August 16, 2011
Whatever else you have to say about Brady Hoke, you have to give him this: The man knows what time it is. He's kind of obsessed with it, actually. Almost immediately upon his arrival at Michigan in January, he had a clock installed counting down the minutes until the Wolverines' Nov. 26 date with hated Ohio State; then he added another one for their Oct. 15 trip to Michigan State. Over the weekend, reporters at Michigan's media day got their first look at the one that counts up:
(The Associated Press has a wider angle.) For the record, the official count is now up to 2,824 days since Michigan last beat the Buckeyes on Nov. 22, 2003, according to the long-running tally at the Columbus Dispatch. A graduate assistant is responsible for keeping it up to date. And no, of course the sign's not referring to that Ohio, it's just … well, it's just weird.
As motivation, it's nothing revolutionary. (Personally, I'd be a lot angrier after spending nine months staring at this quote by Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.) But Hoke does have a better chance of bringing that streak to an end than his beleaguered predecessor ever did — in part because he inherits a veteran lineup that's in dramatically better shape than the tumbleweed-strewn roster Rich Rodriguez inherited in 2008, and in larger part because his arrival also coincides with the ongoing disintegration of the regime to the south. Ohio State will roll into Ann Arbor with both of Rodriguez's chief tormenters, Jim Tressel and Terrelle Pryor, having already been excommunicated for major NCAA violations, and possibly with no postseason goals at stake if the NCAA is feeling particularly vindictive in its forthcoming verdict.
If the emergency coach and/or quarterback transplants don't take, the Buckeyes' streak in the rivalry is in serious jeopardy for the first time since the epic 1 vs. 2 showdown in Columbus in 2006, and Hoke stands a real chance of reaping the credit as the hero who finally cast off the yoke of a decade of humiliation. Whether or not his "toughness/tradition" rhetoric or various rivalry-driven foibles actually have anything to do with it, at least you can't accuse him of not having his eye on the prize.