John Niyo, Bob Wojnowski, Angelique Chengelis and Matt Charboneau discuss going forward from last weekend's UM-MSU game, as well as the national college football rankings.
Now what? Now that Michigan beat Michigan State using 65.9 percent effort, and Michigan State confirmed it was the finest 2-6 team in America, there’s nothing left to argue.
The backyard tiff ended not in flames and fights, but with shrugs.
The only slight drama came when the Spartans hid the Paul Bunyan Trophy in a musty, seldom-used room — the offensive staff’s game-planning office — but the Wolverines eventually found it.
They were surprised to notice ol’ Paul was missing chips on his wooden shoulders and was wrapped in green lingerie, but hey, when you own something for seven of eight years, you get a little comfortable with it.
It was a confusing day, because the Wolverines only looked great part of the time in their 32-23 victory, and the Spartans only looked bewildered part of the time. And now we enter the final four weeks of the season less certain what will happen.
For instance, is Michigan’s defense really dominant enough to roll through Ohio State and the Big Ten championship game, all the way to the national title game, where they could possibly hold Alabama to fewer than 38 points?
For instance, is Michigan State really petitioning to be awarded a moral victory to make its record 2-5-1 and remain in contention to play in one of football’s true rarities — a postseason game in Ford Field?
Let’s begin with 8-0 Michigan, where for the ninth consecutive week, Harbaugh opened practice by imploring his team not to overlook (team name). This week’s “team name” apparently is “Maryland,” another 30-point underdog. Only five unbeatens remain — Michigan, Alabama, Clemson, Washington and P.J. Fleck — with plenty of football left, so nothing has been decided, not one thing, other than Alabama will win the national championship.
But it’s imperative the Wolverines keep pushing, on the off chance the Crimson Tide loses three games and drops from No. 1 to No. 2. That’s why Harbaugh’s determined approach never changes, whether he’s attending a World Series game in Wrigley Field with his baseball glove, or devising new positions for Jabrill Peppers to play.
In case you missed it, Peppers is a tremendous football player cursed by a biological inability to stay in one spot. You might have noticed this while watching a Michigan game and seeing the TV graphic detailing all his exploits.
To save you time, I’ve compiled the latest comprehensive list of Peppers’ positions: quarterback, tailback, fullback, scatback, cornerback, nickel back (not the band), safety, rover, double-rover, X receiver, Y receiver, XYZ receiver, receptionist (only on Thursdays when Margaret is off), gaffer, assistant producer, linebacker, factory line worker, kick returner, punt returner, bottle returner, paralegal and barista.
It’s amazing, really. Add increasingly effective spates by Wilton Speight, and Michigan — No. 3 in the first official College Football Playoff rankings — is a legitimate contender, as long as it doesn’t overlook the rest of its schedule: (team name), Iowa, (team name), Ohio State.
The Big Ten actually has five of the top 12 spots in the College Football Playoff rankings, and the Spartans might have squeezed in if they’d managed to score 15 points in the final second last weekend. Listen. Michigan State has had a fantastic run, and six-game losing streaks happen to many programs, usually ones called “Rutgers” or “Purdue.” The spirited effort by the Spartans was duly noted by the student newspaper, which printed this actual headline: “Defeated with Dignity.” (It was updated from the working headline at halftime: “Izzo’s Team Resumes Practice.”)
As you know, I always give credit when warranted. And even though this is probably when he’d prefer to remain obscured by random apostrophes and vowels, Mark “Mark” Dantonio has earned back his full and proper name, until further notice.
Maybe, just maybe, we can make Michigan-Michigan State a respectful rivalry again, where the beatings and insults are distributed more evenly. I think I detected some renewed respect after the game, even though it ended on a controversial, horribly botched two-point conversion attempt by the Spartans with one second left. I secretly recorded the on-field exchange between Harbaugh and Dantonio, after dutifully fabricating it of course.
Harbaugh: “What’s your deal?!”
Dantonio: “What’s YOUR deal?!”
Harbaugh: “Dude, you just tried to run up the score in a loss!”
Dantonio: “I see you guys finally figured out how to punt, huh?”
Harbaugh: “Well, we haven’t had as much practice as you.”
Dantonio: “Where’s the threat? I don’t see a threat.”
Harbaugh: “Where’s the *&$# trophy?!”
Dantonio: “This isn’t over. It’ll never be over.”
Harbaugh (adjusting Michael Douglas glasses): “Ooo-kay, Mike.”
Well then, maybe there is some lingering animosity. Or maybe Dantonio just likes two of everything and had the McDonald’s McPick 2 jingle stuck in his head. Or maybe the team slogan — #Back2Back2Back2Back2Back2Back — has a deeper meaning. The only thing we know for sure is, Michigan finally cleaned up its own backyard, and is looking for fresh ground to plow.
Maryland at Michigan: This should be especially interesting because Maryland is coached by former Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin (no relation to P.J. Fleck). The Terrapins are 5-3 and actually won in Michigan Stadium in the year 2014 B.H. (Before Harbaugh), so the Wolverines are duly warned. Michigan 38-13
Michigan State at Illinois: As part of its TV deal, the Big Ten is trying innovative ideas such as playing games on Friday nights and Tuesday mornings (Rutgers vs. Illinois only). This game won’t air on the traditional ESPN channels but will be live-streamed on Myspace.com, so dig up that old app and enjoy! Michigan State 27-16
Nebraska at Ohio State: We keep waiting for these 7-1 teams to reveal who they really are. The Buckeyes just won a game sloppily while the Cornhuskers were defeated with dignity. Urban Meyer pulls off many feats, but defeating teams with dignity generally isn’t one of them. Ohio State 35-17
Wisconsin at Northwestern: After facing LSU, Michigan, Ohio State and Nebraska, now comes the hard part for Wisconsin. Seriously! Sort of! The Wildcats inexplicably keep almost winning big games, and the Badgers tote added pressure as the highest-ranked (No. 8) two-loss team in college football. Wisconsin 17-14
Alabama at LSU: The Tigers present a legitimate challenge to the Crimson Tide’s latest coronation, except for one little detail: Les Miles is not walking through that door. No, really, LSU officials changed the locks after firing him. Alabama 27-14