Pulliam: Hoke’s job is at stake

I’m aware that I’m in enemy territory.

Being from the suburbs of Detroit and having wanted to go to the University of Michigan when I was younger, I have always had a passion for football and watching the Maize and Blue.

In other words, I really don’t like that team in Columbus.

But since joining The Vindicator sports staff, I have learned quickly that nothing can compare to the love people here have for Ohio State and its football program. Thankfully, the biggest thorn in Michigan’s side — former Ohio State coach and current Youngstown State president Jim Tressel — has moved on from coaching, at least for now.

Growing up watching Tressel-led OSU teams defeat Michigan was not easy to take. The Game was supposed to be a rivalry, a battle of two teams that hated each other.

Tressel did a magnificent job of turning it into just another win for the Buckeyes in his tenure.

Still, nothing will change my love for the team in Ann Arbor.

Brady Hoke is fighting for his job this season, no doubt.

After going 11-2 in his first year as Michigan’s head coach, he has had seasons of eight and seven wins — a record that falls short of my standards for the Wolverines.

There is one thing that can save him, though. A victory over the Buckeyes.

This year, The Game is at the Horseshoe in Columbus.

Last year at Michigan Stadium, the Wolverines almost pulled off the improbable upset of third-ranked Ohio State in a 42-41 thriller. Michigan scored a touchdown with 37 seconds left and Hoke elected to go for two. Quarterback Devin Gardner was unable to omplete his pass to wide receiver Drew Dileo and the Buckeyes held on for the win.

This year’s team will have to beat the Buckeyes for Hoke to remain head coach. Over the past couple years Michigan fans have heard about how good the younger players are and how good Hoke has done in the recruiting game.

It’s time from them to show up fpr the Wolverines.

The defense on the 7-5 team last year was one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. It did not stop many people from scoring at will. Not to be undone, the offense was streaky and didn’t play to its potential.

New this season is offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier. He spent the past two seasons with the University of Alabama. He should be able to develop Gardner and help him make better decisions. Too many times last year, Gardner forced the issue.

The thing that stands out the most is the schedule.

Realistically, the Wolverines should start the season 7-0. Anything else will be a disappointment.

The schedule features only three ranked opponents (for now) — Notre Dame, Michigan State and this region’s beloved Ohio State in the last game — and Michigan should be able to win at least one of those games.

Hoke and his team must prevail in the game against the Buckeyes. It has been way too long since the Wolverines pulled of a win against their storied rival. Yes, I know they won in 2011 but it seems like a long time because in the seven meetings before that, the rivalry was all Buckeyes.

The bottom line is this: If Hoke wants to keep his job, he needs to get his troops fired up for big games. Yes, they competed well last year against Ohio State but they looked pathetic against in-state Michigan State.

Hoke needs to do what he did in 2011, his first year as head man. He supposedly has the talent. Now he needs to get it to produce.

And although 11-2 might not be realistic with this year’s team, another win over the Buckeyes would look great on Hoke’s resume and for fans everywhere.

Even from enemy territory.

Write Vindicator sportswriter Curtis Pulliam at cpulliam@vindy.com and follow him on Twitter, @Pulliam_Vindy.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.