You won’t hear anyone on the Michigan Wolverines say it, but nobody is all that happy about playing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl evaporated in the midst of a 1-4 collapse that left the team in the depths of the Big Ten Legends Division.
To make matters worse, rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, who met in the Big Ten Championship Game, are both ranked in the top ten nationally while Michigan exited the rankings during its epic November collapse.
This isn’t what fans were expecting.
But, the flip side of that analysis is that the team is two plays away from a 5-7 record and missing a bowl entirely.
The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl doesn’t have the allure or the prestige of a BCS game or New Year’s Day bowl, but it does come with the added benefit of 15 additional practices to get ready for next season.
Publicly, Michigan coaches are preaching patience.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison told the Detroit News, “We feel very strongly the young men we recruited in the two or three years are the right young men, and now it’s getting experience. You can’t put a price tag on these 15 more practices where you can become a smarter football player.”
But, experience doesn’t seem to explain all Michigan’s problems on offense.
The Michigan offense hummed against Ohio State and Indiana but disappeared versus Iowa and Michigan State. It’s hard to reconcile the wide variations in performance. Add anemic performances versus Akron and UConn, and offense seems to have been a mystery all season long.
Is offensive coordinator Al Borges using this team’s talent correctly, or is he too focused on implementing his system?
The offensive line struggled rotating nine players through five positions and next season loses its two most consistent players to graduation.
Is offensive line coach Darrell Funk developing players to fill these gaps? Does Michigan have the talent on its roster to field an adequate offensive line next season, or does Hoke need to break with tradition and recruit some junior college players to protect quarterback Devin Gardner?
Hoke needs to prepare his team for their bowl game; the last thing Michigan needs is another loss. But most importantly he needs to evaluate whether the problem with his team stems from a lack of experience or the result of bad coaching.
Michigan was inconsistent for much of the season, but no could have predicted the train wreck that happened in November.
But those losses have made next season do-or-die for Hoke: his fate at Michigan hangs in the balance.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conference Source.