I am really looking forward to the Michigan Wolverines this season. I am not ready to send them to Indianapolis just yet, as I showed last week on Crystal Ball Run with my Big Ten predictions, but I am willing to entertain the idea that Michigan will be in the thick of the Big Ten Legends Division race from start to finish in 2013. With the offense getting in to a more comfortable system this season and with the kind of recruiting Brady Hoke has been doing since arriving in Ann Arbor, I feel as though it will not be long before Michigan becomes more of a realistic contender in the Big Ten. If you ask quarterback Devin Gardner, the Wolverines are not only a contender this season, but they will beat Ohio State in The Big House as well.
Ohio State went 12-0 last season, capping the undefeated season with a second half shutdown of Michigan for a come-from-behind victory. The Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is among the best in college football and Hoke and Urban Meyer have not been shy about revealing how they approach the rivalry since taking over their respective programs. Hoke always refers to the Buckeyes as Ohio. Meyer refuses to address the Wolverines by name, instead referring to them as That Team Up North. From an outsider;s perspective it gets kind of annoying at times with the over saturation of the hate and disdain on public display. We get it. You are rivals.
But when a starting quarterback for one team comes out and make that sort of statement, you will get my attention. That is why a statement Gardner had with a local radio show is generating a bit of a buzz. He acknowledged Michigan has some work to do, but by the time they take on Ohio State they will be ready to defend their home turf. As transcribed by MLive.com;
“We always have room for improvement, but this is definitely a championship-caliber football team that will win in the ‘Big House’ against Ohio State,” Gardner said. “We don’t feel like we’re inferior to anyone in the country.”
Gardner was 11-of-20 for 171 yards, one touchdown and one interception in Michigan’s loss to the Buckeyes last season. In the second half Michigan’s quarterback was 5-of-8 and perhaps relied too much on mixing things up with NCAA Football 14 cover athlete Denard Robinson running the football. This season the focus will be more on a traditional pro-style offense with Gardner at the helm on a full-time basis.
I expect some good things out of Gardner at Michigan, and I like a guy who has enough confidence to throw something like this out there. But I cannot hop on aboard in full support of offering your rival such bulletin material. Surely Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes will have caught wind of this, and media will bait them in to a response as quickly as possible. Will any player or Meyer fall for the bait? Assume Meyer will have his team more focused on their on-field response in November. Rivalry victories can make or break a team’s season, and that could very well be the case for Ohio State in 2013. The Buckeyes are one of my BCS Championship contenders entering the 2013 season, which means Ohio State may have larger aspirations than simply beating Michigan, or That Team Up North if you will. Is a win against the Wolverines desired? Absolutely, but I can’t see the Buckeyes coming off a 12-0 season and entering the fall with lofty expectations getting caught up in any war of words from Ann Arbor just yet.
Michigan did win the last meeting between the two rivals in Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines won 40-34 in 2011, when Luke Fickell served as the interim head coach for the Buckeyes. The win snapped a three-game losing streak to the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor. Ohio State has won four of the last six games played in Michigan Stadium. The Buckeyes have also won seven of the last eight meetings in the series and continue to chip away at the overall series record. Michigan maintains a 58-45-6 edge in the rivalry.
Michigan hosts Ohio State on November 30, 2013.
Photo: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images