I've been a Michigan fan since my mom and dad took me to Central Campus in Ann Arbor when I was four years old. I've been watching Michigan football my whole life and I have never been as excited for it as am right now as a fan.
That's because for the first time ever, Michigan is looking to sit at the "Big Person's Table," as head football coach Jim Harbaugh made clear last season. That was a statement he made before Fall camp started in 2015. Months later he had done what many had thought unthinkable: take a 5-win team that couldn't beat Rutgers or Maryland in 2014 and win 10 games the next season, punctuated by a 41-7 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl blowout win over Florida on January 1st.
Every Michigan fan knows this, just as much as we all know about Michigan's Top 5 recruiting class that signed a month later, complete with the unanimous #1 player in the nation, defensive tackle Rashan Gary.
Since all of that, the hype for Michigan football has done a lot of things. Slow down isn't one of them. In fact, it's gotten faster. A LOT faster:
That's Michigan with the second best odds to win the national championship in 2016, with only defending champion Alabama ahead of them.
That's ESPN putting them fourth in the nation in the "Way Too Early Top 25."
And that's Athlon Sports ranking them fifth in the 2016 preseason. For the record, the other four teams on this list have all either made the CFB Playoff or won the national championship in the CFB format.
That is very high praise for the Wolverines coming into 2016, and on the one hand you could understand it since they return the most starters on offense and defense in the Big Ten East division, won 10 games last year and set the bar pretty high for this season.
A lot of people though, mostly Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartan fans, think the hype is unbearably unwarranted:
Ok, while I understand some irritation from rival fanbases and others who are not Michigan fans, and even some irritation from Michigan fans who are uncomfortable with too much hype to begin the season, here's the bottom line: GET OVER IT.
Does Michigan football have a gargantuan amount of hype going into this college football season? Yeah it does, but notice how NONE of it is coming from the Michigan football program. Harbaugh has predicted nothing. His coaches have predicted nothing. The players have predicted nothing. In fact, all any of them have said is something along the lines of "we don't listen to hype, we are ready to work and build on last year." How is any of this hype their fault?
Alabama football head coach Nick Saban recently went on a tirade about the satellite camp issue again, right on the eve of Michigan's huge 41-camp summer tour that will last the whole month and go across Planet Earth, literally. Harbaugh took issue with Saban's comments about how satellite camps could lead to major recruiting violations, especially since Saban fired one of his coaches recently, Bo Davis, for recruting violations.
So Saban rants, Harbaugh responds on Twitter, Saban fires back about how he doesn't care what Harbaugh says and once again, the national media has focused its attention on Michigan, as it has almost every time Harbaugh has tweeted about what a coach said about his methods.
Is that really Harbaugh building a huge hype train for Michigan football without having won a single game against a Top Ten school or rival yet? Or is it just Harbaugh saying what we all know to be true: that Saban is a gigantic hypocrite who only challenges satellite camps because he doesn't want Michigan or anyone else taking any of his players from Alabama? I'd say the latter.
Ultimately, we as Michigan fans should embrace this hype with open arms instead of being afraid of it. Of course the team needs to win on the field, as ESPN's Heather Dinich has stated so eloquently:
You know who agrees with that? Jim Harbaugh. So does his team and the majority if not the entire Michigan fanbase. Does that mean that we are supposed to quietly shoot down the media hype and be a good little soldier of a fanbase and program like Saban and the SEC would like us to do? Well, fat chance of that happening. Top tier programs, Alabama included, get hype every year. They don't ask for it, it comes with the program and the tradition of winning. Just because the hype for Harbaugh and Michigan is rolling like a freight train off of one 10-win season in which no rivals or Top Ten opponents were defeated doesn't mean we should just shake it off or downplay it. Michigan SHOULD have high expectations and the program and the fanbase should embrace this hype. Do we not think that we are worth it? Maybe we don't.
But Jim Harbaugh does and his team does, and while they haven't asked for this media attention in the slightest, they are confident that they can live up to it. If we want Michigan to sit at the Big Person's Table every year, then we need to man up as a fanbase and embrace this kind of hype, because it's not going away anytime soon.