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It’s hard to tell the exact moment the doctor pulled the sheet over the face of modern Michigan football and announced it DOA.
Some would say it was the botched courtship of Les Miles-turned-hiring of Rich Rodriguez. Others would say it was that first losing season since Lyndon Johnson was in office, the 3-9 year.
Others would say it was that fateful week in 2006 when Michigan lost Bo Schembechler and then an unbeaten season to Ohio State for the right to play for the BCS championship.
But it could have been 2007, an otherwise nondescript opening season game against some FCS school named after a mountain range. Appalachian State shocked top 5-ranked Michigan and sent shockwaves of endless joke cracking from every corner of college football nation with that win.
And back again they come.
Michigan – Appalachian State part deux isn’t exactly one of the higher profile games of the weekend. On top of that, every single player on Michigan’s roster was either in high school or middle school when the first contest turned the college football world on its ear.
Since then, FCS schools toppling FBS ones has become, while not necessarily accepted, a lot more commonplace. James Madison defeated Virginia Tech. Georgia Southern took out Florida. We still turn our heads, but it isn’t with the awe-inspired gaze that once existed.
For Michigan’s program, though, this is a demon-exorcising game no matter how much things have changed… sort of the way those three dudes in Office Space took to the copy machine out in the field because if nothing else, it released tension.
Going into this game, Michigan’s in a weird place. Early signs indicate that the players have enjoyed Doug Nussmeier’s offensive system as a little easier to grasp than that of Al Borges.
There may be no more difficult program in the nation to predict this season. Blue, as always, has the talent to be anywhere in the top 25 it wants to be. However, on so many occasions in recent years, the full potential of that talent hasn’t been realized and it could end up much farther from the top than anticipated.
The B1G East is an an odd place, too. Short of Michigan State, no one really knows what they’re going to get out of the remainder of the division. Ohio State suddenly has major questions it didn’t face three weeks ago. Penn State ushers in a new era. No one knows how Maryland and Rutgers will acclimate to their new digs.
It could be a springboard season for the Maize and Blue, the likes of which the program has been waiting for since Lloyd Carr exited stage left with an inspired win over Tim Tebow, Urban Meyer, and the Florida Gators that same fateful season that started off going belly-up against Appalachian State.
Since then, the signs of life have been sparse and, ultimately, not nearly as frequent as the program would prefer.
This time around, there is no Armanti Edwards to shuffle in and out of Michigan’s defense like he was Vince Young For A Day. There are no Chad Hennes, Mike Harts, or Jake Longs. In their place is Devin Gardner, a highly touted recruit at the time; Derrick Green, who was a tween; and a Michigan roster that probably hadn’t much thought about playing in the Big House yet.
Michigan will likely win this time around and even the score against the now-FBS school. It could be a springboard to something big for the Wolverines, a simple exorcism of a once-dark afternoon, or as they’ll say when they win, “just another game.”
However, for a program looking for a fresh injection of good vibes and a real chance to have a special season, kicking around a few demons of the past would be a decent place to start.