Well, at least San Antonio is a fun city. Or so I’ve been told.

Roshan Reddy

Unfortunately, that’s about all there is to look forward to because what happens in the Alamodome on the night of Dec. 28 (a.k.a. four days before New Year’s Day) won’t mean a thing.

And I’m not saying that because I think Michigan will beat Nebraska easily. The Wolverines played a tougher schedule, but both teams have 7-4 records. In fact, I have a feeling the game will be close even though Michigan will be a big favorite – often times in second-tier bowl games, teams with more motivation come out on top. Well, it looks to me like all the intangibles go to the Cornhuskers: They didn’t make it to a bowl game last year, and their supporters are about as rabid as Michigan fans are indifferent.

But in the end, no matter the result, the Alamo Bowl will be a meaningless game, there’s little we’ll be able to learn about Michigan from the contest.

While watching Saturday’s games under the impression the Outback Bowl was the Wolverines’ destination, the thought of Michigan going up against a quality SEC team was positively frightening. But it would have been exactly what the team needed.

The Wolverines are no longer a bounce or two away from contending for the national title year-in, year-out – even if Michigan coach Lloyd Carr thinks so.

Though the Wolverines haven’t finished a regular season with four losses since 1994, the wait for another down year might not be that long. Next season, with trips to Notre Dame and Ohio State on the schedule, it’s more likely Michigan finishes with three or four defeats than one or two.

Sooner or later, Carr will have to realize the Wolverines need to reload, not retool. It could have happened last winter, after mobile quarterbacks tore up Michigan’s defense at will. After losing to Ohio State on Nov. 19, Carr seemed to admit that bigger changes were needed. But until they’re implemented, it’s hard not to believe he’ll err on the side of caution and do too little.

Because Carr has proven to be more reactive than proactive, I almost find myself hoping for Michigan to get beaten so badly that the need for wholesale changes becomes undeniable. Of course I root for Michigan, but I use that argument to convince myself that it wouldn’t be so bad if a demoralizing loss ever happened.

Had the Wolverines played in the Capital One or Outback bowls against a team like Louisiana State, Auburn or Florida, there would’ve been a chance to see a game like that. But of course – probably because Michigan’s fans aren’t expected to migrate south this year (no lottery for students this year, we can buy as many tickets as we want!) – the Outback Bowl chose Iowa over Michigan, even though both teams had identical records and the Wolverines won in Iowa City.

But instead, bring on the Cornhuskers. I’m already hearing people say things along the lines of, “This year sucked, but at least we’re not Nebraska.”

Well, I’m not sure that would be so bad. In 2003, after a 9-3 regular season, Athletic Director Steve Pederson fired coach Frank Solich and hired Bill Callahan, who had just been fired by the Oakland Raiders. Pederson sensed that Nebraska might continue to be a good team under Solich but would never be great. Pederson was criticized for acting so swiftly, and people pointed to Nebraska’s struggles last year – including a 70-10 loss to Texas Tech – as proof of his cluelessness. Hiring Callahan hasn’t worked so well thus far, but it still seems to me that Pederson knew what he was doing. He didn’t play things safe; he wanted Nebraska to be the great program it once was, and he went for it.

Carr has said that, since the creation of the BCS, Big Ten titles and Rose Bowls aren’t good enough anymore, and that all anyone cares about are national championships. Well, if Carr wants people talking about Michigan again, it’d be wise to avoid San Antonio.

 

If you see Manu Ginobili in San Antonio, tell him Sharad Mattu can be reached at smattu@umich.edu.

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