio State, but also because of his recruiting ability. He’s had 2 classes so far, being 2013 and 2014, and the recruiting isn’t over yet. He’s compiled one of the two best recruiting classes in the country back to back, landing players like 5 star Cornerback, Jabrill Peppers in 2014, and 5 star Quarterback, Shane Morris in 2013. The star power added to Michigan’s next few classes could be monumental, as well as unprecedented. No team has ever landed the nation’s top 2 players, but Michigan is in good position to become the first school to ever do so. The nation’s top prospect and Defensive Tackle Da’Shawn Hand has been favoring the Wolverines as of late, and even so much that the Virginia native has narrowed his list to only Michigan, Florida and Alabama. There was a stretch that people believed he was a long time Virginia Tech lean, but that all changed when he cut his list to the 3 previously mentioned. Now it looks as if Michigan is the leading program to receive the services of 2014’s top recruit, and a lot of it is thanks to Brady Hoke. Hoke’s recruiting skills have been up to par with former SEC powerhouse coach Urban Meyer, and possibly just a hair better than him. The two have been battling for players in their respective states, as well as nationally, and Hoke has been landing some of the top talent that this recruiting class has to offer.
I think that Michigan has a legitimate shot at winning at representing the division in the Big Ten Championship game this year, and possibly even winning it. Michigan in 2013 will be led by Quarterback Devin Gardner, Michigan’s new look pro-style offense has the play-makers, and ability to rack up some major yardage, as well as points. The team also has a solid defense, which will be held down by Linebacker Jake Ryan once he is done rehabbing his leg after a torn ACL a few months back, also by Defensive Lineman Frank Clark. Michigan will have some tough games as usual, but there is enough on this squad to get them through it, whether it would be pretty or not is yet to be determined. The team is also ran by more than qualified coaches, especially on the defensive end, so they have the mental capacity to make adjustments on the fly, or in the locker room at half time. Michigan is in good hands this year, and hopefully years to come we have the ability to look back and say, “Wow, they had (insert name here) AND (insert name here)!” kind of the way we did with the USC teams of the early 2000’s. But right now, I think a realistic expectation should be getting into the Big Ten Championship, and building off that before comparing them to a team that was involved in multiple National Championship games.
Moreover, the expectations for this team is something that are realistic, and within reach. We may have to bump the expectations up a bit more once the new offensive regime takes over. Michigan is in a position where they could possibly have the top ranked Running Back in Derrick Green, 5 star Quarterback in Shane Morris, 5 star Wide Receiver in Drake Harris, and possibly more. The pro style offense seems to mirror what Lloyd Carr had built with Chad Henne, Mike Hart and Mario Manningham, and that seemed to work out pretty well for the most part. If that offense could mesh well together, they could be giving their entire conference headaches for 2-3 years together. But the funny thing is, Michigan’s offense may take a backseat to their defense. If Hoke could continue his magic on the recruiting trail, Michigan could have one of the top defenses in the nation, and paired with Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison, it could be a record setting defense. The defensive line is loaded in 2013, as well as 2014, but do not sleep on their defensive backs. There is a realistic chance that the Wolverines could have Jabrill Peppers and Adoree Jackson across from each other, both are 5 stars, and Peppers is the number 2 player ranked in the country, according to ESPN.com’s rankings.
Furthermore, I think that Michigan could be a National Champion contender in the upcoming years, however, right now a BCS berth and a Big Ten Championship should be what Michigan fans are thinking about. The future of Michigan football is looking very, very bright, and could have some Michigan fans thinking about 1997 all over again. The battles for National Championships will begin with Ohio State. Michigan will face them at the end of the season, as always, for a shot to represent their division in their title game, and I think the winner of that game will go on to win the Big Ten Title. The way Meyer and Hoke recruit, it could be a rivalry renewed, with even bigger stipulations now. Another thing to remember is that the NCAA is going to change to a college football playoff starting in 2014, which could mean seeing Michigan in that 4 team format. Just remember Michigan faithful, the Wolverines open up 2014 with none other than Appalachian State.