Seattle Michigan looks bad and wins. Then, for 59 minutes, looks really good and loses.
So, what do we now know about these Wolverines?
First and foremost, this team is not good enough to overcome big mistakes, unlike last year”s team.
Last year”s team had multiple big-play threats capable of scoring at any time. This year”s team, with the exception of receiver Marquise Walker, lacks a home run threat.
But that isn”t this team”s persona. These Wolverines won”t fall behind 14 or 17 points against Illinois and still win. Then again, this year”s team probably won”t fall behind 14 to begin with.
On Saturday, these Wolverines proved that they are a good team, one capable of winning another Big Ten title.
While that is not surprising to the players and coaches, there were some who did not think quarterback John Navarre could regain his poise and control after starting slowly against a highly-ranked defense, or that Michigan”s defense could dictate the tone of a game the way it did. Nor did many think that Michigan”s return game could make a major impact. All of these things happened.
Obviously it”s disappointing when a team does all of the things it needs to win yet loses. But it”s like Humphrey Bogart said in Casablanca when asked if a handshake agreement was good enough. It”s not good enough, but it”ll have to do.
Losses like Saturday”s happen from time to time sometimes you fail a test that you”re prepared to ace. That doesn”t mean that you deserve to fail the test or that you won”t ace the next one.
More often than not, the team that plays best wins and make no mistake about it, Michigan outplayed Washington. This should be apparent to those who saw the game, as even Washington coach Rick Neuheisel used the word “lucky” to describe his team”s win.
If Michigan continues to play as well as it did Saturday, they will play in the Bowl Championship Series, likely the Orange Bowl, which had committee members at the Washington game.
The reality is that a BCS bid would be a great accomplishment for this team. While it talked about returning to the Rose Bowl something Michigan hasn”t done in four years, the reality is that this team is not one of the two best teams in the country, so the Rose Bowl home of the BCS Championship game was never much of a possibility.
If this team finds a way to win the Big Ten crown, coach Lloyd Carr will have once again gotten the most out of his team.
While no loss is a good loss, this loss probably will not affect where Michigan spends its holiday season. Keep in mind, only five visitors have come in to Husky Stadium and beaten the 13th-ranked Huskies in their last 48 games, so this was not a bad loss, in fact Michigan was the underdog heading into the game.
The Big Ten champion receives an automatic BCS bid, regardless of how many losses it has.
Just ask last year”s four-loss Purdue team, who played in the Rose Bowl.
There”s no reason to think this year”s team can”t do the same.
Defensively, with the exception of back Todd Howard, the Wolverines were very, very good. The line consistently applied pressure and closed gaps, the linebackers played as well as any linebackers in the country, and even the defensive backs weren”t their normal, putrid selves.
What”s more, it appears that Michigan might finally have an up-and-coming cornerback to replace Charles Woodson something that has yet to be done in three seasons in freshman Marlin Jackson.
Will the defense continue to play this well? Who knows.
Remember, last year”s defense pitched back-to-back shutouts.
The offense, again, at times mixed up the run and pass really well, keeping the opposing defense guessing, and if Walker continues playing the way he did Saturday, and if Julius Curry continues putting the offense in good field position by returning punts, another problem that Michigan has yet to solve since Woodson”s departure, this is will be a Top 10 team by season”s end.
If these things happen, there”s not a team on the schedule that will beat Michigan.
Raphael Goodstein can be reached at email@example.com