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Michigan Football: They’re in a bowl game, may as well win it!

Matt Parker Profile PicBowl Season is here!

Michigan will take on Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl tomorrow out in Arizona and for many Wolverine fans, that fact is a major disappointment. While many Michigan supporters did not expect the season to go the way it did, a win on Saturday could do wonders for the confidence of this team heading into the off-season.

Michigan has a very young team and fell short with multiple close losses this year and ending the season with a victory should hopefully pay dividends next year. Bowl games give the chance for young players who maybe red-shirting to learn more about the position that they are playing.

For this year, guys like Henry Poggi turned heads for the defense in bowl practices. Also on the offense side of things, Dennis Nortfleet is getting adjusted to his main role for next season which would be slot receiver in a more expanded role in the offense.

And regardless of how the Wolverines got here, the fact is, they are here. And for Brady Hoke, leading his team to victory and a 2-1 bowl record would be, no should be, imperative. There is no other option than victory for the Maize and Blue and there should be no excuses for a loss.

But one thing is for sure, around Ann Arbor, regular season successes don’t always predict wins and losses in the year-end bowl appearances. And for the past three Wolverine coaches, winning their last game of the season has not always been easy, nor a regularity.

Legendary Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler led his Wolverines to 17 bowl appearances but tasted victory only 5 times. 10 of those games were Rose Bowls and his squad prevailed only twice, in 1980 and 1988. Some have held against Schembechler his lack of success in the post-season performances and in many ways, they should. The Rose Bowl, especially when Bo coached, was the true “Granddaddy of them all” in respect and prestige. And losing, almost every time, really left a mark on the program.

If bowl games are unimportant to you then, no biggie. If you believe that bowl victories matter and the games should be won, then you have legitimate beef.

Lloyd Carr took the Wolverines to 13 straight bowl games while he was head coach and ultimately finished with a 6-7 record. But by far, Michigan under Carr tasted their share of season-ending successes that left the kids in the program fond memories of their season past.

By far, Carr’s greatest achievement was when he  guided Michigan to a share of the National Championship with a 21-16 victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl back in 1997 seasson.

The next year Michigan played in the Citrus Bowl which they won 45-31 over an SEC team Arkansas. In 2000 Michigan played another SEC team in Alabama in a GREAT Orange Bowl game and won 35-34.

In 2001 Michigan played in the Citrus Bowl vs. the SEC’s (see a theme here?) Tennessee. Although this game was ugly all-around for Michigan and they got beat 45-17.  Yikes!

After that Michigan played Florida in the Outback Bowl and won 38-30.

But the following four seasons, Carr’s team was not so successful and like his predecessor, three of the four seasons ended in losses in Rose Bowls. In 2003, it was a loss to USC. The year after Michigan played Texas in a classic game which had GREAT performances from Steve Breaston and Vince Young. Texas won the game 38-37. Then two seasons later, another loss to USC.

Carr’s final season ended with a classic Wolverine victory over now arch rival head coach Urban Meyer and his Florida Gators in the Capital One Bowl. This was Carr’s final game and Michigan beat Florida 41-35. The Wolverine players showed the respect that they had for Carr by walking off with him on their shoulders at the end of the game. Good times! Good times.

Then came the Rodriguez error, errr era.

Looking back on that Rich Rodriquez was doomed from the start. There was just too much dramatic change for the program of great tradition to handle, and the fan-base to support in the transition.

The first two seasons under Rich Rodriguez, Michigan did not make a bowl game. They did not make a bowl game. That right there was too much to overcome in Ann Arbor.

Year three ended with a Gator Bowl appearance where the Wolverines played Mississippi State. Leading up to the game it was rumored that Rich Rodriguez would be fired if the team got beat badly. Well Michigan got beat, badly 52-14 and “Rich Rod” was shown the door.

Then came Hoke.

Hoke and his staff immediately turned the program around in year one. Even though the Wolverines didn’t win the Big Ten Conference or play in the conference championship game, Michigan did get invited to the BCS Sugar Bowl game and accepted. The Wolverines beat Virginia Tech in that game 23-20 and things we’re looking good in Ann Arbor.

Last year, Michigan faced and fell to South Carolina 33-28 in the Outback Bowl. Now this season the reward for a season, played, is the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Not an upward trend.

Hoke and his staff needs a win and all the positive vibes they can get going into next 2014. Freshman Shane Morris will need to find a way to win in his first game as a starter. Coaches have been saying that Morris has been having solid performances in practice and Hoke has acknowledged publicly his comfort level with Shane as the starter. Let’s hope he’s right.

With a win in the bowl game and a great off-season of hard work Michigan can find itself playing in the Rose Bowl next year. But that’s what we say every year around these parts.

As always GO BLUE!

Matt Parker - May the Hoke be with you! © January 11th, 2011
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