Wojo’s Pigskin Picks: Let's talk Michigan-Ohio State

Bob Wojnowski
The Detroit News


Michigan running back De'Veon Smith is tackled by Ohio State's Raekwon McMillan during last year's game in Ann Arbor.

It looks inevitable because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in college football, it’s whoever is undefeated in mid-October never, ever loses a game it’s supposed to win the rest of the way. Nope. Never happens. So let’s talk about this unavoidable Michigan-Ohio State showdown Nov. 26 that will determine who gets to spend New Year’s Eve with Nick Saban.


My assistant: “Uh, there’s a Jim H. on line one. He’d like to have a word.”

Wojo: “OK, put him through … Hello, little busy here, can I help you with something?”

Jim H.: “If you mention that game one more time, I will squeeze your head until your cheeks flatten and your chins pop off. I will do it for the good of the game, and I will do it with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

Oooooo-kay. Jim H. has a point. Even in the midst of an impressive stretch of byes, including Illinois this week, Michigan has a lot of work if it’s to restore The Game to its proper status after a decade of letting Ohio State use it as a combination scrimmage-carnival-livestock show. The longtime combatants are ranked in the top three, and near as I can tell, only three things can prevent them from colliding in Columbus with unblemished records:

■The swift confirmation of a justice to the Supreme Court, which then rules traditional “swing” states cannot receive excessive publicity during a rabid political season.

■The computer chip inside Urban Meyer’s head malfunctions, and in a stilted robot voice, he suddenly orders J.T. Barrett to become a dropback passer.

■“WHOAAA he has trouble with the snap!!”

Sorry to bring that up a week earlier than necessary, but Michigan’s muffed punt against Michigan State last season was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence that happens about once a month in college football. In other words, you can’t look ahead, otherwise you get caught with your punts down.

I mean, look at the Spartans. Michigan State was so eager to conjure up another way to beat its rival, it foolishly skipped over Wisconsin, Indiana, BYU and Northwestern. The Spartans have lost four in a row with such a shockingly feeble defense, I’m forced to do something I don’t enjoy. That’s right, Coach A’ntonio, I’m gonna take the D back until further notice.

Unfortunately, Michigan State now must update its season slogan every week. In the fresh promise of early September, it was #Back2Back, denoting the Spartans goal to win back-to-back Big Ten titles and make back-to-back scoreless appearances in the playoffs. The new slogan is #Back2Back2Back2Back, growing with each loss.

The 54-40 disaster against Northwestern just about eliminated Michigan State from a bowl, although I’m sure with the new East Lansing ordinance decriminalizing certain smoking habits, bowls still get ample use. That’s always true in Ann Arbor, especially on Homecoming, when the Old Blues wander back to campus in their outdated clothes, wearing the same pants, the same letter jacket and the same Block M hat they wore when attending games in the mid-’80s.

You know, like Jim Harbaugh (Class of ’87). Harbaugh obviously cherishes his Michigan heritage, and according to my flimsy sources, he’s planning to announce the Homecoming King and Queen at halftime Saturday. If things really get boring against the Illini, he might do a quick set with the alumni band, although I didn’t bother to get that confirmed.

Harbaugh is renowned for doing unusual things, a primary reason Michigan is in the unusual position of being 6-0 and smack in the middle of the national playoff race with Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington and Western Michigan. Harbaugh defies convention, going for two at odd times, drinking milk with steak and periodically loaning Jabrill Peppers to any unit in dire need — Michigan’s offense, Michigan’s glee club, maybe even Michigan State’s defense.

There I go again, recklessly looking ahead. So much yet can happen, with 11 undefeated teams remaining (if we’re forced to count Baylor). One of them is fellow Big Tenner Nebraska, which still must play at Ohio State. The Buckeyes also have to play the Nittany Lions and Spartans on the road (ohhhh scary), while the Wolverines must play the Spartans, Hawkeyes and Buckeyes on the road, unless they defy a court order mandating they vacate the Big House for at least a couple Saturdays.

The point is, nothing is inevitable in college football, and I’ll continue to make that point for the good of the game and my own personal well-being.

The picks

Illinois at Michigan: Illinois utilized the Rutgers Wellness Program last week and got a healthy victory, its first in the Big Ten under former Super Bowl coach Lovie Smith. Michigan’s former Super Bowl coach will remind his team that Illinois is dangerous, and he’s crazy enough to actually believe it. Michigan 52-13

■Michigan State at Maryland: This is not what A’ntonio envisioned when he talked of taking the Spartans to another level. He’s never lost four in a row here, which presumably means he’s never lost five in a row. This may be the year you honestly can say Michigan State isn’t looking ahead to its rival, or anything else. Michigan State 28-23

■Ohio State at Penn State: This might not be as easy as it appears because the Nittany Lions are improving, the game is at night, and fans are legally required to swaddle themselves in white clothing and make ungodly noise. Living in Columbus, the Buckeyes are used to ungodly conditions, and they’ve won 17 straight Big Ten road games, tying the Wolverines record set in a previous century. Ohio State 45-20

■Wisconsin at Iowa: The Badgers are the best two-loss team in America, falling to the Buckeyes and Wolverines by seven points each. That sets up quite a clash against the Hawkeyes, the worst two-loss team in America. First team to 10 wins. Wisconsin 10-3

■Texas A&M at Alabama: These poor Southeastern Conference schlubs keep balling up their fists at Alabama, and keep leaving with their eyes swollen shut. Nick Saban doesn’t look ahead to anything (not even dinner), but if he did, he might wonder if he gets to clobber another team from the state of Michigan in the playoffs. Alabama 41-17

■Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan: The Broncos are 7-0 and ranked 20th, and are seriously considering crashing one of the New Year’s Six bowls dressed in their humble brown outfits. The Eagles are just as surprising at 5-2, equaling their victory total from the past three seasons combined. Apparently, Chris “P.J.” Creighton is following the Broncos strategy of going 1-11 one year, then inexplicably shaking up the I-94 corridor. Western Michigan 48-23