This week”s BCS poll will likely rank Michigan sixth, right behind Oklahoma, Nebraska, UCLA, Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech.

Paul Wong
The SportsMonday Column<br><br>Raphael Goodstein

Next week Nebraska plays Oklahoma. Nebraska still has Kansas State and a road match up with Colorado on its schedule, Oklahoma still plays Texas AM. Even if the winner wins out, it will likely play the loser again in the Big 12 title game so it”s highly unlikely that either team wins out.

Meanwhile, UCLA has looked very impressive thus far, but spends its next month playing at No. 20 Stanford, at No. 14 Washington State, No. 11 Oregon and its rivalry game, Southern Cal. Somewhere during this stretch the Bruins will fall.

This leaves only Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech ahead of Michigan. The Hokies and Hurricanes play each other Dec. 1, in Blacksburg, Va.

Michigan still has a legitimate hope of playing in the national title game, the Rose Bowl.

Now before you reserve a hotel in the Paradise City, remember, Michigan needs to win out.

Two years ago, a one-loss Michigan team was in a similar position of needing to win out to have a chance at the national title game. Michigan blew a 20-point lead to Illinois and settled for the Orange Bowl.

In 1992, Michigan had national title dreams dashed in the second-to-last week of the season, when it tied an inferior Illinois team.

1985 was more of the same. The top-ranked Wolverines blew a game late in the season to Chip Lohmiller and Minnesota.

But this Michigan team just might be different.

First and foremost, there”s no pressure to win the national title. Many fans looked at last year”s team, with all the talent it had, and realized that it still finished with three losses. So how could this team be so much better?

Michigan”s schedule is a lot easier than it was last year.

Top-to-bottom, the Big Ten is much worse than it was last year. Purdue and Northwestern, the only two Big Ten teams that beat Michigan, are a shell of what they were last year.

Ohio State looked good in pummeling Northwestern 38-20, but then blew a 17-0 lead to Wisconsin. This past week San Diego State gave the Buckeyes all they could handle.

Michigan State looked tough in beating Notre Dame and outplaying Northwestern. But Michigan State is Michigan State. The Spartans were outcoached and outplayed by Minnesota Saturday. Prior to Saturday, the Golden Gophers” lone win came against traditional power Louisiana-Lafayette.

Iowa, the Wolverines” opponent this week, is 5-2 but hasn”t beaten a legitimate Division I team in the last three years.

Now, some of you are probably thinking “why on Earth would I write this column? I”m probably just jinxing the team.”

I”m sure Coach Carr is thinking this.

I used to think like this, until 1997.

Champions aren”t jinxed by columns. If this team has what it takes to win it all, columns won”t get in its way.

Then again, Michigan has only played one team ranked in the top 20, and lost that game, so this team just might be pulling a Virginia Tech fooling fans into thinking it”s good by beating bad teams.

The Hokies seem to do this every year, most notably two years ago, when they went undefeated until playing Florida State in the national title game where they were humiliated.

If this is the case, Michigan will get what it deserves on Jan. 4.

But until then, I”m going to enjoy watching good teams play each other and watching Michigan climb the polls.

Raphael Goodstein can be reached at raphaelg@umich.edu.

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