Opening the season in what was called the ‘upset of the century' to I-AA Appalachian State, the Wolverines went from No. 5 to out of the top 25. After an ugly 38-7 loss to Oregon in Week 2, the Wolverines were 0-2 and the season was apparently lost. UM fans, radio shows and columnists demanded that head coach Lloyd Carr's old-school tactics had run its course and that he should resign immediately.
Eight wins later, the Wolverines are back, they're a force and are looking for their first conference title since 2004.
Who woulda thunk it?
"They have character," Carr said of his players. "I think they've proven that they have some resilience, and I think we have, without question, had some wonderful leadership from our seniors, our captains and our coaches."
The No.13 Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 6-0) look to continue their remarkable turnaround when they face the Wisconsin Badgers (7-3, 3-3) this Saturday.
After two humbling losses, Michigan's eight-game winning streak could be traced back to a guarantee by one of its most passionate leaders.
Senior running back Mike Hart couldn't wait to get to the podium after the 31-point loss to Oregon to guarantee a victory over Notre Dame. The Wolverines crushed the Irish in Ann Arbor and the turnaround began.
Victories over then-No. 10 Penn State, Northwestern, Eastern Michigan and Purdue pushed the Wolverines back into the top 25. Add three more victories (at Illinois, against Minnesota and at Michigan State) the Wolverines have climbed to No.12 in the BCS standings.
What makes Michigan's run even more impressive is that the Wolverines have engineered their run without the services of Hart and senior quarterback Chad Henne.
Hart has missed two and a half games with an ankle injury and Henne missed two games early in the season due to an injured right knee only to return and suffer a right shoulder injury at Illinois. Both Hart and Henne didn't play against Minnesota and played through the pain last weekend against Michigan State, though you couldn't tell.
Hart played against the Spartans after sitting out the previous 2 1/2 games and rushed for 110 yards on 15 carries while Henne threw four touchdown passes in their 28-24 win in East Lansing.
"He's never received the credit that he deserves," Carr said after the State game. "What he did a couple of weeks ago at Illinois and what he did today, I can only admire and respect.
"Every quarterback I've had have been tough guys, but there ain't anyone tougher than Henne."
For the Badgers, the injury bug has bitten Wisconsin in the worst possible way and at the worst possible time.
In their loss last week to Ohio State, the Badgers lost defensive tackle Jason Chapman and cornerback Allen Langford to season-ending knee injuries, right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel needed to have an MRI and running back P.J. Hill sat out last week with swelling and severe bruise on his foot.
The prospects of Vanden Heuvel and Hill playing this week don't look promising, meaning the Badgers will be missing six starters from their opening day roster.
"You feel bad for them, but you have to focus on the game that week and have the next guy step in," right guard Kraig Urbik said. "That's why they are here. They are back ups, but they have to step in and be just as good as the guy ahead of them."
While the potential loss of Hill will be filled by sophomore Lance Smith and freshman Zach Brown, fifth-year senior Danny Kaye should get his first career start with sophomore Jack Bscherer splitting time, as well.
"I think that's why we practice in ones and twos in case one goes down," Beckum said. "I think that a lot of our two-deep players are really good players. Somebody is going to have to step in and that's what college football is all about. There are going to be injuries and people are going to have to step into some big shoes."
While the Badgers are already out of the Big Ten title picture, a defeat Saturday wouldn't end the Wolverines' chances at the Big Ten crown. If Michigan loses, the best the maize and blue could do would share the title with a victory over the Buckeyes.
Two straight wins would mean that Michigan would be the first team in Big Ten history to win the conference title and lose to Appalachian State in the same year.
While the Badgers have a chance to spoil next week's big annual matchup between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines, Wisconsin needs to get its house of cards in order before it comes crashing down.
"Our game is determined on us and based on what we do," Beckum said. "The things I've seen verse Ohio State and things we have done has really impressed me. The score against Ohio State didn't reflect the game. The desire and hard work we put in last week is the team that we are.
"One of our goals this year was to make the Michigan game a big game and win it," he added. "That is definitely a thing we are capable of. (We) look forward to playing in games like this."
No. 13 Michigan (8-2, 6-0) vs. Wisconsin (7-3, 3-3)
Date/Time - Saturday, Nov. 10 at 11:02 a.m. CDT
Stadium – Camp Randall Stadium (FieldTurf / 80,321)
Television - ESPN (Dave Pasch, Andre Ware, Erin Andrews)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay, Mike Lucas)
Series – Michigan leads 48-11-1
Last Meeting - Michigan won, 27-13, on Sept. 23, 2006 in Ann Arbor
The Wolverines lead the series 24-4-1 in Madison
Michigan has won seven of the last eight meetings with UW but the Badgers won the last time the two teams met at Camp Randall (23-20, Sept. 24, 2005)
Five of the last six meetings have been decided by seven points of less while neither ream has scored more than 27 points in any of the last eight meetings
For the 32nd consecutive time, Michigan enters its game against Wisconsin ranked in the AP top25
UW co-defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is a Michigan graduate and started his coaching career as a grad assistant under UM's Bo Schembechler
Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema called the Michigan game last season ‘the team's turning point,' in which UW won its next nine games on its way to winning the Capital One Bowl. This season marks another turning point for the Badgers, as Wisconsin needs to overcome a vast array of injuries to pull out this victory and still be eligible for a January 1st bowl.
The big matchup to watch would be Michigan's Mario Manningham matched up with Wisconsin's Jack Ikegwuonu. Ikegwuonu shut down Indiana standout James Hardy but allowed two touchdowns to Brian Robiskie in last week's loss at No.1 Ohio State
Manningham beat Langford for touchdown catches of 24 and 38 yards in the Wolverines' 27-13 victory over UW last season.
Bottom line: Wisconsin has injuries at virtually every major position. Though the second-stringers have provided some solid play, you need to bring your ‘A' game against Michigan. With no Chapman, Langford and doubtful for Hill, the Badgers will need to get lucky.