Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview Week 2 games: Michigan vs. Western Michigan and Michigan State vs. Arizona State. The Detroit News
Depending on your perspective and blood-alcohol level, Michigan is either 0-1 with very little chance of winning a big game until early 2024, or should be 1-0 if only it hadn’t foolishly opened at Notre Dame with an offensive game plan plucked from 1983.
Depending on your perspective, Jim Harbaugh is either 1-6 against traditional rivals, or 14-2 against true rivals Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Penn State, Wisconsin, Maryland and Florida. Experts are so perplexed by Harbaugh’s erratic record, conspiracists now claim he didn’t even coach Stanford and the 49ers, that it actually was little-known brother Ted Harbaugh.
Depending on your perspective, Michigan State is either vastly overrated and lucky to beat some team from the Mountain West, or so good at toying with opponents and winning close games, it might go 12-0 while somehow getting outscored. Rumor has it, Mark Dantonio keeps games tight specifically so he can perfect his scowl, and also as a civic gesture so East Lansing bars remain crowded to the end.
This is the sheer, pure, maniacal nature of college football, where every single game automatically defines a team, a coach and a program, at least for a week. Fans are required to be irrational, and also to post online videos of friends passed out in puddles of beer and chili. Media members are legally licensed to hand out hot seats no matter how silly the premise.
You just have to be careful, otherwise you end up on Twitter tapping the wrong key in a fit of frustration. The difference between “send” and “suspend” can be as narrow as one poorly placed “*&%$” bomb.
Former Michigan players weren’t the only ones angry after the 24-17 loss to Notre Dame. Fans who’d already rented condos outside San Francisco for the Jan. 7 national title game were furious. Frankly, it’s understandable. Michigan’s vaunted defense didn’t arrive until 30 minutes after kickoff, and the beefed-up offensive line apparently got stuck in a stadium turnstile. And despite having an estimated 47 coaches on staff, Harbaugh has yet to identify someone to officially coordinate the “offense.”
So now, depending on your perspective, Notre Dame is either on a direct path to the playoff and Brian Kelly has regained genius status, or the Irish won a home game they were supposed to win and are fortunate the Wolverines drew up their new scheme on a Post-it note.
Michigan got humbled and its fans are offering no excuses whatsoever, not one, at least not until they finish scouring the tape for all the missed holding calls. Hey, it happens to the haughtiest of programs. Texas lost to Maryland? Season over! Miami crushed by LSU? Season over! Florida State walloped by Virginia Tech? Season over! UCLA shocked by Cincinnati? Season definitely over! Penn State edged Appalachian State in overtime? Season should’ve been over! Tennessee destroyed by West Virginia? Season never starts!
Overreacting may be enormously fun, but truly, it’s never over until the last tackle is missed or the last punt snap is bobbled. It’s important to keep things in perspective and remember nothing can ever be as bad as losing to Appy State or Rutgers. In fact, many expect the Wolverines to leap back into playoff contention with a stirring comeback victory Saturday against Western Michigan.
And despite the Spartans’ messy little 38-31 victory over Utah State, they also have all their goals in front of them, including the goal to finally clinch a game with more than 75 seconds remaining. In my continuing effort to avoid overreaction, I won’t even mention linebacker Joe Bachie saved the program’s reputation and became a leading Heisman candidate with a late interception.
We’ll know plenty more by about 2:30 a.m. Sunday, after Michigan State battles Arizona State in the desert night, when temperatures are expected to plummet from 109 degrees to 107. You gotta be careful about cramping (and brain-cramping as the Wolverines learned), although Arizona’s dry heat fits Michigan State’s #DryHeave slogan.
The Spartans used to wilt in these conditions, but other than the Awful Season That Shall Never Be Spoken Of Again, they now find ways to inexplicably not lose these games. This will be quite the test, as Arizona State is 9-0 historically against Big Ten teams at home, and Herm Edwards is 1-0 as a college coach while espousing his famous strategy — “You play to win the game!”
This is a stark departure from the Sun Devils’ previous strategy of “You play to try to be somewhere near .500!” It’s always difficult for visitors out there, where the Pac-12 reportedly employs referees who couldn’t make it as elementary-school crossing guards. A few years ago, officials horrifically botched a ball-spotting in the final seconds of Arizona State-Wisconsin, and the Badgers lost 32-30.
Don’t worry. If the game is close, Michigan State will win handily, and I don’t care whether that makes sense or not. Six of their last nine victories have been by eight points or less. The Spartans are either really good when it matters, or really bored until it matters, depending on your perspective of course.
Pick: Michigan State 37-30
►Western Michigan at Michigan: Another great chance for Michigan to nab a victory over a real in-state rival. The Wolverines have lost four straight dating to last season, and the numbers don’t lie. Depending on your preferred time frame, they’re either 9-9 in their last 18 games, or 943-340-36 in their last 1,319 games. Incredibly, a Michigan receiver hasn’t caught a touchdown pass in over a year, although as noted, a former Michigan receiver has caught plenty of flack. Pick: Michigan 40-10
►Rutgers at Ohio State: In the midst of turmoil, interim coach Ryan “May” Day, coolly directed the Buckeyes to a 77-31 victory over Oregon State, while Urban Meyer was holed up in an undisclosed location composing his next fake apology statement. As the Oregon State of the Big Ten, Rutgers is expected to play its role accordingly. Pick: Ohio State 45-13
►Penn State at Pitt: Depending on your perspective, either Penn State should be embarrassed it barely beat Appalachian State, or James Franklin is unparalleled as a late-game hand-clapping strategist. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi loves to rattle rivals, and he’s about to re-rattle the Nittany Lions. Pick: Pitt 27-23
►Colorado at Nebraska: The Cornhuskers’ opener against Akron was cancelled because of lightning and not, as some reported, because of disinterest. The truth is, the heavens thought it unseemly for program savior Scott Frost to make his debut against a team called the Zips. This old rivalry is much more dignified. Pick: Nebraska 35-28