COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Greetings from the 107th edition of The Game.
Ohio State's recent dominance has removed a bit of the luster from this series, but it's still the greatest rivalry in college sports. Despite a bone-chilling wind outside The Shoe, tailgaters are everywhere, and I saw no acts of violence against the Michigan faithful on the way to the press box.
The Buckeyes aim for their seventh consecutive victory against Michigan, which would mark the longest win streak in the series since Michigan captured nine straight between 1901-1909. Ohio State already has become the first team in Big Ten history to win 10 or more games in six consecutive seasons, and today the Buckeyes can tie a record with their sixth consecutive Big Ten championship. They still likely will need Wisconsin to lose to Northwestern to secure a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Michigan is going bowling for the first time in three seasons, but will it be enough to save coach Rich Rodriguez's job? There was a lot of buzz after last week's loss to Wisconsin that Rodriguez could be fired if Michigan falls to Ohio State, especially if the loss comes in embarrassing fashion. Although Michigan has improved its win total each season under Rodriguez and the offense has clearly made strides this season, has the overall program truly made progress? When it comes to beating the Big Ten's best, the answer is no.
From ESPN Stats & Info:
Under Rodriguez, Michigan is 0-11 against Big Ten opponents that finished with a winning conference record (including Michigan State and Iowa this season). In fact, Michigan's six conference wins under Rodriguez have come against teams that are a combined 13-33 in Big Ten play.
The Detroit News' Lynn Henning examines the progress problem and writes that in order to protect the Michigan brand, athletic director Dave Brandon can make a change. If you believe Brandon's Twitter page, a change isn't imminent. The AD tweeted Wednesday: "Heard about a 'rumor' re: some 'big announcement' on Monday regarding M-Football. Add it to the rumor rubbish pile! Happy Thanksgiving!"
My take: it's all about timing, and if Michigan can land the red-hot Jim Harbaugh now, it might be worth a coaching change. Michigan shouldn't dump Rodriguez to do a national search. I still think Rodriguez can turn this thing around after overhauling his defensive staff. But if Brandon deems a change is necessary to protect the Michigan brand, he had better be sure he can bring Harbaugh to Ann Arbor.
Needless to say, there's a lot on the line for both teams today.
That's it for now, but don't go anywhere. I'll have plenty more from The Game, and I'll be keeping my eye on the rest of the league as well.