Michigan football team starts fast again, trying to avoid another 'embarrassing' finish
Michigan football coach Brady Hoke likes to say championships are won in November.
In the past three years, the Wolverines were 3-8 in that month. They actually were worse in October, going 1-11 against FBS teams. All told, the Wolverines are 6-18 the past three years in Big Ten play.
That's embarrassing, right?
AnnArbor.com file photo
Michigan is 4-0 and ranked 19th in the country after handling each of its non-league opponents. Its road to Big Ten redemption begins Saturday against Minnesota (noon, BTN).
Most teams would take pride in a 4-0 start, but the Wolverines are not; which makes sense, considering they were 4-0 two years ago, 5-0 last year, then finished those seasons a combined 2-12 against FBS teams.
"You can see our record against Big Ten opponents, and it hasn't been anywhere close to where it need to be," Van Bergen said. "Who cares about being 4-0 in non-conference? Yeah, it'd be great to be 4-0 rather than 0-4, but it doesn't matter once you start Big Ten.
"I'm glad that everyone's riding high on 4-0, (but) no one on our team thinks we're a good team, as far as where we could be."
So, the challenge becomes reversing that trend. Can they do it?
That process began with a recent seniors meeting, which posed that very question. The seniors also plan to meet with the team.
"Making them realize, 'OK, we won four games, but it doesn't matter anymore because now we're into the Big Ten,'" senior captain and center David Molk said of the meeting. "It's not just looking at what our strengths are, it's understanding our weaknesses."One weakness was the team's sluggish workouts early in the practice week. Tuesdays, at times, have been a real problem in terms of sharpness and intensity.
Seniors Junior Hemingway and Mike Martin cited those practices as a possible source of their slow starts in games. They challenged the team last week to pick it up -- and they did, responding with their best practice week of the year.
In turn, the team responded last Saturday with its best start of the year in a 28-7 drubbing of San Diego State.
"It was complete opposites when it came down to the Eastern Michigan game and San Diego State game, as far as how we prepared and the intensity," Van Bergen said.
The intensity of practices is expected to heighten even further with the arrival of league play.
"(Every returner) who is on this team has been 4-0 at one point, and everybody realizes that doesn't mean anything once you get into the Big Ten schedule," Van Bergen said. "Coach Hoke says championships are won in November, and our November record's not very good.
"What we do in the next two months is what's going to be remembered of our team — forever — and that's all we have left as seniors."