It's funny. For years, the Detroit Tigers were a lousy team. Then about ten years ago, things changed, and they became a winning team, regularly making the playoffs. But now, after four years straight finishing first, they fell apart and are now the worst team in their division.
During this time, Michigan--as regular a winner in college football since the late 60s--fell apart. The final year of Lloyd Carr then were 9-4, which used to be considered a weak season. Then coach Rich Rodriguez took over and they were 3-9--unbelievably bad for a team that hadn't had a losing season since 1967. Rodriguez then got the team up to 5-7, followed by 7-6, before he was let go. Brady Hoke took over and the team went 11-2, and it looked like they were back. Instead, they kept getting worse so that by last year, the team was under .500 again, finishing 5-7.
The season started inauspiciously with a 24-17 loss to Utah, but even then the team showed some fighting spirit. Since then, it's been four big wins, including yesterday's 28-0 defeat of Maryland. I've been burned too many times in recent years, but I'm a believer again.
The team is full of exciting players, like QB Jake Rudock, (even if he has thrown too many interceptions) and Jabrill Peppers. But Michigan has always had great recruiting. The trick is--thanks to Harbaugh, I assume--they're finally playing like a team.
Now that they're back, I think this team may be worthy of the top twenty, but top ten? Not yet. Still, for better or worse, they'll soon be tested (which is why I need to write this now). The Big Ten is the toughest conference in college football, and next week they're going up against an undefeated Northwestern ("undefeated Northwestern"--a phrase you didn't hear much in the 70s or 80s.) The week after, they'll play a top five team, nemesis Michigan State. That'll be something.
I'll be surprised if they get through both games unscathed, but if they did, it would be amazing. It would likely mean final game against arch enemy Ohio State could be another classic, like the old days. Hasn't been for a long time.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. One week at a time.