Under Brady Hoke, the focus is now clear again in Ann Arbor: Beat Ohio State.

Whether you’re a Michigan fan that despised what Rich Rodriguez did to the program or one of the few who thought he would eventually right the ship, you have to at least appreciate what new head coach Brady Hoke is trying to do in Ann Arbor.

He’s trying to find a kicker? Well, yeah. He’s trying to find a kicker. He’s also trying to make it as seamless a transition as possible for quarterback Denard Robinson, who is currently learning Al Borges’ pro-style offense after running RichRod’s spread option for the past couple of years. Hoke needs to fix the mess that Rodriguez left him on defense as well.

But above all that, Hoke’s focus is simple: Beat Ohio State.

The Buckeyes are currently in a hell of their own making. Unlike their rivals in Ann Arbor, they have the players on both sides of the ball to win Big Ten championships. It’s just that some of those players decided it was a okay to trade memorabilia for free tattoos and, along with their head coach Jim Tressel, will be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.

But Hoke’s message has nothing to do with kicking an enemy while it’s down. Despite the hatred, the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry has always been about mutual respect. (The latest example of that was in Friday’s Detroit Free Press when Hoke referred to Tressel as “a good man.”) Hoke doesn’t want to just take advantage of the Buckeyes’ predicament: he wants to beat Ohio State because that’s what Michigan coaches have to do. It should be priority No. 1 and if that happens, then everything else should fall into place.

Among other things, that’s something Rodriguez never fully grasped. He never beat Ohio State or Michigan State, which is unacceptable in the eyes of Wolverine fans. You’re not going to beat OSU every year, but you damn better well make it a focus regardless.

While reading this NBC Sports article, I found it interesting that Hoke has two clocks near his office at Schembechler Hall. One of the clocks is ticking down the time until Michigan plays Michigan State again. The other clock ticks down the time until the Wolverines face the Buckeyes. In between the two clocks is a red number that goes up every day. That number represents the days it has been since Michigan last beat Ohio State, which is now more than 2,600 and counting.

It’s going to take some time for Hoke to turn things around in Ann Arbor but at least the man has his priorities straight.

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