S -M-c-g--n'-b'bak'n--ba OSU
Michigan won't be 'back' until it beats OSU
ast Saturday, the Michigan
football team didn't come
into Michigan Stadium to
win. It came to make a statement.
ka game was
one the Rich
team s lo st:
a big game
against a team
that was just MICHAEL
Instead, the FLOREK
ranked team and a traditional
Junior quarterback Denard
Robinson kept scooping imagi-
nary food into his mouth because
"this program has been starving
for a while ... It's time for us to
National writers, like Sports
Illustrated's Stewart Mandel were
tweeting things like, "Yeah, I
think Dave Brandon did all right
in that coaching search."
It all added up to one overrid-
ing feeling: Michigan was back.
"I think that there are aspects
of Michigan that we there in the
past that are showing up now
and I think that's why people
get excited about it," said senior
defensive lineman Ryan Van Ber-
He's right. The Wolverines ran
wrenching loss that would derail
another season. After 11 games, it
Losing to the worst Ohio State
team in recent memory would
A loss means little has changed.
It means the Class of 2012 leaves
as an extreme outlier, never hav-
ing beaten Michigan State or Ohio
State. Michigan would still be a
bit of an imposter, wearing the
winged helmets, but never really
finishing the season like the pic-
ture of past teams in Michigan's
The collapse won't come
because it is the last game of
the season, but it would feel the
same: high hopes that ultimately
concluded in another season of
"I wouldn't say the whole
season rests on this game as far
as Michigan is back or not," Van
But until Michigan beats Ohio
State and breaks the streak that
feeling will never go away. It may
not be fair or true for other sea-
sons, but right now, for Michigan
to truly be "back," it has to beat
-Florek thinks the only rivalry
that comes close to Michigan-Ohio
State is Gordon Bombay's Ducks
vs. Jack Reilly's Hawks. He can be
reached at email@example.com,
or on twitter, @michaelflorek
the ball and played suffocating
defense. They are within reach
of a BCS Bowl Game. They have
returned to protecting the Big
House with a perfect home record
Does that mean Michigan is
Those who stayed won't be
champions this year. Michigan
coach Brady Hoke says his goal is
to win the Big Ten Championship
this season. He missed that goal.
But more so than that, and more
so than the Wolverines teams of
the last couple years, the Ohio
State count looms over this team's
It's been 2,923 days since Mich-
igan beat Ohio State.
The stretch spans a lot longer
than the time the Wolverines
spent as the disappointment of
the conference. Yet, for a team
that has exceeded nearly every
expectation so far, not clearing
the final hurdle would derail the
progress made. For Michigan to
fully be back, it needs to beat its
Being back in the top half of the
conference is nice.
A return to 9-3 might mean a
return to a more representative
record of Michigan's past, but
when there is talk of being "back"
that's not what people think
"Back" means warm and fuzzy
feelings. It means singing The
Victors in Pasadena. It means
Charles Woodson with the rose in
his mouth. It's that one time when
you were 10 and some Michigan
player everybody else has long
forgotten had a ridiculously good
game so you remembered his
After the past three years,
those fuzzy feelings won't return
just because Michigan goes to
a Capital One Bowl or Outback
Bowl. For the entire season, fans
braced themselves for the gut-
BO TO BRADY
From Page 7
with those same two words: "Beat Ohio."
"He explained that this is what I do every
meeting, and this is what you need to say,"
Koger recalled. "And after that, we caught
On Saturday, the clock will say "2,926."
But the four days leading up to Saturday
will decide what the clock says on Sunday.
On Monday, Hoke and a few Michigan
players were met by the biggest contingent of
media members since Hoke's opening press
conference. They were bombarded with ques-
tions about the rivalry for more than an hour
- questions about what this rivalry meant,
how this year could be different, what this
game will do for their legacy.
The players remained poised.
Koger remembered the feeling of losing
in Columbus last year in an embarrassing
37-7 drumming - and in Ann Arbor the year
before, and in Columbus again the year before
"It's heartbreaking," Koger said of losing to
Ohio State. "It's a lot of motivation. It's defi-
nitely a driving force."
Martin, one of the co-captains along with
Koger, put it plainly.
"This week has to be one of our best weeks
of preparation, period," Martin said. "That's
what it needs to be."
If you granted me just one more week as
Michigan's head coach, I wouldn't hesitate.
I know exactly what I'd want...Give me one
more week of coaching in preparation of the
Ohio State game.And make it against the great
Wayne Woodrow Hayes.
The game would be icing for me, because if
you're a real coach, a real leader, the prepara-
tion is the thing.
Then on Friday night, when I've finished
handing out the hot chocolate and cookies dur-
ing the bed check with allmyplayers, andIknew
we were ready-andImean ready-I'd return to
my room, I'd sit on the corner of the bed and I'd
just go,'Ahhhhh.'AndI'd be satisfied.
-Schembechler, as told in John U. Bacon's
"Bo's Lasting Lessons."
Looking back on that 1969 game, Brand-
statter recalled how he and his teammates
"We understood that when you practice
on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, that's
when you're preparing for the football games
on Saturday," Brandsatter said. "You get ready
by taking care of the details, by practicing
with great intensity, by focusing on what you
have to do so there's no mental mistakes, no
The preparation started in January when
Hoke was first hired. But no three days are
more important than the Tuesday, Wednes-
day and Thursday before the Ohio State game.
The Michigan players know that.
"There's definitely gonna be some differ-
ences in this week," Koger said. "I expect
practice to be very intense."
With Hoke at the helm, there's no question
Michigan will be ready to play on Saturday.
"The last Saturday in November, at 12
o'clock, that ball being kicked off, there's
nothing like it," Hoke said in his opening press
conference. "If you play at Michigan and you
wear that maize and blue, that's gotta be per-
It was personal in 1969.
But now, after seven straight losses to the
Buckeyes and with a possible BCS berth on
the line, it's as personal as ever.
"When Brady gets them up to win this
game, everybody will say he's the next Bo
Schembechler," Taylor said.
"He'll be the next Bo Schembechler if he
wins this game."
8 FootballSaturday - November 26, 2011