DILEMMA: WHICH BLUE LEAVES YOU BLUER?

We have a little problem here in Michigan. We’re not sure which football team to worry about first.

ON THE ONE HAND, THERE’S THE WOLVERINES, who are operating without a coach for 2008.

ON THE OTHER HAND, THERE’S THE LIONS, who are operating without a rushing game, a defense, their best receiver or a paddle.

BUT BACK TO MICHIGAN: The Wolverines now are looking at a long December of rumors, “hot” prospects, misinformation and competing schools, all to end with them prying some coach away from an existing contract, thus angering players, parents and administrators. Great. Something to look forward to.

BUT THEN THERE’S THE LIONS, who look forward to a December in which they could easily lose three of the last four games and end the season with a losing record – after starting 6-2. It’s so depressing.

ON THE OTHER HAND, what could be worse than LSU versus Ohio State for the national championship? Whichever team wins, it’s like sticking a knife in a maize-and-blue belly.

ON THE OTHER HAND, the Lions playing Dallas this weekend isn’t going to be good for your stomach, either.

BUT BACK TO MICHIGAN: Why does anyone care what happened with Les Miles? He’s not coming. Let it go. Doesn’t matter if U-M came close. Doesn’t matter if Miles sent mixed signals. In the end, LSU had him locked up like a damsel in a tower. Only the Tigers could talk to him directly, only they could formally offer him a new contract, and they did both before a ball was snapped Saturday. What did you think, they would just sit there and let the guy walk?

BUT BACK TO THE LIONS: What did you think, they would go 12-4? The personnel on this team lacks the ability to rise up to, mature through or even survive a season. Rod Marinelli was once cheered for a team that never stopped fighting. But that didn’t describe the team that played in Minnesota on Sunday. And let’s face it: If this team doesn’t excel in the effort category, it’s surely not winning games on talent. It really has got me worried.

BUT THEN, THERE’S MICHIGAN: And who exactly is going to coach this team? None of the names out there is thrilling. I mean, are we supposed to shiver at the idea of Kirk Ferentz in Ann Arbor? His Iowa team was 6-6 and last seen losing, at home, to Western Michigan.

OF COURSE, IT COULD BE THE LIONS, who spent the last month losing to everyone.

BUT ABOUT MICHIGAN: Am I the only one who wonders if Bo was able to groom Moeller and Moeller was able to groom Carr, why isn’t there someone Carr was able to groom from his staff? Why does the bloodline have to end here?

WHICH REMINDS ME, ABOUT THE LIONS: Let’s stop worrying about the receivers or even the quarterback. This team is weakest in its line play – offensive and defensive. The Lions can’t run (a product of the line), they can’t protect (the line’s job), they almost never get to the opposing quarterback (a line’s goal) and now they can’t even stop the run. And what really is infuriating: Their highest-paid player this season, according to USA Today, is Cory Redding, followed by Dewayne White – both defensive lineman – and their biggest “star” in terms of talent is Shaun Rogers, who apparently, contractually, only has to do something every fourth game. Oh. And the team is coached by Marinelli, supposedly a line genius, and its president, Matt Millen, is a former what? Linebacker. It makes you as crazy as …

MICHIGAN, which seems woefully unprepared for a departure Carr admits has been spoken about internally since early in the year. Couldn’t the Wolverines have been working quietly on something? They seem as lost as …

THE LIONS, who could finish in their division behind Green Bay and Minnesota, when they were only supposed to finish behind Chicago. Six victories is better than last year, but when you lose the first four of the second half of the season, you are going backward.

Wolverines. Lions. Carr. Marinelli. Miles. Martz. Martin. Williams.

No offense, but when the football operation that seems most solid is Michigan State’s, you’re not having a great week.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or malbom@freepress.com. He will discuss his latest movie, “For One More Day,” on Wednesday on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (4 p.m., Channel 7 in Detroit). The movie debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday on ABC. He will sign books at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10 at Barnes & Noble in Rochester Hills.

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