ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Before Michigan even played one second Saturday against Ohio State, its season had been a failure in the eyes of Wolverines coach Brady Hoke. Never mind that a BCS berth, at that point, was still in play. So was a 10-win season and a second consecutive win over Ohio State.
His barometer for success or failure -- whether a realistic world view or not -- is measured in Big Ten championships. So when Nebraska beat Iowa on Friday, clinching the Big Ten championship game berth the Wolverines hoped would be their own, the demarcation line was set.
Win or lose Saturday, Hoke would have publicly deemed the year not good enough. He did the same last season, when Michigan won 11 games and the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Then, his declaration was a bit unrealistic.
This season, if he again chooses to deem the season a failure, he might have more of an argument.
The Wolverines were always going to be judged by how they played away from Ann Arbor this season. That was where their four toughest opponents -- Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State -- would be played. And Michigan went 0-4 in those games against teams with a combined 45-3 record, potentially three slots in BCS games and depending what happens in the SEC championship game this weekend, both slots in the national championship game.
And depending what happens in said national championship game, perhaps two of those losses would come to both halves of a split national championship.
This showed Michigan was not elite, especially considering only one of the eight teams the Wolverines have beaten -- Northwestern, which the Wolverines were a Roy Roundtree tipped pass from losing to -- has more than eight wins.
So where do the Wolverines go from here? Almost definitely to a New Year's Day bowl against an SEC team -- likely a team residing among the top 10 teams in the country. So they will have one more chance to knock off one of the best teams in the country away from Michigan.
That is the solace the Wolverines must take in this season, because under Hoke's definition and likely all of their own, this season will be deemed an unsuccessful one. So Michigan will have to shrug off what happened -- if it can -- and move on.
"Well, we're going to meet Monday at four o'clock," Hoke said. "And move forward."
After Michigan beat Michigan State, its one rivalry win this season, the Wolverines all insisted they had more to play for than merely beating the Spartans for the first time in five years.
They said it over and over again, that a win over Michigan State was nice but there was more to play for. At the time, much seemed possible for Michigan. A Rose Bowl berth was in play. So was an unbeaten Big Ten season and a BCS berth.
All of those are gone now, and Michigan will be home until New Year's Day. Yet Michigan still has something to play for, just not nearly as much as it planned to at the start of the season.
Now, the Wolverines can look to the end of this season as a potential to begin the transition into the next one.