This isn’t how the final two games of the season were supposed to be set up. Michigan had Wisconsin and Ohio State in a perfect back-to-back weekend scenario to end the season.
Win those games and it should be off to the College Football Playoff, right?
Instead, two losses have already piled up for the Wolverines and the hopes of an East division title are but gone. So too is any talk of a College Football Playoff berth, which most in the national media were openly talking about going in to the season.
Some wonder where the Wolverines will rank on Tuesday night in the latest College Football Playoff poll, especially given the chaos in front of them over the past two weeks. But, at 8-2 on the season and 5-2 in Big Ten, does the ranking really matter much at this point?
For players and coaches it appears the motivation is going to be about spoiling the season’s of the next two opponents and letting the chips fall where they may.
“I’m not really worried about that (the College Football Playoff ranking),” fifth-year center Patrick Kugler told reporters on Monday, via MLive.com. “Wisconsin is next. We can still be a 10-win team and kind of ruin people’s seasons. That’s kind of my goal right now.”
Kugler continued that theme noting a 10-2 season could theoretically get them in to the Big Ten championship game. He also noted that this team is going to embrace ruining someone else’s season.
“It’s kind of fun to ruin people’s seasons,” Kugler said. “We can be 10-2 and still make the Big Ten championship. It’s just kind of fun. To go in there, a hostile environment like Wisconsin, if we can come out of there with a victory, there’s nothing better than that.”
It is good news the team is staying positive, but also tells you how far adrift from expectations this season has gotten.
Embracing a villain’s role?
Hoping to play spoiler in the two biggest games on the schedule?
This is what Michigan’s season as been reduced to — a focus on what winning would do to the teams on the other side of the field.
That should tell you all you need to know really. Michigan’s season is reduced to playing the “we’ve got a chip on our shoulders” card and hoping someone else can help them make a miracle run to the Big Ten championship game.
Of course, it’s not an impossible task ahead of them, but as far as this season has told us it certainly feels that way.
Yet, Michigan’s players are still talking a big game.
“This whole week in practice, we’re going to be getting after each other, making sure everything’s perfect,” said Rashan Gary, via MLive.com. “We got an opportunity in front of us and we don’t want to let it go.”
Michigan’s coaches and players have sung this same tune before, especially leading up to its annual rivalry game against Ohio State. Yet, all that talk hasn’t amounted to a win in that series since 2011 and the Wolverines have generally struggled against ranked opponents over the course of the 2010’s.
The Wolverines are just 7-19 in games against ranked opponents since the start of the 2010 season. This is clearly a long-term problem, one that has admittedly gotten better since the start of the Harbaugh era.
Michigan is currently 5-5 against ranked opponents since 2015, but are just 2-4 against ranked Big Ten opponents and both of those wins came at home.
Then there’s the matter of the reality of the actual teams they have to face over the next two weeks.
How is Michigan’s offense going to be able to score on that Wisconsin defense? How will Michigan’s defense cope with the high-powered offense of Ohio State?
With so much money spent to try to bring Michigan back to national prominence, finding answers to those questions is the only way to salvage this season.
Then again, this is a program that had supreme confidence heading in to each and every season so far under Harbaugh. Each and every one of those seasons has ended in disappointment of one kind or another.
It’s that track record that makes all of this talk hard to buy in to once again.
Until the Wolverines show it on the field against a quality opponent on the road, perhaps all of this is best left unsaid to the public?