It feels like everyday some new dysfunctional situation manifests itself up in Ann Arbor. If there was a sports version of the National Enquirer, the Michigan football program would be on the cover ever week. In fact I am surprised no one has attempted to produce one, because Rodriguez and company are more entertaining than Michael Jackson, Lindsay Lohan, or Brad and Angelina. They have unhappy players transferring, coaches unable to keep practice logs, Rich Rodriguez crying in the media, and oh, they are 8-15 the last two years. Even this week, college football fans have gotten a slight glimpse into the inept leadership happening up north as players have been as outspoken as ever and Rich Rodriguez has been throwing his players under the bus. Not even Friday Night Lights could come up with this kind of stuff.
It will be interesting to see is how all of this impacts the most storied rivalry in all of college football, maybe even college sports. I am not a big fan of off the field issues, and I really believe they leave a huge weight on college athletes. So, I really wonder what kind of Michigan team we see take the field come Saturday. Most of the media has already written the Wolverines off this weekend, but anyone who the knows the history of "The Game," knows the unpredictability of this contest. Though the odds favor Michigan performing as they have all season long, know one truly knows how the Maize and Blue will react. I really believe there are three possible looks the Wolverines could give us come Saturday...
There is no doubt the Wolverine players really want this one against the Buckeyes. Not only has Ohio State owned them for 2,188 days in a row now, but they also need a victory to become bowl eligible. It will be easy for them to come out very emotional from the kickoff, and their comments this week hint at this possibility. Emotional teams typically seem like world beaters early on when things are still going their way, but as soon as adversity hits, they end up getting emotional at each other and falling apart (See John L. Smith days at Michigan State). Based on the lack of leadership in Ann Arbor and the fact that I watched the Wolverine players screaming at the coaches in this game last year, this also has a high probability. If this happens though, you can almost guarantee the Buckeyes cover the spread.
Look #2 - Us Against the World
The Wolverines also could take the field with a huge chip on their shoulders come Saturday. The media seems less than intrigued in watching this game this year, and Michigan players know it is because they are being counted out. So they also could easily come out with an "us against the world" mentality. No doubt the bulletin board will be full this week with press clippings, and the players will want to show the media and college football world (including RichRod after his quote) that they are for real. I really have no clue if this really has any lasting impact on the game, but if nothing else it might unite a dysfunctional team under a common cause. Whether Rodriquez believes so or not, this Michigan team has way too much talent to be 5-6, and maybe finally coming together will help them get over the hump.
Look #3 - Finally Put It All Together
The other possibility that Buckeye fans have to be prepared for is the fact that this team could finally put things all together. They have had no trouble putting up points for the majority of the season, but they have turned the ball over a ton and have a pathetic defense. Sound a lot like Purdue? Not only do I think the Wolverine offense looks like that of the Boilermakers, but this game could be a trap game for the Buckeyes just as that one was. Coming off of two emotional victories and already clinching the Big Ten, the Buckeyes could come out flat. Like the Purdue game, it is amazing how a crappy team suddenly feels invigorated when a good team gives them opportunities. If the Buckeyes turn the ball over, the Wolverines could finally come alive. I am not trying to be pessimistic, just saying this is still a possibility.
So, how will the Michigan circus perform? I have no idea. Rich Rodriguez's team has been unpredictable all season long (on and off the field), and I don't plan on them stopping that this week. I guess that adds some much needed story lines to a game that needs some spice!