Mike Hlas is an award-winning columnist with the Cedar Rapids Gazette and force behind The Hlog. Each week he will break down the biggest mismatches in college football. Considering the increasing number of Bowl Championship Series teams tanking at this point in the season, Mike's task is more challenging than trying to get Joe the Plumber to show at a campaign rally.
The Motor City Bowl had a dream.
Finally, Michigan's football team had enough of the wrong stuff to have a 6-6 season and drop all the way in the Big Ten's bowl pecking order to its last affiliation, the fabulous Motor City Bowl on Dec. 26 in downtown Detroit.
"We'd love to have them," Motor City Bowl founder and CEO George Perles said last week. That was three days before the Wolverines played Michigan State in Ann Arbor, three days before the team Perles coached for 12 seasons beat Michigan, 35-21.
Now Michigan is 2-6, and needs to sweep its final four games to get to 6-6 and play against a Mid-American Conference team at Ford Field. It won't happen.
Why? Because the Wolverines still have to play Ohio State. And Minnesota. And Northwestern.
And, oh yeah, Purdue. Michigan is at Purdue Saturday in a previously inconceivable meeting of 2-6 teams with the two worst scoring offenses in the Big Ten.
That's right. Purdue and Michigan. Bad teams. Bad offenses. Bad, bad, bad season.
Michigan has lost at home to Utah and Toledo. Had that happened while Bo Schembechler was coaching the Wolverines, he'd have made them run all the way from Ann Arbor to the Upper Peninsula and back.
Michigan shoved Lloyd Carr out the door because the Wolverines just couldn't quite get over some imaginary hurdle while he was coach. His offense was stale, his personality bland. You don't know what you've got till it's gone.
Oh, for the days of Carr and winning Big Ten titles. The first Rich Rodriguez season has been an abject disaster. His spread offense has been spread into mulch so far. Michigan is averaging a league-low 18.9 points per game. Last year it averaged 27.2 points.
Purdue, which has lost five straight to the Wolverines, is doing no gloating. Had Joe Tiller known what kind of send-off his Boilermakers would have given him this year, he'd have joined Carr in retirement last winter.
The Boilers went to bowls in 10 of Tiller's first 11 seasons as coach. But his squad has dropped from 34.3 points a game last season to 20.3 points this year. It has one win against a I-A foe, and that was a 32-25 decision over Central Michigan.
Purdue has scored six points or less in three of its last four games. That is Purdue. The home of Tiller's basketball on grass. The offense that revolutionized offense in the Big Ten and made defensive coordinators cuckoo. The attack that spawned NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Kyle Orton.
Now it's a team playing out the string for a coach playing out the string.
The loser of this game is out of Motor City Bowl contention, while the winner gets another week or two to consider the possibility before succumbing to a losing season.
Look elsewhere, George Perles. Look toward Evanston. Northwestern could lose its four remaining games to finish 6-6 and bring 66 fans to Detroit the day after Christmas.
Which reminds us: The Game of the Weak for Dec. 26 is already set, no matter the matchup.