ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan Coach Bo Schembechler believes that only major independents or Big Eight powers Oklahoma and Nebraska have a decent chance at the national championship the way college football is set up today.
'When I look at the national championship, I think of a team going through undefeated. Or maybe losing one game, early,' said Schembechler, who never has won the national title in his nearly 20 years in the Big Ten. 'And I wonder. Can a Big Ten team do it?
'Can a Big Ten team go through its schedule unscathed? I don't think so. There are too many teams capable of beating you along the way. The teams that are winning the national championship titles are not from the Big Ten, the Pac 10, the Southeast Conference, the Southwest Conference.
'The independents are the ones with the best chance,' he said. 'The Big Eight is the only major conference with a team that has a chance of winning the national championship -- because you only have to win one game. The winner of the Oklahoma-Nebraska game is the only Big Eight team with a chance.'
Schembechler, despite a winning percentage that will put him among the elite of anyone who has ever coached at the major collegiate level, has never had a team go through a regular season, plus a bowl game, without a loss or a tie.
The Big Ten's football coaching dean would like to coach a national champion but he is not obssessed by the notion. Schembechler knows he can only coach the games. He can't play them and can't vote on the results.
For a variety of reasons the Big Ten is no longer the pre-eminent college football conference in the country, the way it was shortly before Schembechler came to Michigan at the start of the 1969 season.
That does not stop Schembechler from trying to recruit the best players he can get into Michigan from around the country every year.
His primary goal every year is to win the Big Ten title and get to the Rose Bowl -- and to do it with a team capable of winning the post-season game.
Schembechler recruited faster defensive prospects this season because he felt Arizona State outquicked his team in that area. The results of his recruiting, however, will not show up on the field for at least two seasons.
That would put Schembechler at 60 years of age, close to retirement. What better way to go out?
'I'll coach as long as I continue to enjoy it,' Schembechler said. 'My health has been good and my enthusiasm is about the same. I've felt good for a long time.'