Wojo's Pigskin Picks: UM, OSU keep sights on rivalry
I tried to warn you Buckeyes and you didn’t listen. Or you didn’t comprehend. Or you were passed out.
Did you really think you could continue trashing our state, ravaging our teams and leaving your garbage droppings at our rest areas on the way back to O-h-o-i? Did you think people wouldn’t notice, or wouldn’t care?
Oh, Michigan did a good job acting like it didn’t care, and then went out and spent millions on a coach who once famously guaranteed a victory over the Buckeyes, back when he was Michigan’s quarterback and victory actually was possible. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t like to talk about that, but I guarantee he knows the current score — 1-10 the past 11 years.
Michigan State knows the score, too, 17-14 over Ohio State in the Shocker at the ’Shoe, made more shocking by the Buckeyes’ reluctance to try very hard. That outcome turned Michigan-Ohio State from The Game into The (Pre) Game, with Michigan State poised to win the division against Penn State in The Other Game later Saturday in East Lansing.
It doesn’t matter if Connor Cook, Tyler O’Connor, Sinead O’Connor, or Sandra Day O’Connor is running the offense, the Spartans have shown they can maul with the best. And you can’t diminish their victory over the Buckeyes one tiny bit, no matter how obvious it was Ohio State had no intention of winning. Listen, I’m not accusing Urban Meyer of anything, other than being smarmy. But the Buckeyes so deeply loathe the Wolverines, I could see them opting to crush Michigan’s title hopes, even at the cost of destroying their own.
This is where our Buckeyes friends have screwed up, more than normal. They take the Wolverines very seriously, even when it’s not remotely necessary. But they don’t take the Spartans seriously enough, even when it’s clearly necessary. That’s why Mark “Definitely Not Mike” Dantonio chews on disrespect like a hungry Buckeye gnaws on his traditional Thanksgiving squirrel. Meyer is 28-0 against Big Ten opponents not named Michigan State, and 2-2 against Michigan State.
Despite the Spartans’ shamefully disrespectful overshadowing of The (Pre) Game, it should be quite a scene in Ann Arbor, a renewal of the greatest rivalry in sports, as long as you don’t do the math. This year, the Wolverines actually have a competitive team, while the Buckeyes are licking their wounds (literally, from what I understand).
I’ve always said, the most dangerous and unpredictable animal is a wounded buckeye, with blood in his eyes and booze on his breath. You can bet Meyer will have his team ready, with the help of new offensive coordinator Ezekiel Elliott. In case you missed it after the Michigan State loss, Elliott loudly wondered why Ohio State didn’t try to, you know, get first downs and stuff. I suspect that will be corrected, and Elliott will carry 41 times for at least 44 yards against Michigan.
It’s still unclear whether Meyer will be fully dressed for the game, following last week’s de-pantsing. The Buckeyes are awarded gold-pants trinkets when they beat the Wolverines, but they’ve piled up so many over the years, Meyer would be happy with a nicely pressed pair of khakis.
And that’s where we stand in the Newly Refurbished Big Ten, with Meyer, Harbaugh and Dantonio battling to prove who wears the pants in the family. Right now it’s Dantonio, although he’s probably fuming that I listed him third in the previous sentence.
Rivalries are what make college football great, as long as you accept the profanity and random property destruction. I mean, in what other sport would a coach stroll through a cemetery with fans to honor departed legends, as Harbaugh did when he visited Bo Schembechler’s grave the other night.
It actually was very touching, even when Harbaugh smashed a buckeye nut with a hammer. Of course, I fully expect the brutish Buckeyes to retaliate way too harshly. Would you be surprised if Meyer showed up at Woody Hayes’ grave with a live wolverine and a pair of pruning shears? No, you would not.
This is the type of nastiness we in Michigan have had to endure, even if I’m making some of it up. I’m not here to dredge up old stereotypes about the Buckeyes. (Buckeye Bill: “Good, cuz nobody uses no old stereos no more, ya big dummy!”) I’m here to celebrate the renewed competition, and I did so by pulling off a magnificent journalism feat, getting Meyer, Harbaugh and Dantonio on an imaginary conference call that I secretly recorded, as always:
Dantonio: “You listed me third again, smart-aleck Blue-Waller.”
Meyer: “He sure did, Mike. And I take extreme offense to this writer’s characterization of us as animals.”
Harbaugh: “I don’t compare humans to animals. Never have. Chickens, eggs, buckeyes, doesn’t matter.”
Meyer: “Well, I’m looking forward to competing with you gentlemen for many years to come, or until Notre Dame calls.”
Dantonio: “Don’t care. Where’s the threat? That’s what I want to know.”
Harbaugh: “I like milk. And steak.”
Dantonio: “Stake? You better not drive a stake in our field! YOU HEAR ME?!”
Meyer: “Guys, guys, calm down. You don’t understand the pressure I’m under, picking a quarterback for our sophisticated, transformative offense featuring multiple 3-yard runs.”
Dantonio: “Cripes, I haven’t seen anything so overrated since …”
Penn State coach James Franklin: “Hello!”
Ohio State at Michigan: Since 2004, Michigan is 0-7 against Ohio State and 1-3 against “Ohio.” That’s why Harbaugh is here, to restore the glory and revive the cherished Block M traditions of Block ’Em and Tackle ’Em. Michigan is 9-2 and still has a chance to win the Big Ten if Penn State somehow beats Michigan State. (Just re-watched Penn State offense: OK, no chance.) Even if it’s for second place, it doesn’t tarnish the importance of smashing nuts and sending the Buckeyes home with aches in all the wrong places. Michigan 22-17
Penn State at Michigan State: In an emotional pregame ceremony, the Spartans will honor the key contributors to their special season, from Connor Cook to Shilique Calhoun to Michael Geiger to the Michigan punter. Dantonio’s toughest task is getting his players to stop asking which hotel they’ll be staying at in Indianapolis. A championship clash against Iowa awaits, unless Penn State does something way out of the ordinary, such as blocking. The Spartans have to be careful, because they can’t expect to reach the playoff winning every game, 17-14. Michigan State 17-14
Iowa at Nebraska: Hawkeyes and Cornhuskers on the day after Thanksgiving? Oh my, I can’t imagine how much corn will be digesting in all those tummies. The 11-0 Hawkeyes should win, although they’d better play by the rules and permit Cornhusker receivers unfettered access to the end zone. No pushing please! Iowa 31-24