Aside from a pair of exciting victories over Notre Dame in '09 and '10, the 2008 comeback victory over #9 Wisconsin is hands down the most impressive W in the RichRod era. With the Wolverines trailing 19-0 at halftime, it seemed inevitable that the Badgers would be leaving Ann Arbor with a 4-0 record and a victory in the 500th game at The Big House. Michigan's offense looked horrible (sound familiar?) gaining an abysmal 21 total yards in the first two quarters. This was compound by five first half turnovers by the Wolverines (one week removed from six turnovers against the Irish). After a three-and-out to start the second half, the boo birds were letting their displeasure rain down on RichRod and Co.
Steven Threet changed that following a failed Wisconsin drive. Threet turned around a horrible first half - 2 of 10 passing for -7 yards - by orchestrating a 14 play, 80 yard drive capped by a 26 yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Koger. The teams traded three-and-outs until Brandon Minor finished Michigan's first fourth quarter drive with a 34-yard touchdown run to cut into the Badgers lead, 19-14. Then, on the first play of Wisconsin's ensuing drive, linebacker John Thompson snagged an errant pass and returned it 25 yards to put Michigan ahead 20-19. The Wolverines didn't convert a two-point conversion attempt, but it didn't matter in the end. Wisconsin responded with an 11 play, 63 yard drive, but the Wolverines forced a fumble inside their own ten-yard line. Six plays later, and Sam McGuffie punched into the end zone from three yards out to give Michigan all the points it would need. The Badgers ended up scoring in the final seconds, but a failed two-point conversion secured Michigan's victory.
The 19-point comeback victory marks the largest comeback victory for the Wolverines at home (the 21-point comeback against Minnesota on the road in '03 is the biggest in program history). It also gave fans hope - albeit brief - for the RichRod era and completely derailed Wisconsin's season (they finished 7-6). Relive the comeback here.
Defeat Win Wins
It's hard to argue that two wins in one day isn't impressive, but that's exactly what I'm going to do. Against inferior opponents (Deni-who? Michigan State-what?), the Wolverines underperformed and barely came away with two victories. By 1930, Michigan was three decades into a 33-year span that would see the program win eight National Championships and two years away from winning back-to-back National Championships. In the first match of the doubleheader, Michigan fielded a team comprised entirely of backups and managed to win 33-0. Denison University football currently plays in Division III, and I'll go out on a limb and say they probably weren't a football powerhouse in '30. Yet, Michigan could only manage five touchdowns. Doesn't matter to me that it was backups. The Wolverines needed to take notes on the 1902 team that pantsed Albion 88-0. Heck, they should have looked into a crystal ball and watched what Michigan State did the Eastern Michigan last week. Speaking of Eastern Michigan...
They went by Michigan State Normal back in 1930 and almost topped the Wolverines. Michigan played its starters in the second half of the doubleheader, and that almost wasn't enough. In what should have been a warmup before the start of the conference schedule, the Wolverines barely escaped the Hurons from Ypsilanti. Two forward passes followed by a lateral pass led to the score, and luckily, it proved to be all Michigan needed. Two games, two cupcakes, and the Wolverines didn't show complete domination. 84 years later, Michigan State showed Michigan how to properly beat Eastern Michigan. That's enough reason by itself to put the doubleheader in '30 into the 'Worst Wins' category.
