Big Blue Reborn

As the calendar moves closer toward the month of November, college football is gearing up for a frantic sprint to the finish. One of the most anticipated games of that month will be the November 18th showdown between bitter rivals, Ohio State and Michigan.

At this time, both schools are undefeated and appear to be picking up steam and momentum. Ohio State went down to Texas and defeated the Longhorns 24-7 early in the season and has since passed every "test" that has been placed in front of them. Michigan used a 47-21 demolition of Notre Dame as its "coming-out" party. After a 2005 season which saw Michigan lose to Ohio State and Nebraska to end the season, the Notre Dame victory was surely needed to keep Michigan in the nation's eye for the right reasons.

That team was slowed by injuries on both sides of the ball as RB Michael Hart and DE Rondell Biggs missed significant time. While the loss of Hart allowed for the development of other offensive playmakers such as sophomore RB Kevin Grady and sophomore WR Mario Manningham, the loss of Biggs placed more pressure on the defense which looked worn down by season's end.

Both players have returned this season and Michigan is reaping the benefits. Hart has returned and run for 906 rushing yards, while adding six touchdowns. This has opened up passing lanes which has permitted Manningham, currently slowed by a knee injury, to catch 24 passes for 527 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Grady is also making a contribution with 164 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Despite improvements made by the offense, the defense has really come to play and it has made a difference. In Michigan's last game against Penn State, a 17-10 victory, the defense had seven sacks, while injuring Penn State's top two quarterbacks. The aforementioned Biggs contributed two sacks while fellow DE Lamar Woodley contributed 2.5 sacks. The defense is continuing its trend of not allowing more than 20 points, as only one team has scored that (Notre Dame) and even that game was a decisive victory for the Wolverines.

With four more games until the showdown with the Buckeyes, the Wolverines must stay focused on their goal. They have a really tough game against Iowa this weekend, but even that is a home game for Michigan. If both teams win out, then once again this season will see a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup (sorry, USC). In the latest version of this matchup, it went to the No. 1 team (Ohio State over Texas).

Being a Michigan fan, it has hurt me to see the program not consistently be on the national stage in the past few years, but this year seems to be different. This team seems to have all the playmakers it needs on both sides of the ball. But as every Michigan fan, alum, etc. knows, the season doesn't matter unless you defeat the hated Buckeyes.

With key players returning from injuries and younger players continuing their development, the Wolverines are putting themselves in prime position to make their annual rivalry with Ohio State matter on the national stage and with the winner probably earning a spot in the BCS title. Here's my vote for Big Blue to continue their rebirth.

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