It’s week one of the Big Ten season. And the dream is alive.
The Wolverines are undefeated.
Take a look at that. Swish it around in your mouth for a couple seconds. Tastes good, doesn’t it?
Big Ten titles are great. Rose Bowls are awesome. Wins like Michigan State in 2004 and Penn State in 2005 are moments no Michigan fan will ever forget.
But a national title – that’s what we’re really after.
I’ve been on campus for four years now, and I can honestly say that most of my favorite sports experiences have been watching Michigan football. But make no mistake about it: A big void has developed in my psyche, where national championship hopes belong.
For me, the void was created when the John Navarre-led Wolverines went into Oregon in 2003 and cracked under the pressure of 100-plus-decibel levels in Autzen Stadium. It widened when Michigan went to South Bend in 2004 and couldn’t punch the ball into the endzone. It became a black hole in 2005 when Michigan failed to polish off the Fighting Irish at the Big House.
But now, the Wolverines finally appear to (notice how I included those words) have a legitimate shot at running off a succession of victories to start the season. It’s really amazing when you think about it: Michigan students who arrived between 2000 and 2003 have never once seen the Wolverines start 4-0.
Consider all the great names that donned maize and blue through those years. Perry. Edwards. A-Train. Terrell. Between 2000 and 2005, none of those guys emerged from September undefeated.
Six years of early losses have made the Michigan fan base cynical, and rightfully so. Every year, without fail, the Wolverines enter the season as one of the nation’s most talented teams. And every year, they manage to blow an early-season game against an inferior squad, pushing themselves right out of the national title picture.
It was a beautiful sight, last Saturday, to see that formula reversed. Notre Dame was the talk of the nation. The Wolverines were the underdogs. And they did to the Fighting Irish what UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame and Oregon have done to Michigan the past six years, leaving the Golden Domers licking their wounds and praying for top-10 teams to crumble.
Going into last Saturday’s game, I expected the Wolverines to lose. Not because I honestly believed Notre Dame was a better team – I was sure the Weis-Quinn hype machine was out of control – but because Michigan had never given me a reason to believe (I’m from New York, so I was out of the loop for the ’97 title).
I believe now. For the first time during my career as a Michigan student, I can’t pinpoint a single major flaw with this Wolverine team. The offense is balanced, featuring real playmakers working behind a solid offensive line. The defense is fierce, hungry and disciplined. And, for once, the Wolverines don’t seem to have a big problem playing in a hostile environment.
Of course, I haven’t booked my plane tickets to Arizona for Jan. 8 just yet. But at the very least, I believe this year’s Wolverine squad will tease us. And I, for one, am ready to be teased.
I want to see how Ann Arbor reacts when Michigan tops Michigan State to go 6-0. I want to feel the buzz when the Wolverines beat Penn State in a Saturday night game at Happy Valley. I want to see Michigan students march up from the Big House and celebrate at Mary Sue Coleman’s place after a victory over Iowa. I want to experience what campus is like during Ohio State week if Michigan goes into Columbus unbeaten.
Of course, running the table is extremely difficult, no matter how much of an off year this is in the Big Ten. But even if a national title isn’t in the cards, I beg you, Michigan – don’t wake Wolverine nation from this sweet, sweet dream any time soon.
– Michigan students would be perfectly justified in stoning Singer on the Diag if Michigan loses to Wisconsin on Saturday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.