Overall Record on Sept. 27
1902 vs. Albion, 88-0
1930 vs. Denison, 33-0
1930 vs. Michigan State Normal, 7-0
1941 vs. Michigan State, 19-7
1947 vs. Michigan State, 55-0
1952 vs. Michigan State, 13-27
1958 vs. USC, 20-19
1969 vs. Washington, 45-7
1975 vs. Baylor, 14-14
1980 vs. South Carolina, 14-17
1986 vs. Florida State, 20-18
2003 vs. Indiana, 31-17
2008 vs. Wisconsin, 27-25
So, how about a 2-2 start? What has that meant for Michigan in the past? I've listed the seasons below, including the result of Week 5 and the overall season record (rankings from AP poll):
|Year||Week 5 Result||Season Record|
|1893||Loss, 18-34 vs. Wisconsin||7-3|
|1949||Win, 14-7 vs. #3 Minnesota||6-2-1, Big Ten co-champs, ranked #7|
|1950||Tie, 7-7 at Minnesota||6-3-1, Big Ten champs, won Rose Bowl, ranked #9|
|1951||Win, 54-27 vs. Minnesota||4-5, fourth in Big Ten|
|1952||Win, 21-0 vs. Minnesota||5-4, fourth in Big Ten|
|1980||Win, 27-23 vs. Michigan State||10-2, Big Ten champs, won Rose Bowl, ranked #4|
|1982||Win, 31-17 vs. Michigan State||8-4, Big Ten champs, lost Rose Bowl|
|1988||Win, 17-3 vs. Michigan State||9-2-1, Big Ten champs, won Rose Bowl, ranked #4|
|1998||Win, 12-9 at Iowa||10-3, Big Ten co-champs, won Citrus Bowl, ranked #12|
|2005||Win, 34-31 (OT) at #11 Michigan State||7-5, third in Big Ten, lost Alamo Bowl|
|2007||Win, 28-16 at Northwestern||9-4, second in Big Ten, won Citrus Bowl, ranked #18|
|2008||Loss, 20-45 vs. Illinois||3-9, tenth in Big Ten|
|2012||Win, 44-13 at Purdue||8-5, second in Legends division, lost Outback Bowl, ranked #24|
(NOTE: As before, I only looked at seasons with a minimum of five games, so this excluded Michigan's first eleven seasons, i.e. I started in 1891)
Three Reasons for Optimism
1) A 2-2 start does spell doom for the Maize and Blue
Michigan's record after starting a season 2-2 speaks for itself: 10-2-1, with one of those losses coming during the dumpster fire '08 season. Narrowing it down even further, when Michigan starts 2-2 and loses in Week 4, they are 3-1 in Week 5. The Wolverines bounce back.
2) Michigan's never lost the Little Brown Jug in Week 5 after starting 2-2
In four Week 5 games against the Minnesota Golden Gophers following a 2-2 start, the Wolverines are 3-0-1. So even when Michigan trips out of the gate, they refuse to give up the Jug.
3) Michigan's won at least a share of the Big Ten championship in six of the the thirteen seasons listed above
As we all know, Michigan's main goal of winning the Big Ten is still possible. Highly unlikely, but possible. So yes, I'm telling you there's a chance. And going strictly off what history tells us, there's almost a 50% chance Michigan finishes first in the conference (and over 50% chance of them finishing in the top two and heading to the championship game).
Three Causes for Concern
1) This year mirrors 2005
While 2005 wasn't a horrible year, it certainly wasn't special. Michigan finished third in the conference, lost against Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl, Notre Dame, and Ohio, finished 7-5, and to top it all off, lost the Little Brown Jug. The start of this year mirrors '05 more than any other year in history. Michigan lost to Notre Dame in '05 and started the season 2-2 with a win-loss-win-loss pattern ('05 is the only other year where this happened). While the Week 4 game wasn't non-conference (the Wolverines fell to the Badgers) and Michigan won in Week 5 against MSU, they lost the Jug in Week 6 and didn't put together an impressive year.
2) This feels like the year of ending streaks
The shutout loss to Notre Dame was Michigan's first in three decades. Attendance is dwindling and threatening to take down the 250+ game streak of 100,000 or more fans in The Big House. So wouldn't it fit the theme to lose the Little Brown Jug to the Gophers for just the third time in 46 years and end Michigan's current six-game winning streak in the series?
3) History means nothing
Michigan can tout all the past victories it wants, but until they start winning in the present, it doesn't matter.
Do the Wolverines usually bounce back after starting 2-2? Yes. Does anyone feel confident that this game is an automatic win and Michigan should be favored by double-digits? I don't think so. I know I certainly don't. Let's just win this one. I don't care how. Just win. Go Blue!