The Big Ten is an abomination. Two teams (OSU and PSU) are ineligible for post season play (and might be the best of the bunch) and only two show up in the current BCS rankings (Wisconsin and Michigan). The latter muscled their way into the rankings by playing Big Ten opponents, proving little other than the short attention span of voters and computers. But here we are. Already having proven we can't play with the best of the best ('Bama), and proving we can make enough mistakes to lose to a team (ND) that is so grossly overrated and lucky that I'm guessing that attendance at Catholic religious services has increased...with new arrivals citing that their conversions are based on the witnessing of miracles in front of touchdown Jesus.
But right now, we have to deal with what we've got. Take care of the M's, the N's, and Iowa. Win the division. Win the Big Ten. Go to Pasadena. I hope a day will come that this is not the ultimate milestone, but that day is not today. We're still transitioning. We have our goal.
These games are ugly, confusing, difficult to watch, and obviously difficult to coach. The direction of the offensive scheme is questionable at best, and no doubt being held captive by one of the most dynamic athletes in college football. But we are doing Michigan things, building Michigan things...like defense. And we are winning Big Ten games. We have our goal.
Saturday meant something. The game was tucked away on the Big Ten Network. Nobody saw it. Nobody cared except us. We beat our in-state rival. We ended their winning streak against us. We continued our amazing history, hitting a milestone 900th win. We rushed the field to celebrate. We have our goal.
There are five contests remaining, and some of them are going to be difficult. There seems to be no in-between. Either our opponent has the horses in their front seven to stop Denard and we will struggle...or they do not, and they will be embarrassed by #16 multiple times in a rout. I think Nebraska and Ohio have a chance to be the former...maybe Iowa too, as they seemed to be able to do it in past seasons. I am hoping the rest have me relaxed going into the fourth quarter. We have our goal.
The plan for this season, and likely the next, is not to dominate or return Michigan to the national stage, but just to maintain the status quo waiting for Hoke recruits to be ready to play Borges football. Big Ten Championships are historically a pipe dream for Sparty. We win National Championships more often than they go to the Rose Bowl. But Big Ten Championships are the status quo for Michigan. We have our goal.
I paused on the inside concourse deck of section 30, rested my hands on the rail and took it all in. The kids trickled out on to the field, celebrating the end of several years of waiting, the end of several years of pain, the end of the jabs in the ribs from the Sparty neighbor. I thought about my friend Larry that I've sat with since I was a freshman at Michigan. He was the ultimate homer. He never gave up on the team, and he wouldn't let us either. His friends came up to tell us that he had passed away in the off-season at a too-young age of 48. When it was 10-9 and our backs were against the wall and I had given up hope, I needed Larry to tell me not to. Maybe in a way he did. There were a lot of tears in the stands on Saturday. Some of postgame relief, some for Larry, some for other friends that we've sat with that we've lost that would have loved to have seen us finally beat MSU. And that's why this means something. It's a part of us, bad or good. We live vicariously through this group of 18-22 year olds. We support them because they are our extended family. We support them because it is due to them that we have met many of our friends.
Whew. Enough sob-story stuff. It's basketball season in East Lansing, and it's only October. Enjoy it. Talk about it. Talk shit about it. Then go get that white jersey out of the closet because we are headed to Lincoln for the first time. Go Blue!