Over the past five seasons, we’ve seen Michigan football go from perennial national championship contender and frequent Rose Bowl participant to becoming the Big Ten laughingstock.
Under the guidance of new head coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines look to regain their past glory and return to the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl Game.
At first it may seem unrealistic to expect the Wolverines to achieve such a lofty goal in 2011, but if you take a closer look, it’s more plausible than you might realize.
In the new Big Ten, Michigan’s stiffest competition in the Legends Division this year will be Nebraska and Northwestern.
Nebraska has a brutal schedule, with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State on tap. Throw in games against Michigan and Northwestern, and the Cornhuskers will falter in a couple of those games.
Northwestern, on the other hand, has a very similar schedule to Michigan, except the fact that it plays Penn State. The Nittany Lions need to trip up the Wildcats to help Michigan’s chances.
Now, looking at the Wolverines' schedule, it appears it will be more manageable than in recent years. Wisconsin and Penn State have been left off the schedule, and several of their toughest games are at home.
The Wolverines can definitely beat Notre Dame in the first night game ever at the Big House, and Michigan State and Iowa will be down in 2011.
That leaves Northwestern, Nebraska and Ohio State as the remaining challenging games. If the Wolverines can win at least one of those games, they will ensure themselves at least a 10-2 record.
This 10-2 record should be good enough to make it to the Big Ten Championship Game, where they will most likely play either Ohio State or Wisconsin. A win in this game gets Michigan into the Rose Bowl, and a loss could still get them in as well.
If Ohio State or Wisconsin wins the Big Ten and goes onto the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl would undoubtedly choose Michigan to play due to its history and great fanbase.
Also, if the Wolverines go 10-2 but lose a tiebreaker to Northwestern or Nebraska, they can still make the Rose Bowl.
An Ohio State or Wisconsin victory over the winner of the Legends Division in the championship game would reopen the door for Michigan to receive an at-large bid to the Rose Bowl, depending on the record of Ohio State or Wisconsin.
Regardless, there are many scenarios for Michigan to receive an invite to play in the Rose Bowl despite their recent struggles.
Although they will need a little help, the Wolverines have a favorable enough schedule and the talent and coaching to return to the Rose Bowl.
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