Though the seven-year losing streak to Ohio (State) is over and the Wolverines were crowned Sugar Bowl champions, Michigan coach Brady Hoke is adamant that he still isn’t satisfied with last year’s season.
“We had a good season a year ago, we didn’t have a great season,” Hoke said at Wednesday’s meeting with the Michigan Associated Press Sports Editors. “If you have a great season, you win a Big Ten conference championship, which is the goal every year. As a team, we embrace the expectations we have yearly, and that’s to win a championship.”
One thing that got in the way of that goal was Michigan State.
The Big Ten added a twist to Michigan’s in-state rivalry with the Spartans when the conference implemented a two-division format last season. The Wolverines and Michigan State found themselves both in the Legends Division, competing not only for the Paul Bunyan trophy, but a spot in the Big Ten championship game as well. In addition, Michigan is on a four-year losing skid to the Spartans.
But to Hoke, those new stakes don’t mean anything. In fact, he noted that nothing has changed from the Wolverines’ perspective and that the game continues to have weight.
“We are (Michigan State’s) rivals,” Hoke said. “I imagine Notre Dame is (too) because they’re playing those guys. From our side of it, we take that very seriously. I learned that a long time ago.
“The in-state rivalry is always something (that’s) important to us. We have not done our job in the last four years on the Michigan side of things and that’s coaching, and that has to be better. And the Ohio game is the Ohio game. That doesn’t lessen anything on the Michigan State game at all.”
In Michigan’s other rivalry game — The Game — Hoke has found a bit more success. The Wolverines were able to snap the seven-year losing skid to its main rivals and Hoke has found success recruiting in the Buckeye state, where a significant portion of his recruits hails from.
But with a new Buckeye coach at the helm, Urban Meyer, there is speculation of a resurgence of a new ‘Bo vs. Woody’ rivalry between Hoke and Meyer, with which Hoke disagrees.
“It’s Michigan and Ohio,” he said. “It’s those two schools. Those two programs are pretty storied.”
With the new conference format, including a conference championship game at the end of the season, there are talks of moving around inter-division games. That includes the Wolverines’ game against the Buckeyes, which has always been the last game of the regular season.
Hoke was quick to comment on the possibility of The Game being moved elsewhere on the schedule.
“I think it should be there, personally,” he said. “But I’m just a coach. We have no say in any of those things, I can assure you of that. I think that that game to be moved out of the last Saturday in November would be a mistake.”