Michigan and Rich Rodriguez have nothing but a bowl to play for

RichKD/flickr

RichKD/flickr

By H. Jose Bosch

No one can convince me that there is a better place in the world than Buffalo Wild Wings. Why?

Plenty of solid beers to choose from; the wings, unlike Hooters, are actually good and the whole atmosphere of it all helps you forget that your college football team is actually as mediocre as you feared.

I’m sorry, what? What was the third thing I wrote? The wings?

Oh, that’s right, the mediocre football team Michigan played on Saturday and contrary to the hopes of only the most disillusioned fans the Wolverines were who we thought they were. They’re led by a freshman quarterback who is still raw; have a secondary with no true playmaker (or any good talent outside of Donnovan Warren) and a head coach still struggling to run a football team his way without all of the personnel to do it.

This season has essentially turned into the morning after. One evening of unadulterated (think 4-0, win over Notre Dame) fun followed by a massive headache with someone you really don’t want to wake up next to (1-3 since). It happens to men. It happens to women. And it happens to football teams and their fan bases.

For the rest of the year, rather than playing for anything significant in terms of the conference, the Wolverines are now just playing for one more win. Why? Bowl eligibility.

RichRod may not have Michigan competing for a conference title this season, but you can be sure he wants to get the Wolverines back into a bowl game. Considering how awful last season was, even if Michigan has to make a trip to the Little Caesars Bowl (formerly the Motor City Bowl) I’m sure Rodriguez will take it.

To keep the morning after analogy going, just imagine trying to leave the person’s bedroom without waking them up. Sure, the entire rest of the world knows you’re making the walk of shame, especially if you’re coming from a costume party. There may even be roommates waiting on the other side of the door to laugh at you.

It can be very ugly.

But if you can escape without having to talk to the Frankenstein next to you, well, isn’t that all that matters?

Moral victories are all Michigan has left this season and there is really just one moral victory that needs to be had: making a bowl game. The rest is just icing on the cake.

CA2/flickr

CA2/flickr

All Hail! the mighty Wolverines … for now.

Julian Gonzalez/DFP

Julian Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

By H. Jose Bosch

I went to Michigan bar in the middle of the desert or Scottsdale, Arizona depending on your perspective, to watch Michigan’s home opener.

It was me, a friend and quite a few Michigan fans huddled around the many TVs throughout the top floor of the bar. The Syracuse-Minnesota crapfest had just ended on ESPN 2 and all of us were waiting in anticipation for the first glimpse at our new team.

For five straight years I watched Michigan’s opening game in person — four years as an undergrad and once as an alum.

My record was 3-2, but the last two years included an epic fail against Appalachian State and a “good loss” to eventual undefeated Utah.

Needless to say I was ready to watch the opener from a remote location this year, especially after the “controversy” stirred up by the Detroit Free Press earlier in the week. What was going to happen on the field Saturday afternoon?

Would Rich Rodriguez’s thin hold on the team slip away after another embarrassing loss to a MAC school?

Or would the team rally behind its fearless leader and, for one week at least, make alumni proud of the football program again?

Whatever happened, I took comfort in the fact that I didn’t have to bake in the sun for two and a half hours to find out.

Then the image on the screen finally flickered to the Michigan game. It took a moment for anyone to register what was going on. Our first image of the 2009 season was … I didn’t know. I’m bad at matching numbers with players. Who the hell is No. 21? And why are a bunch of teammates surrounding him?

Wait.

Touchdown!

Julian Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

Julian Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press

Yes, the first image of the 2009 season for some 80ish Michigan fans was the celebration following Tate Forcier’s first touchdown pass of the day. We’d later learn that he wisely stepped up in a well-formed pocket to avoid the rush, ran to his left and made sure not to cross the line of scrimmage before he hit Junior Hemmingway with a perfect pass. The rest didn’t matter, just the result.

It was 7-0 Michigan and we hadn’t even watched 30 seconds of the game.

