Cus Words: When The Music's Over...

After watching Ohio State smack around Michigan yet again, the author has decided the time is right for a change at the top of the Wolverine football program. The 107th edition of The Game has us thinking of The Doors: "When the music's over... turn out the lights."

What we learned this week: Rich Rodriguez needs to be fired if Michigan wants to move forward as a football program.

I'm not sure the Wolverines will ever be back to the elite status they once enjoyed, but I cannot see how an athletics director who didn't hire him anyway can put up with the embarrassing show Rodriguez's club put on Saturday at Ohio Stadium.

Michigan commits too many mistakes and is too fundamentally unsound for me to believe there will be long-term success there.

I've seen the arguments that firing him now would ruin what could be a special year in 2011. I disagree.

Even before his team bumbled its way through 60 minutes of football this past week, I thought that was flawed thinking. Now I believe the progress made this season is not even as significant as it once appeared.

I've seen arguments that the offense will be good enough to compete for the Big Ten championship next season and the defense can't possibly be any worse based on the youth and injuries, and there could be some truth to that, but I still see three sure losses on the Wolverines' 2011 schedule.

Michigan can't beat Ohio State, Michigan State or Nebraska next season. That means at best the Wolverines could win nine games - with the quality of teams Notre Dame, Iowa and Illinois will be very much up in the air - and still have a coach who hasn't proven he knows what he's doing at the Big Ten level.

Would firing bring about a worse record next year? Quite possibly. It certainly puts into question what becomes of the team's best player, although there are still ways to use Denard Robinson even If he is not playing the position that passes for quarterback in Rodriguez's system.

Tate Forcier or Devin Gardner could run a more "pro-style" spread offense that would still take advantage of the small, quick skill players Rodriguez has been collecting and an offensive line that is more athletic than powerful. Plus there is a promising big tailback in Stephen Hopkins who could fit into more than one type of scheme, so that could mitigate the damage on offense even if it would not be a perfect fit immediately.

One way or another it would seem to reason the defensive staff will be new next season, but the problems there seem to have as much to do Rodriguez's philosophy as they do the work of the defensive coaches, so I'm not sure how much difference a change there would make if it is not at the top.

The bottom line for me is any time a coach gets called up to the big time, and make no mistake, there's a huge difference between the top of the Big Ten and the top of the Big East, the biggest question involves recruiting.

Smart coaches - a group that may or may not include Rodriguez - will look pretty bad if they can't recruit with the best of the best for the top athletes in the region and the country, and there is no indication Rodriguez can function successfully in that rare air. I don't believe he can, and I have seen him pursue enough players that don't seem to fit the Big Ten mold that I've concluded he doesn't even know what he's doing wrong.

I never saw this as a long-term fit, but even the prospect of more success next season should not stop Michigan from realizing it has a situation that isn't going to work by the time all is said and done.

The Wolverines are 15-21 under Rodriguez, a bad enough record on its face that looks even worse when you consider it includes a combined record of 1-13 against Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin, and the majority of those games have not been competitive.

If the folks in charge at Michigan are smart, they should make like Domino's pizza and start over again as soon as possible.

What we can expect to learn this week: Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the Buckeyes' next opponent.

I know nothing has the cache of the Rose Bowl, but I see Ohio State with more to gain if a Sugar Bowl matchup with an SEC team materializes, as has been speculated.

The Buckeyes blew their chance to play for a national title in an overall down year by going to Madison unprepared to play a fired up group of Badgers in October, so the next-best thing they can do for the health of the program's reputation is slay a Southern team for once.

It would certainly be more impactful long term than beating TCU, a team about which many are on the fence in terms of overall talent level.

Let Wisconsin tangle with the Horned Frogs. If styles make fights, that should be an interesting one with the speedy TCU defense matching up against the powerful Badger offense.

I have a bit of sympathy for Michigan State - though not too much because the Spartans have no one to blame for themselves for the egg they laid in Iowa City - but that team's fate also figures to be a positive development for the Big Ten as for once the conference's No. 3 bowl team is a powerful outfit that should be favored in a New Year's Day game against another SEC team.

All-Buckeye Beaters: Robinson popped loose a couple of times, but a costly fumble (on a hit that should not result in one) and some dislocated fingers cost him consideration among the players who gave Ohio State the most problems this year.

In fact, I'm not choosing any Michigan offensive players after the Buckeye held that unit to just seven points, less than half their worst output of the year. Ohio State exposed the Michigan offensive line, and Roy Roundtree scuttled what could have been a big day by dropping multiple passes.

On defense, the clear standout was defensive end Ryan Van Bergen, who had a sack and three tackles for loss among his five solo stops. Linebacker Jonas Mouton, who stood out in the 2008 contest at Ohio Stadium, gets a shoutout here as well for his nine tackles and a forced fumble.

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll (Week 12 ranking)

1. (same) Wisconsin
tie-1. (same) Ohio State
tie-1. (same) Michigan State
4. (5) Illinois
5. (4) Iowa
6. (same) Penn State
7. (same) Northwestern
8. (same) Michigan
9. (same) Purdue
10. (11) Minnesota
11. (10) Indiana

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com

For more from him, read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind .

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