Sept. 13, 2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Michigan still has some lingering questions about its football program.

The Wolverines will get a chance to answer some of them as a ranked team.

Michigan is No. 25 in The Associated Press poll released Sunday, earning a spot after beating then-No. 18 Notre Dame 38-34 in a closely contested game decided in the final seconds.

With a 2-0 start, a lot of maize-and-blue clad fans suddenly are having fun at Michigan Stadium after enduring five losses at home last year, when Rich Rodriguez's debut season with the Wolverines got off to an awful start.

Michigan's miserable season, complete with a school-record nine losses, is fading from memory thanks in large part to freshman Tate Forcier.

The savvy and nimble quarterback from San Diego connected with Greg Mathews with 11 seconds left for the game-winning play against Notre Dame on Saturday, making Big House as loud as its been in years.

There's a good chance the Big House will be buzzing the rest of the month.

Michigan hosts Eastern Michigan (0-2) and Indiana (2-0) before going on the road to play rival Michigan State. The Eagles are led by first-year coach Ron English, who was one of the many coaches Rodriguez chose not to retain when Lloyd Carr retired following the 2007 season.

The last time Michigan was ranked, Carr and English - as defensive coordinator - helped Michigan beat the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators in the 2008 Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines were No. 18 in the final poll that season.

Rodriguez didn't have a QB who fit his spread system last season, but he does now.

Forcier has completed 68 percent of his passes in two games for 419 yards, five TDs and one interception. He has run for a team-high 107 yards, a score and has been sacked just twice.

What started as a three-QB race with Forcier, speedy freshman Denard Robinson and returning starter Nick Sheridan has become an easy decision after Forcier has won the job on the practice field and in two games.

"It's something I've been fighting for this whole time," Forcier said. "It's a relief that it's over."

Forcier knows Robinson, whose nickname is "Shoelace" because he doesn't lace up his cleats, will continue to take snaps and line up as a receiver.

"You can't keep somebody like that off the field," Forcier said.

Forcier has the mobility to move around the pocket and down the field, as he did on a 31-yard TD run to convert a fourth-and-3 in the fourth quarter against Notre Dame. He threw some long passes that wobbled in the air early against the Fighting Irish, had one interception late in the game and bounced back in fantastic fashion by using his feet, arm and intellect on a final drive that gave the Wolverines their biggest win under Rodriguez.

Forcier says the victory shows Michigan's back.

Not so fast, Tate.

The Wolverines did beat a rival with a veteran QB and a talented surrounding cast, but the true test for how good they are won't come until next month when they travel to the Spartans and Iowa before hosting Penn State.

Michigan's inexperienced safeties have been exposed at times and Forcier hasn't been tested on the road or against the highly ranked Nittany Lions. Still, the Wolverines will have likely have more confidence-building wins, a better grasp of Rodriguez's expanded playbook and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson's schemes.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is one of those who is not surprised at the early signs of a turnaround at Michigan.

"Obviously, this is Year 2 for Coach Rodriguez's system and you have to expect it to get better as he gets more of his players," Weis said.