2006. Michigan vs. Ohio State. The Game of the Century...5 years ago. Way back when Mike Hart played here...before he retired from the NFL and became a coach at Eastern. And it's the last time we played for something. The last time that any of this meant anything. That day will never be forgotten...the emotions we felt with the loss of Bo, #1 vs. #2, a shootout at the horseshoe, and a loss. Since then, the list of horrors is long and distinguished. Appalachian State, Toledo, Sparty, Sparty, Sparty, hook and lateral at Purdue, a continued dominance by the Buckeyes, countless home losses, nine losses in a season, coaching changes, players leaving, players offered scholarships but not admitted to the university, NCAA sanctions, missed bowl games, and an embarrassing bowl loss that had me looking for the exit at the half.
Things are not good. But there's not one of us that don't think that things are going to be better. The 2012 recruiting class looks great on paper already, and that is the future. And while it doesn't fix the scars of the past, in a mere 5 days, we will find out what it means for the present.
So many changes in such a short amount of time. New coaches, new offenses, new defenses, new athletic director, new stadium, new scoreboards, new conference alignment and championship game, new athletic apparel provider...hell, we've even changed tailgate spaces twice. We're going to play a night game at Michigan Stadium this year in alternate home uniforms. Yep, that's change. The NFL-ification of the program has been much maligned recently, as Dave Brandon attempts to take the Michigan "brand" to another level. Rumors of a mascot, considered because "kids can't take a picture with a block M" added fuel to the fire, while the "no non-conference away games outside of South Bend policy" was sour grapes for the college football purist and the travelling fan base. Mix in a 2014 schedule addition of a rematch with Appalachian State, and some people are downright angry. And sure, they have every right to be. It's tough to make sense of any of it.
But when all is said and done, what will be important is the thing that changed the least, the personnel that will take the field on Saturday. Part of the most disappointing and unsuccessful stretch of Michigan Football in history, it will be the job of "those who stayed" to turn this thing around, to get Michigan back to being Michigan. The unchanged will have to find a way to change...change the way they play, change the culture in the locker room. Nothing else matters but winning. If we win, you'll forget about all of the bullshit. You'll be lining up next to that furry bastard of a mascot getting your photo. You'll be buying that stupid striped monstrosity of a jersey on your way out of the stadium at midnight. You'll be ready to line up against the Mountaineers and show them what it's like to play at the Big House....for real this time.
5 days. Luau. Football. Go Blue.