NCAA Football

Hoke’s Turnaround Impressive, But Michigan Wolverines Aren’t Ready For National Title Picture

A 7-6 overall record, 3-5 in Big 10 conference play, narrowly escaping defeat against division 1-AA Massachusetts on their own home field. A 30-point drubbing to their most hated rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes. An embarrassing 52-14 loss at the hands of the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

The 2010-11 football season for the Michigan Wolverines was nothing short of a disaster. That was the end of the disastrous three-year reign of head coach Rich Rodriguez. Over the course of his three years in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez never once earned a victory over either Michigan State or Ohio State, Michigan’s two fiercest rivals.

In just one year, new head coach Brady Hoke was able to completely turn the program around, leading the Wolverines to an impressive 11-2 record with a 6-2 mark against the Big 10. The 2011 season was full of remarkable moments for the Michigan football program, including a dramatic 35-31 win over rival Notre Dame in the first ever night game at the Big House and a six-point home victory over the hated Buckeyes. The season would conclude with a thrilling 23-20 overtime victory in the All-State Sugar Bowl over the ACC champion Virginia Tech Hokies.

Leading up to last Saturday evening’s inaugural Cowboy Classic, die-hard fans of the Big Blue were confident on the outside, thinking their team could somehow upset the defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide. However, in their hearts they knew that Michigan’s top-ten preseason ranking was more or less a mirage.

This fact was proven as soon as the two teams hit the field and the Tide jumped out to a quick 31-0 lead. The Wolverines would fight back and outscore Alabama 14-10 over the course of the remainder of the game, but were clearly over-matched all night long. The final score would end up 41-14 in favor of the Crimson Tide as Michigan fell to 0-1.

Yes, the SEC is the clear-cut number one conference in all of college football, often decimating opponents from all other conferences in bowl games and early-season meetings. However, that wasn’t the only reason Alabama walked away with a convincing victory in front of a nationally televised audience.

The Wolverines simply weren’t ready for the moment.

It takes time to successfully build a college football program into a national powerhouse, and Hoke’s Wolverines are well on their way. It might be another year or two for Michigan to be ready to return to the National Championship discussion, but it will come.

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Twitter: @_BWoodward