Bob Wojnowski and John Niyo are joined by former running backs Nick Hill of MSU and Chris Howard of UM to talk about this weekend's big games, and Matt Charboneau breaks down his AP Top 25 vote. Detroit News
Once again, in the chill of November, bitter rivals from neighboring states will renew old grudges and battle for supremacy of the storied Big Ten. Once again, as the late-autumn winds stir, the behemoths will clash, history will shudder, and ramifications will reverberate from the shores of Lake Erie to the shores of Lake Michigan.
Also later Saturday, Michigan will play at Maryland.
But yet again, the championship will run through Ohio State, although perhaps not as easily as Iowa ran through Ohio State last weekend. And as always when the Buckeyes and Spartans collide, the nation will tune in to see if Michigan State is really any good, and if Ohio State is really overhyped.
Of course the Spartans have no chance, none, not according to the star-makers or odds-makers. This happens so often, I’m now convinced Mark Dantonio pays people to disrespect his team. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has a guy in Vegas who purposely sets a ludicrous point spread and cackles when he raises it every day. Even the media play along, acting like they don’t know how to spell or pronounce his name, or haven’t noticed he also wears khakis.
Meanwhile, D’Ant’oni’o smirks, collects all those misplaced apostrophes, then wears them on a chain around his neck like shark tooth trophies. I can’t confirm this, but I bet there’s a chance Dantonio planned last year’s 3-9 hiatus to restock the fuel, to get everybody to overlook Michigan State again and give upstart coaches Urban Meyer, James Franklin and Jim Harbaugh renewed hope.
Beyond all the nonsense I just spewed, I have no other explanation for how we’ve arrived here again, with Michigan State (7-2) a 14-point underdog — oops, click — a 15-point underdog — oops, click — a 16-point underdog against Ohio State (7-2).
The last time the Spartans headed to Columbus with such daunting odds was two years ago, and they didn’t even bother to use their starting quarterback to beat the Buckeyes 17-14.
If the Spartans win this one, they’d essentially wrap up the division for the third time in five seasons, and Dantonio would be 3-3 versus the Mighty Meyer. All they’d still have to do is pretend they’re underdogs against Maryland and Rutgers, win those games and head back to the conference title game in Indianapolis, where Michigan State fans get frequent-visitor discounts.
From a national perspective, the Big Ten is a wreck this season, with every supposed playoff contender sporting two losses, unless you count unbeaten Wisconsin, which you don’t have to. And yet if the Spartans dump the Buckeyes, they’d still have a shot at the playoff — a longshot, the only kind they’re allowed to have.
They’ve rocketed up to 12th in the rankings, so it’s not unfathomable. Apparently, nothing is unfathomable.
I heard Dantonio once won a chess match three moves after he was checkmated. I heard he consistently prevails in Tic-Tac-Toe even when his opponent goes first and takes the center square. He reportedly once won a football game when the Spartans trailed with 10 seconds left and all the other team had to do was punt the ball away.
Last week against Penn State, the Spartans were such big underdogs, it took seven blustery hours to pull off the upset. I’m not saying Dantonio welcomes bad weather. I’m just saying Michigan State has won games this season by four, three and three points in heavy rain. The forecast in Columbus is for partly sunny skies and 39 degrees, which means Dantonio will be having a “discussion” with his Meteorology Guy.
The Buckeyes have to be nervous, right? And also spittin’ angry, which is the default mood of anyone living in Ohio.
I think that’s why Ohio State is such a huge favorite, because no one believes Meyer will get blown out again.
But then I checked the schedule, and in less than a year the Buckeyes have lost by 31 to Clemson, 31 to Iowa and 15 to Oklahoma. Just imagine how much trouble they’d be in if the NCAA actually did its job and realized J.T. Barrett is in his ninth season at quarterback.
The Buckeyes are being very careful not to rile up the Spartans, who are 26-10 in November under Dantonio.
Meyer is heaping praise every chance he gets, even suggesting, according to my imaginary sources, that Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke “has cool hair.”
The compliments flowed all week, as you can tell by the transcript of this fabricated conversation, secretly recorded as always:
Meyer: “Hi Mark, just called to see if you need anything when you get down here in Columbus.”
Dantonio: “Why would you think we needed anything?”
Meyer: “Uh, I mean … safe travels.”
Dantonio: “Oh we do just fine. We travel light, so we have room to bring back our bounty.”
Meyer (gulping): “Just wondering, you guys packing any rain gear? The wife was asking.”
Pick (in blatant violation of everything I just wrote): Ohio State 27-17
Michigan at Maryland: Determined to get back to what they were, the Wolverines (7-2) have reinstated their celebrated 1970s offense featuring pancake blocks and meat-grinding runs for massive yardage.
This replaces the previous plan of waffle blocks, backward runs and fluttering incompletions. Keep lining up the pastries and Michigan will keep knocking 'em down. Pick: Michigan 30-10
Iowa at Wisconsin: The Badgers are 9-0 primarily because they haven’t had to face the Spartans as a heavy favorite. Actually, they haven’t faced a single ranked team until now, which explains why they’re only eighth in the playoff rankings. To pump up the Big Ten’s woefully weak West, commissioner Jim Delany reportedly will ask Michigan State to compete in both divisions. Pick: Wisconsin 23-17
Notre Dame at Miami: The college football world is a better place when these storied adversaries are good again, although I’m not sure why. The series doesn’t have the same luster now that the Hurricanes allegedly follow most of the rules. Notre Dame is third in the rankings and a victory here could set up the unthinkable: One-loss Notre Dame in the playoffs over unbeaten Wisconsin. Oh, the Big Ten would implode. Pick: Notre Dame 27-20
Georgia at Auburn: The Dawgs are No. 1, which should shut up Nick Saban for a while. He whines weekly, and weakly, that people just assume Alabama will roll, and calls the media praise “rat poison.” As a member of the ratified poison-pen community, I’ll help Saban out and suggest Georgia is legitimately the best team in the SEC. Chew on that. Pick: Georgia 34-26