CHICAGO – It’s supposed to be a happy gathering of coaches eager to get started for the upcoming season, but sometimes things do not go accordingly to plan – especially when not everyone has finished the previous season on a winning note.
That proved to be the case when Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr took to the podium at the annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. Speaking to national media members, the 62-year-old coach entering his 13th season as the head man for the Wolverines was confronted with his team’s recent struggles to close out seasons.
In Michigan’s last three seasons, the Wolverines have dropped the final two games of the season. Carr was asked what plans he might have in place to prevent that from happening this season.
Carr was terse in his reply: “We’ll do our best to win every game we play. That’s always our goal.”
In his 12 seasons, Carr is 5-7 in bowl games. The longest winless streak the Wolverines have endured in bowl games was seven games, stretching from 1970-1979.
With a different group of players set to anchor this season’s offense, it stands to reason there will be some significant changes for the Buckeyes. The team’s 2007 media guide hints at that fact as well.
Last season, OSU’s depth chart always featured three receivers. Typically, they were Ted Ginn Jr., Anthony Gonzalez and Brian Robiskie.
This year, the Buckeyes’ depth chart has just two spots for wide receivers. The starters are listed as Robiskie and Brian Hartline.
“I think probably 70 percent of the time, maybe 75 percent of the time this past year we had three or more receivers in the game,” Tressel said during spring football. “Will it be exactly that this fall? I don’t know.”
The first hint appears to be that the Buckeyes will be more reliant upon the ground game this season, then.
Blame The Computer
Owing to the fact that the Big Ten has 11 teams and eight scheduled conference games a season, the conference schedule is rotated on an annual basis. As a result, Ohio State did not have to face Wisconsin or Purdue in either of the previous two seasons.
That will change this season, as the Buckeyes will face the Boilermakers under the lights in week six and host the Badgers in week 10. The Wisconsin game will be one of three key games for the Buckeyes in the final four weeks of the season, but it will be part of the most difficult two weeks on the calendar for the Badgers.
November 3: at Ohio State. November 10: home vs. Michigan.
“A year ago, we didn’t have the opportunity to play Ohio State,” second-year Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “It was just something about the way it all panned out, but I would love to see the computer that spit out that we would have to play Ohio State and Michigan back to back. That’s a nice blind draw.”
Last season, Wisconsin was defeated by Michigan, 27-13, in week four. The last time the Badgers faced the Buckeyes, they emerged with a 24-13 victory in Ohio Stadium.
All In The Family
The Big Ten welcomes two new coaches this season in Indiana’s Bill Lynch and Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, but the latter is no stranger to some of the league’s coaches. A former defensive coordinator under Tressel, Dantonio was hired from Cincinnati as the replacement for John L. Smith in East Lansing and was in attendance for his first Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon.
Tressel said he believes the addition of his former staff member will make the conference stronger – but he is not necessarily excited to face his team.
“I didn’t enjoy it when we played them when they were at Cincinnati, quite honestly, because two-thirds of the guys on his coaching staff were guys that I either coached or coached with us or were related to or whatever it happens to be,” he said. “Those aren’t as fun, (having) worked side by side with them.”
Dantonio, however, has stated that he will use the Michigan program as a model he will use as he attempts to build his own, to which Carr said he will take as a compliment.
“I think any time a statement like that is made, it’s a tribute to your program and certainly we take that as such,” he said. “We’ll just make sure that we try to make sure they don’t beat us any time, but I think that’s a compliment.”