OK, OK - I know Michigan went 10-2 this season - took us to double overtime in The Game - and now they're headed for an Orange Bowl berth. But considering recent history - and looking ahead - perhaps a good argument could be made that it would be better for everyone involved if they left the B1G - and joined the Mid-American Conference. That is - assuming they're wanting to win a championship of some kind any time soon
You think I've lost my mind, do you? All I ask is that you hear me out - and answer the following five questions honestly before discounting the idea, outright.
If not now - when?
If they couldn't win the most recent one, perhaps they won't win "The Game" again in the foreseeable future. And being unable to beat their "rival", it's also rather unlikely they'll truly be in contention for the conference title any time soon.
Michigan currently has over forty players on their roster with senior eligibility - including both seniors and redshirt seniors. Conversely, Ohio State has over forty players on the roster with freshman eligibility - including freshmen and redshirt freshmen. The opposite extreme.
Some would suggest this is an indication of the sizable disparity in talent between the two programs. After all, if the Buckeyes had not had so many early departures to the NFL, clearly their senior class this year would have been significantly larger.
It would seem Michigan's underclassmen haven't performed well enough in recent years for early departures to be a realistic option. Otherwise, their senior class would have been smaller, too.
Also consider that while Jim Harbaugh, was deciding whether to accept the head coaching job at Michigan or not, he had a very late start on the 2015 recruiting class. Unlike his returning sophomores and incoming freshmen, his returning juniors are far from being on the same level as the elite programs (like OSU).
So the question is; if the Wolverines were unable to come away with a victory over Ohio State this season - especially, given such an enormous disparity in maturity and experience - when will they?
Would a MAC championship be a more appropriate goal for the Wolverines?
Since they're not likely to beat Ohio State any time soon - and Michigan State isn't likely to stay as down as they are right now - perhaps UM should lower their expectations a tad.
Iowa often struggles with MAC teams - but they were able to beat Michigan. Hey - is anybody 100% certain the Wolverines would have completely outclassed Western Michigan if they had played this season?
Also, keep in mind Michigan's head coach hasn't won a college championship at even the MAC level. Jim Harbaugh's only championship of any kind came during his tenure at the University of San Diego - the "Pioneer Conference" of the FCS.
A good coach? Definitely. A championship-caliber power-5 coach? Maybe not. If winning championships is his goal, the MAC may have be a more suitable stop for him. He's clearly not in Urban Meyer's class. If it didn't happen this season - with so much in his favor - it's conceivable he will never beat him.
And just think how the MAC would benefit by adding a formerly big-time program with an enormous stadium. It's a win/win situation.
What was up with that whole "Peppers thing", anyway?
For three years the college football world has been hearing how great Jabrill Peppers "is going to be". And after three years, everyone is still waiting. Few would argue Peppers is anything less than a very talented athlete. And the versatility he's shown has been remarkable.
But anyone listening to the hype surrounding him could not have been blamed for thinking he was going to be the second coming of Charles Woodson or something. Since there's probably only one game remaining in his college career, the Michigan faithful must be sorely disappointed.
Peppers has been lining up at a few defensive positions for UM this season. Mainly as a hybrid outside linebacker - but also at safety and a little bit at corner. But if he played for the Buckeyes, where would he start? Assuming he would start for the scarlet and gray at all.
At under 6'0", 210lbs - Peppers is too small to play linebacker for Ohio State. The closest equivalent to UM's hybrid strong-side linebacker is OSU's "Walk-out linebacker". Chis Worley, the Buckeyes' current starter at walk-out, is closer to 6'2, 230lbs. Darron Lee, who brought the position to national prominence before Worley, was almost exactly Worley's size. It's a prerequisite for an every-down linebacker (hybrid or not) at the elite level. Anything less, would make it virtually impossible to hold the edge vs a legit power running team.
It's also highly unlikely Peppers would start at corner for Ohio State. Both of OSU's current corners are projected as first round draft choices next April. Since even Peppers' most ardent supporters admit he has some work to do on his coverage skills, he wouldn't supplant either Gareon Conley or Marshon Lattimore at corner. For that matter, the Buckeyes' top substitute at corner, Denzel Ward, would probably be listed ahead of Peppers on Ohio State's depth chart as well.
So, that leaves safety. No one outside of Ann Arbor could even begin to think Peppers approaches Malik Hooker's ability at safety. While there may have been a possibility he could have eeked out the starting job at the other safety position, the fact remains - Jabrill Peppers would not have been one of Ohio State's top three defensive backs - possibly not one of the top four.
However, that doesn't mean Peppers couldn't have found his niche if he had played for OSU. The Buckeyes have struggled finding the right punt returner this season. That is an area where Peppers excels.
But the point is, he would hardly have been needed as a do-everything kind of player for Ohio State. For instance, he wouldn't have been needed on offense like he has been at Michigan. Who's place would he take in the backfield? Mike Weber? Curtis Samuel? I think not.
He would not have come close to superstar status at OSU. The very thought is almost laughable.
A player of Peppers' caliber could only be such an extreme standout at a less-than-elite program. Perhaps a program where he's not surrounded by other four and five-star talent. Perhaps something more along the lines of the MAC.
When is a rivalry not a rivalry?
Well, it's probably not so much of a rivalry when a team goes 0-5 over the last five years vs their supposed rival. Is that sample size too small? OK - how about eleven of the last twelve? Once one starts talking decades, it's more than a fluke - isn't it?
Remember, Michigan has to include games that were played prior to 1920 to claim the all-time lead in the series. Sure, it's something they like to do - but when one takes a look at the facts, it just seems silly.
Keep in mind, UM has shared only one national title (1997) since the 1940s. the Buckeyes have won seven of their eight national titles over that span. In fact, the Wolverines have only won one conference title in the last ten years.
How happy would Michigan fans be if they were finally able to play "Ohio" instead of Ohio State?
For years, many Wolverine fans have been referring to Ohio State as "Ohio". While that was obviously intended as some sort of slam - it loses a great deal of it's impact because there actually is an FBS team called Ohio - Ohio University. The Bobcats recently played in the MAC conference championship game, by the way.
Come to think of it, Ohio may be a more appropriate rival for Michigan, after all.