I think every Michigan football fan needs
to take a deep breath. The past week and a half has been a lot to
take in.

Mira Levitan

The Wolverines started that stretch by riding Chris
Perry’s legs to a victory at rival Michigan State. And then
everyone ahead of Michigan started losing. Georgia lost, and then
Washington State and Miami followed suit.

Then Michigan’s bye week rolled around — down went
Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami (again).

Suddenly, a lot of people around here began thinking national
title game again.

“If USC and LSU lose … if Michigan beats Ohio State
… if the BCS falls just the right way.”

Lost in all that hoopla was one important fact.

Michigan has a game this week.

And I hate to bring everyone down, but this one’s
dangerous for the Wolverines. Coming off of a bye week, just seven
days before the slugfest with the Buckeyes and with everyone in Ann
Arbor once more having visions of sugar plums dancing in their
heads, Michigan needs to keep it on an even-keel.

Northwestern’s not as bad as everyone seems to think
— believe it or not, a win over the Wolverines on Saturday
would make the Wildcats bowl eligible. They’re 3-3 in the Big
Ten right now, including a 16-7 win over Wisconsin (the team that
beat Ohio State, mind you).

Running back Jason Wright has rushed for 15 touchdowns and close
to 1,000 yards. Then, with Wright injured last week, backup Noah
Herron blew up for 181 yards against Penn State.

Yes, they lost to Air Force and got thumped by Miami (Ohio) and
Minnesota.

But …

This game is less about what Northwestern can do than what
Michigan cannot do.

And Michigan cannot buy into the sudden Sugar Bowl hype and the
excitement about the matchup with the Bucks next Saturday.

The Wolverines cannot, like everyone here is, overlook
Northwestern.

We’ve seen this before. I hate to bring this up, but
remember 2000?

Michigan had two losses, one in the Big Ten. The Wolverines
rolled Michigan State, 14-0 and headed into their bye week right in
the thick of the Big Ten race.

Coming out of that bye, the favored Maize and Blue went into
Evanston — right before games with Penn State and Ohio State
— and the defense imploded, the offense made some ill-timed
turnovers and the Wildcats pulled off a huge 54-51 upset.

Northwestern was probably better in 2000 than it is now, but
regardless, there’s something in learning from past
mistakes.

Michigan’s efforts since the fourth quarter of the game at
Minnesota has led it to an impressive four-game winning streak. The
Wolverines are back in the top five in the national polls and in
control of their own destiny in the Big Ten.

A trip up this week, though, like in 2000 and … poof.

So, consider that my warning.

Do I think that Michigan will lose to the Wildcats?

Honestly, no. Over the past three weeks, Michigan has been
clicking on all cylinders — just ask Michigan State or
Purdue. And I’ve watched Northwestern. Last week, the
Wildcats struggled past one of the worst Penn State teams ever.

There’s absolutely no question that there is more talent
on the Michigan roster, and you can say that when comparing
Michigan to about 95 percent of the teams in the country.

But look past the Wildcats or come out of the bye week flat, and
the Wolverines’ Rose Bowl hopes would come down to one game,
and you could definitely forget about the Sugar Bowl.

Should Michigan win — and big — on Saturday?
Sure.

If Michigan fans should have learned anything during this
rollercoaster ride of a season, though, it’s that you should
never, EVER, take things for granted.

— Chris Burke can be reached at
“mailto:chrisbur@umich.edu”>chrisbur@umich.edu.

 

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