The rest of the afternoon was just a blur of giddiness. Part of it was Michigan’s first-half performance and part of it was the Blue Moon. At the end of the day I was on cloud 12, ready to call this season a success after just one week.

Screw the anti-Rich Rodriguez faction. This team is for real.

I’ve had a day to sober up literally and figuratively. The excitement is still there. Even after just one week I’m convinced this team is heads and shoulders better than last year’s abomination. But that won’t necessarily translate into a much better season.

Before the game I was willing to say that just about every game was predictable one way or the other with the exception of the game against Purdue. Now I will say that the Wolverines have a chance against Notre Dame (since the game is in Ann Arbor) and a chance at Illinois (because the Illini crapped the bed this weekend against Missouri).

That’s a possible two-game swing that makes them 7-5 rather than my predicted 5-7. I’m probably getting ahead of myself. There are still a lot of unanswered questions. The second half wasn’t particularly inspiring and we don’t know if the special teams will be clutch when we need it.

But for one week I’d like to bask in the greatness of Michigan football, believe that the Wolverines are back and that Rich Rodriguez is moving in the right direction.

For one week the Wolverines won’t be the butt of every joke in the college football world.

Rich Rodriguez’s reputation may take a hit but it shouldn’t

feagin1

By H. Jose Bosch

The Michigan football team officially began their season but no one really cares about football practice when a recently dismissed player is accused of trying to sell cocaine.

Welcome to the new Michigan football, where the drama isn’t just on the field!

OK, I had my Michigan fan moment.

All of us are just hoping that 2009 will wash off some (not all) of the stink from last season. I don’t think anyone but the biggest homers thinks this will be a nine or 10-win year but there is some hope that 2009 will be better because it really can’t get any worse in Ann Arbor.

Then the Detroit Free Press has to pee in the freshly fallen snow of our optimism by releasing a report about why Justin Feagin was really dismissed from the team. In case you missed it and are too lazy to click a link, Feagin is accused of taking $600 from someone he knew and promising cocaine in return.

Whether he actually knew someone who would ship cocaine or he planned on pocketing the money for himself is unknown and irrelevant. Both scenarios make him a grade-A jerk.

I would never condone illegal activity, but if you’re going to break the law, at least be competent about it. Did Feagin really think that he could be a cocaine middle man without anyone finding out? And even if he never intended to sell cocaine, did he really think that he could take $600 from someone and not be pursued by the guy?

But the actions and stupidity don’t really upset me. Feagin was an insignificant and whether Rodriguez kicked him off the team for allegedly peddling cocaine or for jay-walking, I wouldn’t really lose sleep.

What is upsetting is that an incident like this could hurt Rich Rodriguez’s reputation and undermine what he’s trying to do at Michigan. Rodriguez was painted as the anti-Lloyd Carr, a coach that was willing to win at all cost, even if it meant hurting the integrity of a program. At a school like Michigan, which replaces the concept of gentleman with “Michigan man,” integrity is a major pillar of the institution.

So when a player who was brought in by Rodriguez does something as stupid as this, it hurts Rodriguez, who was already walking on eggshells after a 3-9 season.

upset_rodriguezI don’t think this incident will lead to everyone getting the pitchforks out of the shed and running Rodriguez out of town right away, but each time something goes wrong within the program it’s another line drawn in the sand. And like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, too many lines and Rodriguez is going to step out over the ledge and plummet off the map.

I will admit that while Rodriguez was at West Virginia, he probably had to take more risks on players than Carr ever did. He was late to the recruiting game when he was hired and probably stretched more than he would normally do at Michigan. But this mistake doesn’t mean there will be many more in the future. Sometimes coaches get it wrong. Souring on Rodriguez quickly could do more damage than good here.

Instead, we must forge ahead and be as optimistic as possible for the year. We can’t un-ring this bell but we shouldn’t let it ruin what will hopefully be a fun season.

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