OUTBACK BOWL Tenth win important to Michigan tradition
The Wolverines take on Florida today in Tampa, Fla.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Ten wins. Four losses.
The first is a universally recognized symbol of success in college football. The second, especially at a place like Michigan, is the epitome of mediocrity.
The 12th-ranked Wolverines (9-3) will define their season today when they play No. 22 Florida (8-4) in the Outback Bowl. It's either 10 wins or four losses for Michigan, and given that program's tradition-filled past, there is a big difference.
"The real difference?" coach Lloyd Carr said. "I'll leave that up to you. But it's double digits, and I think it's significant."
The Wolverines got through quarterback John Navarre's early struggles along with a banged-up offensive line that didn't open many holes for runners Chris Perry and B.J. Askew.
Early losses hurt
Michigan lost 25-23 to Notre Dame in September, then saw its hopes for a Big Ten title plummet with a 34-9 loss to Iowa, the worst Wolverine loss in the Big House since 1967.
A 14-9 loss to Ohio State came later, even though Michigan played well. With that, the Wolverines found themselves on the cusp of four losses.
When it comes to losses, four has never really been acceptable at Michigan, increasingly dreaded from 1993-96 when Carr and his predecessor, Gary Moeller, strung together four straight four-loss seasons.
Were they awful years? No. But it's just not what fans expect at a university that has won 40 conference titles, has finished atop the AP poll three times -- the last in 1997 -- and ranks first in the country among Division I-A teams with 822 all-time victories.
In reality, 10 wins is more of the measuring stick.
"It's the measurement of greatness at Michigan," tight end Bennie Joppru said. "To be 9-4 doesn't cut it. To be 10-3, with a 10-win season, that puts you over the hump and that's what we've been looking for all season long, 10 wins."