Wojo's Pigskin Picks: MSU, all of them, seeking respect

Bob Wojnowski
The Detroit News

The initial rankings for the four-team college football playoff are out, and everyone's feverishly debating whether the Southeastern Conference will get five or six teams in, whether 19-point road losses are acceptable, and whether six or seven Big Ten teams could be invited to the NIT.

But don't worry, I'll keep you posted on the latest shocking developments at Michigan, where Brady Hoke is still trying to build a hearty stake-and-potatoes program. As the "CSI: Ann Arbor" crew continues its forensic investigation of athletic director Dave Brandon's email, I'll be on top of the breaking news.

Whoa, that was quick.

Breaking News!

Experts are now confirming the pointy item shoved into the Spartan Stadium turf last Saturday by Michigan players was not a "stake" or a "spear" or a "ballpoint pen." It was a "spike," the kind used to hold up tents. Tents generally are hoisted at circuses, so naturally, the Wolverines had access to many spikes.

OK, back to the real business. Michigan State is 7-1 and studying diligently during its bye, trying to think up new ways to be disrespected. With their heightened national standing, Spartans student leaders are petitioning to change the mascot's name from the endearing "Sparty" to the fearsome "Spartacus, Ancient Warrior." Attorneys are expected to slap ESPN with an anti-Sparty restraining order.

These are heady times in East Lansing, after Michigan State thrashed Michigan for the sixth time in seven years, 35-11, and somehow emerged angrier and more obsessed. This is the genius of the Spartans right now, and the buffoonery of the Wolverines. Using a motivational tactic in a rivalry game is as old as Brent Musburger's sports coats. But Michigan certainly could have opted for something simpler, such as watching the inspirational offensive-line movie, "The Blind Side," then loudly smashing their ice cream cones.

Breaking News!

Continuing its popular Apology Tour, Michigan would like to express sincere regrets to the tent spike industry for the desecration of its product. School officials will release a statement sometime between 12:39 -2:24 a.m.

It's all very unseemly, with the Wolverines and their stuffy fans reduced to muffled whimpering, repeatedly apologizing for not apologizing sooner about whatever they were supposed to apologize for. I'd suggest handling this collapse with a bit more dignity. While the Spartans have shown they have the guts for the fight, I wonder if the Wolverines have the stomach.

For instance, technically, the silly "Stakegate" was no more disrespectful than Michigan State running up the score with its starters on the final drive. Mark "Duffy" Dantonio indicated he wanted to shove a message into an area normally explored during sensitive medical procedures. And you know what? That was completely within his right, no apology necessary!

It also was his right because Michigan State sits at No. 8 in the rankings, and for some reason gets no credit for beating Big Ten powers Purdue and Indiana on the road. This means more "shoving" next week when Ohio (State) comes to town.

Breaking News!

"CSI: Ann Arbor" has verified several snotty email exchanges between Brandon and Michigan fans are indeed authentic. Regents will vote on whether to rebuke Brandon or praise him for trumping the arrogance of Michigan fans.

I've seen many of the emails, including this completely fabricated one:

From Edward Hockensnort (class of '79): Mr. Brandon, I was the third assistant to the backup student manager under Bo, and as such, I was able to witness the very tenets upon which this program was built — respect, multiple-touchdown victories, beating Sparty. You, sir, have defiled these principles. My ticket prices have increased exponentially even as you moved me from the 50-yard line to the 48-and-a-half yard line.

Furthermore, when I enter my parking area, the security guard does not address me as "Mr. Hockensnort." I await your response.

Dave Brandon: Sorry, we already ran your credit card number. Have a nice life!!!

Apparently on the fans' list of grievances, "Loud music in the stadium" is equally as appalling as "losing Big Ten games by double digits." Some people also are outraged with Brandon's condescending tone and overuse of exclamation points. So students continue their "Fire Brandon" protests, even as an important election nears with plenty of whales to be saved and climates to be fixed.

Meanwhile, the Spartans are staying focused on finding a way into the final four, and it won't be easy. After dissecting the committee's rankings, I've figured out the primary criteria:

■Be in the SEC, preferably the SEC West. Even better, be in the states of Alabama or Mississippi.

■Try not to be in the Big Ten.

■If you have to lose, make sure it's at Oregon, at Florida State or at a Mississippi.

■Bad news for Michigan State and Notre Dame — beating Michigan by several touchdowns doesn't prove squat.

■Good news for Michigan State and Mississippi State — there's no limit to the number of MSUs that can be invited.

Final rankings come out Dec. 7, and after SEC teams are done gnawing on each other, I'm pretty sure this will be the final four: Florida State, Alabama, Oregon, MSU. Enjoy the debate!

Breaking News!

Michigan is expected to apologize for not being good enough to count as a good win.

The picks

Indiana at Michigan: It's Homecoming in Ann Arbor, so lots of alums will return and weep about the glory days and protest the price of a turkey-and-goat-cheese pita wrap. To keep its 100,000-plus streak alive, Michigan is using leftover spikes to set up hospitality tents in both end zones. Michigan 34-19

Illinois at Ohio State: Ohio State has to be careful not to look ahead to Michigan State. Dantonio already plans to accuse the Buckeyes of disrespect because they didn't schedule a bye before the showdown. Ohio State: 42-17

Auburn at Mississippi: A clash between two of the three SEC teams in the top four, and it should settle plenty (or nothing). If Ole Miss wins, great win! If Auburn loses, great loss! Auburn 24-16