The Time is Now for Rodriguez and Michigan Football

A brief editorial, if you will.
These next two Saturdays present Rich Rodriguez, his fellow coaches and the Michigan football players a very important opportunity. These two games, Michigan's final home game of the year against Wisconsin and a road test in Columbus, will determine how this 2010 squad is remembered in years to come.

At the moment, Wisconsin is ranked #6, and tOSU is ranked #8 in the coaches poll. If there was ever a time for Rich Rodriguez to make a statement, there is no better time than right now.

So far this year this Michigan team has been sort of a mystery to a lot of fans...even with only two games left. At times we've looked very impressive. At times we've looked terrible. Both against good teams, and against mediocre teams. We've looked about as good as you might expect a young and still growing team to look against what I consider one of the best football conferences in the country.

But as a friend of mine pointed out to me, the one word that comes to mind when he thinks of this Michigan team is: Resilient.

We've come back from large deficits in games against Iowa and Penn State. We've come back and won two in a row after losing three. Last year would have probably been a different outcome. Actually, it was a different outcome.

As it stands right now, our overall record is 7-3. But more importantly, our conference record is 3-3. Our three Big Ten wins have come against three of the lesser teams in the conference standings. You can argue that it's a good thing we're beating the teams we're supposed to beat. You could also argue that we're making progress from 2009 when we didn't beat these teams. But lost in those wins is the feeling of swagger you get when you end a game with more points than your opponent. When we lose, we look like a team that lost. When we win, we look like a team that's not quite sure how to enjoy it.

It's almost as if this team recognizes the fact that there are much bigger fish to fry than Illinois or Purdue. Not that they didn't enjoy those victories, but let's not go proclaiming "we're back!" until reclaim our status as a top-tier Big Ten team. The ONLY way to do that, is to beat the teams that are up there.

That sounds strange to say after 10 games we're still waiting for this team to identify itself, but I think it's true. I mean, can you really label this Michigan team "good" or "not good" yet? These next two games, against probably the two most talent-laden team in the Big Ten, will define this program going into the 2011 season, regardless of how well we play in whatever bowl we end up in.

A while back I scribed a piece saying, basically, that 2010 was the most important year of Michigan football EVAR! I stand by that because so many pieces to the Michigan football puzzle were still not in place when the season started. And not that they are now, but we're coming out of an excruciating rebuilding process that has taken the better part of 3 years. We've been putting the pieces into place during that time to rebuild a successful football program. The last step is to apply those lesson's learned and play like a team that is starting to come together. I think we're finding ways to do that.

[Enter your argument that the Michigan football program didn't need rebuilding here]

I don't care about the whole "How many wins does Rich Rod need?" debate. Judging by Dave Brandon's comments, I think at this point he's probably safe at his post. But maybe that will be enough for Rodriguez to feel a little more secure, and thus, allow him to coach without the threat of the guillotine hanging over him. I certainly hope so. I feel that if Rodriguez comes back for a 4th season, and a 5th, 6th, etc...then the Michigan football program will flourish.

But it all begins with a strong and inspired finish to the 2010 season. These next two games will have a lasting effect on this program. These two games are the barometer we're looking for to see exactly how far this program has come, and what we're genuinely capable of. Unlike the last two weeks, there is no room for error. We can't win with 5 turnovers. We have to play better...smarter. We have to kick better. We have to tackle better. We have to run and catch better.

Basically, we have to do a little bit of everything better.

But unlike last year, I know we can. And personally, I can't wait for Saturday. And I especially can't wait for the Saturday after that.

Go frickin' Blue baby!

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