Michigan looking to salvage season in Alamo Bowl

Updated: December 14, 2005, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A year ago, the Michigan football team spent its holiday break preparing to play in its second straight Rose Bowl against a nationally ranked opponent.

But next week, the Wolverines will leave for San Antonio, where they will make their first December postseason appearance in 10 years -- well removed from college football's brightest spotlight and well out of the hunt for a national title.

Michigan (7-4) faces Nebraska in the Mastercard Alamo Bowl Dec. 28 and the team is hoping to salvage what, in Michigan football terms, has been a disappointing season that culminated in a 25-21 loss to rival Ohio State.

It still feels the same. It still feels like a January bowl, it's just a couple days early. Are we disappointed? No. Disappointment is Tennessee. They're not going to a bowl game.
Michigan outside linebacker Pierre Woods

A victory, Michigan players said Wednesday, would allow the Wolverines to finish the year on a positive note, and to avoid becoming the first Michigan team since 1984 to finish a season with five or more losses. Bo Schembechler's 1984 squad finished the year 6-6 after dropping a 24-17 Holiday Bowl decision to Brigham Young.

This year, Michigan accepted an Alamo Bowl invitation after Outback Bowl officials chose to invite Iowa to its Jan. 2 game even though the Wolverines finished with the same record as the Hawkeyes and won the regular-season meeting between the two teams.

"We get what we deserve," sophomore quarterback Chad Henne said. "We definitely don't want to go down with a loss. Nobody wants to have five losses. I don't know how long it's been since a team here has had five losses and we don't want to be that team."

Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said Wednesday that the process that landed his team in San Antonio rather than Tampa had caused him to rethink his position on a playoff system that would determine college football's national champion.

"You have the [conference] commissioners, the bowl people, the TV people doing the [bowl] scheduling," Carr said. "I think it's only fair to the players that what happens on the field should dictate where you play. I never thought I would say this, but I think we should go to a playoff and do it on the field. I think that's only fair to the guys that play the game.

"The bowl games have always been a reward for what you do in the season. When you choose teams based on their ability to sell more tickets or fill more hotel rooms, I think that's unacceptable."

Players on Wednesday downplayed Michigan's nine-year January bowl run coming to an end, stressing instead the importance of playing well against Nebraska and laying the foundation for next season. A bowl victory is a bowl victory, players said, moving past the disappointment of being overlooked for a trip to Tampa's Outback Bowl.

The last time Michigan failed to earn a January bowl berth came in Carr's first year at Michigan when the Wolverines lost to Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl following the 1995 season.

"It still feels the same. It still feels like a January bowl, it's just a couple days early," senior outside linebacker Pierre Woods said. "Are we disappointed? No. Disappointment is Tennessee. They're not going to a bowl game."

Michigan has practiced three times in preparation for its game with Nebraska and will practice five more times before leaving for San Antonio late next week.

Like his players, Carr expressed excitement in facing Nebraska regardless of the date and location of the bowl game. Michigan has played in each of the last two Rose Bowls, losing to Southern California and Texas.

"It's different because we'll be coming home earlier," Carr said. "But from the standpoint of being able to play a game, it doesn't matter if you're going to play in a parking lot, it doesn't matter where you're going to play. It doesn't matter who's there. It's an opportunity to play."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press