Michigan, Notre Dame falling on hard times

No sport induces panic quite like college football, where one loss creates a crisis and two can be catastrophic. At Michigan and Notre Dame, the first two weeks of the season have caused quite a calamity.

The Wolverines can’t stop anybody. Their quarterback is hurt. Their star running back is guaranteeing victories. Their coach is under fire.

“There is nothing that can keep me down,” Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said after Saturday’s 39-7 loss to Oregon. “Not a loss to Appalachian State. Not a loss to Oregon. Not 100 losses. And, not the loss of my job. I think the same thing can be said for our team.”

The Fighting Irish have struggled to make first downs and turned to a freshman quarterback to solve the problems – the biggest of which is zero offensive touchdowns in two games. Coach Charlie Weis doesn’t want to call it a rebuilding year, though if it’s not than the Irish really are in big trouble.

On Saturday in the Big House, the plights of Notre Dame and Michigan intersect. For the winner there will be hope and the prospect of salvaging a season. For the loser, panic turns to despair.

For just a moment, though, let’s put aside the panic and irrationality that comes with it and put to the problems in perspective.

Let’s start with Michigan.

For the first 11 weeks of last season, the Wolverines appeared to be going through a renaissance of sorts. Michigan was undefeated. New defensive coordinator Ron English was being credited with injecting some desperately needed passion into the Wolverines. Carr, often criticized for being too set in his ways, was praised for giving the program a needed jolt of change.

Then Michigan lost to Ohio State for the third consecutive season and lost the Rose Bowl for the third time in four seasons and a great season was tarnished.

The good news was there was plenty of hope heading into 2007 with the return of quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart and offensive tackle Jake Long.