You’re weary debating which Tigers should be traded. You’re exhausted trying to figure out when the Red Wings and Pistons will win again, and whether the Lions will go 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7.
More than any summer in our collective lifetimes, you can’t wait for college football. You can’t wait to launch into irrational arguments and bait your rivals. Your time is coming.
Michigan and Michigan State will be good, perhaps very good, and even in mid-July, they’re generating the buzz. Both are loaded with returning starters, stacked on defense and stocking up on prospects. The only big victories around here these days (not counting the Tigers’ goose game) is when another recruit commits to the Wolverines or Spartans, and giddy hyperbole ensues.
Surely you heard the latest shocking controversy. The Las Vegas SuperBook gives Michigan the fifth-best odds of winning the national title, while Michigan State is 15th (#disrespect)! It’s never too early to argue or get angry, so here’s Professor Wojo with your summer-school primer:
Q: Wait, Michigan has better title odds and better Big Ten odds (third behind Ohio State and Wisconsin, with Michigan State fifth)? It’s the same old routine with you media people – build up the Wolverines and downgrade the Spartans. Don’t play dumb with me!
A: I’m not playing. And we don’t make the odds. And I’ll need that in the form of a question.
Q: Why is Mark Dantonio’s team always underrated and Jim Harbaugh’s team always overvalued?!
A: I’m not sure either premise is totally accurate. A website called BamaHammer – an impeccable source – got so tired of penciling in Alabama at No. 1, it recently put together a composite of preseason rankings from 14 publications. The Spartans’ average national rank: No. 9. The Wolverines: No. 12. For the record, Ohio State was third, Wisconsin fifth and Penn State 10th.
Q: But Dantonio pounds Michigan, eight of the last 10 meetings, and doesn’t get as much fanfare. How do you explain that?
A: Dantonio is 2-1 against Harbaugh but the Spartans’ 3-9 season skewed things. Actually, since Harbaugh arrived, Michigan is 28-11 and Michigan State is 25-14. Dantonio is a tremendous motivator and rivalry coach, and rightly acknowledged as such. Harbaugh still bears the shine from his NFL success, although that won’t last forever.
Q: Don’t people realize Michigan hasn’t won the Big Ten since 2004, hasn’t won a national title since 1997, and Harbaugh is 1-5 against Michigan State and Ohio State?
A: Yes, this is the source of great consternation and frustration in our state. Spartans are flabbergasted people still pick Michigan to win anything. Wolverines are flummoxed they still haven’t won anything, although there was that one time they nearly measured up in Columbus. The fact is, hype never truly helps Michigan, and disrespect never truly hurts Michigan State.
Q: Michigan was 8-5 last year and Michigan State was 10-3. What are people seeing in Michigan? What are people missing in Michigan State?
A: Uh, hello, I just pointed out the Spartans are getting top-10 love. Some might wonder if they have enough play-makers on their defensive line. And some might be overlooking how dynamic Brian Lewerke can be, and how many talented receivers he has.
One major reason the Wolverines are touted: On paper, they’re packed with NFL-type defensive talent. On a Sports Illustrated list (yes, another list!) of the top 100 players in college football, Michigan had six, including five on defense, led by No. 9 Rashan Gary. Michigan State had one, running back LJ Scott at 87. Even Michigan transfer Shea Patterson checked in at 80.
Q: Ohhhh, the great Shea Patterson. Michigan State already has the superior quarterback in Lewerke. Guy threw for 2,793 yards and ran for 559 last season. Hasn’t he proven more?
A: He might be the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten, behind Penn State’s Trace McSorley. Lewerke’s accuracy (59 percent) and decision-making must improve, but that’s true for Patterson too. In fact, I’ll give you the season’s key number for both teams: 10.
Q: Victories to win the conference?
A: Nope. Maximum number of turnovers (interceptions and fumbles) that Lewerke or Patterson can commit. They go over that number, it’s trouble.
Q: OK, let’s take a question from our Twitter audience. Frank in East Lansing writes: Who do you think will win their division first, the Wolverines or the Detroit Lions?
A: Haha, good one. Both have to prove they can beat Green (Bay).
Q: Next question, from Chad in Ann Arbor: Do you think the Spartans will beat Michigan on another fluke this year, or in a regular way?
A: Tough call. The game Oct. 20 in East Lansing will be an absolute slugfest. Michigan State is stocked in the same key areas as Michigan – secondary and linebacker. Joe Bachie doesn’t show up on as many All-American lists, but he’s as valuable a linebacker as Michigan’s Devin Bush. I’ll say the final score will be 20-13.
Q: In favor of?
A: I’ll let you know Oct. 19.
Q: Chicken-(bleep). OK, right now, which do you think is the better team?
A: Michigan, narrowly, because of Don Brown’s defense. But that doesn’t mean it will finish with a better record. Patterson is tantalizing but still a wildcard until we actually see him, and the road schedule is brutal -- Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State. To contend, I strongly advise the Wolverines upgrade their offensive line from “flimsy” to at least “sort of sturdy.” The Spartans’ schedule is more favorable, with only one daunting road test – Penn State.
Q: I saw Lindy’s magazine took a shot at Harbaugh’s overseas travels. It listed five capitals the Wolverines would visit – Paris, London, Munich, Geneva, Oslo – before they beat Ohio State. That’s funny. Which capital do you think they’d love to visit next?
Q: Nationally, we know Alabama and Clemson will play for the championship again. Give me a couple teams not named Georgia or Ohio State that could challenge.
A: Washington or Wisconsin (yeah, I said it).
Q: Man, I can’t wait. Exactly how long is it before Michigan State opens against Utah State and Michigan plays at Notre Dame?
A: For the Spartans, 74,880 minutes. For the Wolverines, 76,320. We can’t count fast enough.