ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The questions coming Lloyd Carr's way -- about Ohio State, and about his future as Michigan coach -- seemed split down the middle. And rightfully so, because the story lines are intertwined.
It's apparent there is more on the line for Carr than a trip to the Rose Bowl as the lead-up to the Wolverines' annual game against the rival Buckeyes on Saturday approaches full throttle.
In some quarters, there is a widely held belief that this is Carr's last season, and the importance of the game for his legacy is apparent.
The game doesn't have as much national impact as it did just a week ago, but it's still one of the biggest of Carr's career.
Carr has consistently dodged questions about next year, saying
it would be hypocritical if he answered them, and did so again when
the topic was broached Monday.
"The only thing on my mind is this game," Carr said, after laughing, during his
weekly news conference Monday.
At this point Michigan, which started the season with losses to Appalachian
State and Oregon and lost its first conference game to Wisconsin
last week, would gladly accept a trip to Pasadena in January.
If Michigan (8-3, 6-1 Big Ten, No. 21 BCS, No. 23 AP) loses at home,
Carr will become the first coach in school history to go 1-6 over a
seven-year stretch against No. 7 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1).
Signs have been pointing toward this being the 62-year-old's
13th and final year. Carr altered his contract last December,
allowing him to easily make this his final season as coach and
still collect deferred compensation. In March, his assistant
coaches were given two-year deals to pay them through Feb. 28,
2009, even if they are not coaching at Michigan.
Carr also wasn't interested in talking about his record against
Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel on Monday. He did look and sound like he was in a good mood as a
week of hype leading up to one of sport's greatest rivalries kicked off.
If Ohio State wins for the fourth straight year and sixth time
since Tressel took over in 2001, it will win the conference
championship outright and likely land in the Rose Bowl.
Playing for a trip to Pasadena is a step down for Ohio State, which
until last week's 28-21 Big Ten loss to Illinois was the front
runner to play in the BCS championship game.
Michigan opened the season ranked fifth in The Associated Press Top 25 but quickly fell out of the national championship discussion. Since becoming head coach in 1995, Carr is 121-39 and 81-22 in
the Big Ten. He has won five Big Ten titles, one national title and led the Wolverines to a bowl game every season.
Many others, however, have been talking about his possible
successor for months, if not years.
LSU coach Les Miles seems to be at the top of the list because
he played for the late Bo Schembechler at Michigan. That is where
Miles met his wife, and he was an assistant there under
Even though Miles appears to be in a great situation leading the
top-ranked Tigers in a talent-rich area of the country, the school
seemed concerned enough about him bolting for Ann Arbor that it put
a specific clause in his contract to make it an expensive move.
In the "termination by coach" section of his deal, Michigan is
the only other school mentioned. It states that Miles will not seek
or accept employment as Michigan's coach. If Miles does leave LSU
to coach the Wolverines, he must pay LSU $1.25 million.
Michigan's players, meanwhile, are focused on beating the
Buckeyes for Carr.
"We want to win it for him," defensive tackle Will Johnson
said. "He's taken a lot of criticism. That's his job as a coach,
but we represent him."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.