Notre Dame, Michigan among traditional powers experiencing a down year

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Tradition is one the most attractive and engaging part of sports. The pageantry of a band, the pregame festivities and the engaging mascots lure in fans and grasp their attention.

In no sport is this truer than college football.

The University of Texas lights up the crowd by having Bevo the Bull charge onto the field with the team.

The University of Miami players take the field through a plume of smoke.

The Michigan Wolverines run out under the long, yellow banner that the players jump up and slap.

USC’s Trojan Band plays “Tribute to Troy” 30 minutes before kickoff while the bandleader stabs the middle of the 50-yard-line with his sword.

Notre Dame players slap the ever-famous “Play Like a Champion Today” sign when walking down the stairs from the locker room.

By: Brian McCabe

While these traditions remain in 2010, the season has been a loss for the traditional powerhouses. No bulls, smoke, sword or banners can help these teams recover. National prominence is like a drug to these schools, and after a down year, the withdrawal is even more painful.

wolverines football

The Wolverines are still lacking

Let’s take a brief look at the current situation of each program.

Texas Longhorns 5-6

Texas’ stats clearly do not tell the story this season. However, like any sport, the final score is all that matters. The Longhorns suffered their worst stretch in forever by losing 6 out of 7 midseason games with the lone victory coming in extremely unexpected fashion against Nebraska.

Losing 39-14 to a mediocre Kansas St. team sums up the season for Texas. Less than 12 months after playing in the BCS Title game, Texas must beat favored rival Texas A&M this Friday to qualify for a bowl game. That statement was unthinkable two months ago.

Miami Hurricanes 7-4

Randy Shannon took over in Miami, bringing with him a great deal of hope. The players loved the football-playing alumnus who they had gotten to know as an assistant. However, he has failed to return the Hurricanes to the Top-10 and into a national powerhouse once again.

While Miami will always be prominent, the longer this drought continues, the less people will care.

Just ask Notre Dame.

Michigan Wolverines 7-4

Michigan has been struggling for a few seasons, and Rich Rodriguez has been unable to right the ship. Most UM fans would sob over a 7-4 season, but this has been quite the improvement from 2008.

However, the three-year experiment has not gone well. Compliance issues and sanctions aside, Rodriguez has not been able to bring a consistent winning culture to Ann Arbor. Six weeks ago Denard Robinson was the shoe-in Heisman winner. Now, he will not even be invited to New York.

This has not been a year of horrors for Michigan, but it has not been the vast improvement everyone expected or at least, had hoped for either.

AD’s can say what they will, but Rich Rod’s 2011 job security is up for debate.

USC  Trojans 7-4

Many expected Lane Kiffin to struggle mightily in his first season in Los Angeles. While that may not be the best description for 2010, four losses is not the norm for So Cal either.

Year Two will bring with it an even bigger microscope. Another four- or five-loss season will see tickets sales at the Coliseum drop.

Can the Boy Wonder stave off the mediocrity that normally accompanies probation, or will USC fall back into the vortex fans refer to as the 1990s.

ND Fighting Irish 6-5

Fine. Notre Dame probably doesn’t even qualify as a traditional powerhouse anymore, but with its own television contract and its spot on the map, it is still a big deal. No matter what anyone thinks, Notre Dame is still relevant.

Much like in years past, a mediocre record is all the Irish will end up with at the end of the season.

However, unlike years past, tragedy, alleged scandals and cover-ups draw extremely negative attention to this University and its football team.

This season, the game on the field has lost so much meaning.

These issues are devastating to the close-knit community of students and alumni, and, in many ways, have made the issues and performance on the field moot. The Irish are bowl-eligible again this season, but again, it is not a bowl any fan hoped for back in September.

2010 is a year to forget for these five proud football institutions. Many questions linger for 2011. All a fan can do is hope there is more to the game next season than a bull or a sword or some smoke.

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