Embrace It: State, UMAA On A Collision Course in '18

Embrace It: State, UMAA On A Collision Course in '18

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Embrace It: State, UMAA On A Collision Course in '18

When the Detroit scribes are saying that Michigan State and UMAA are bound for a violent crash into each other in October – and it’s only July – we should all prepare for a season of intensity.

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Maybe – just maybe – the people are starting to accept the reality of the situation.

According to anyone outside of the state of Michigan, Michigan State is a clear-cut Top 10 team heading into the 2018 college football season.

But when the ink-stained sages of the Detroit newspaper community start to slightly hint at the idea of Michigan State having a shot at floating around in the rarified Maize and Blue air of college football greatness, it suggests that something about what Mark Dantonio has done and is doing is finally resonating with people.

Bob Wojnowski has been opining on college football in Detroit ever since the French pastry artist Antonin Careme created the first chocolate eclair.

He’s seen it all.

Although, he’s had a hard time seeing anything below his waist since he helped turn the Detroit River into an efficient booze-smuggling portal during Prohibition.

But the man appears to see that we are approaching an Autumn that will be jam-packed with intensity and drama and excitement.

And fun.

Despite UMAA’s decades-long insistence that the rivalry doesn’t qualify as a rivalry to them, the Michigan State/UMAA feud is as fun and as dysfunctional and as salty and as important to the local mood as any rivalry in all of sports.

Yes, it’s as heated as all of the other “big ones” such as Alabama/Auburn, North Carolina/Duke, Red Sox/Yankees, and, yes, UMAA/Ohio State.

The very fact that UMAA works so hard to minimize the importance of the game from their perspective is a major part of what makes the whole thing so special, so intense, and, yes, so fun.

It’s their problem that they’re missing out on the fun.

It would just be so much easier for them to simply accept reality and join in on the goofiness of it all.

Instead, they’re committed to expending extreme amounts of energy assuring people (mostly themselves) that the game is just as important as the game against Illinois.

That’s fine.

But someone over there might want to call a meeting to assess the success quotient of the approach.

It’s not really working for them.

And even the most clever UMAAer wouldn’t be able to pass a lie detector test if he or she was asked to answer the following questions:

  • Yes or No – UMAA must beat Michigan State this season in order to maintain a modicum of dignity.

  • Yes or No – if UMAA loses to Michigan State this season, it would mean that UMAA’s 3-9 mark against Mark Dantonio would be just as bad as a doctor telling you that the best climate for your respiratory system is Winnipeg and you must move there at once.
  • Yes or No – you have woken up at least twice a week for the last five years in a cold sweat after having a nightmare featuring a boisterous group including Jalen Watts-Jackson, Shilique Calhoun, Connor Cook, and Max Bullough sitting cross-legged (and nude) atop your dining room table, laughing during your family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Yes or No – you are 87% sure that UMAA has a 9% chance of beating Michigan State in East Lansing this coming October 20th.
  • Yes or No – you know that you can’t keep up the veneer of ambivalence regarding this thing any longer and you know that your school must win this season for the purposes of self-preservation.

I recently asked a UMAAer the following question:

“Do you remember how you felt when you guys absolutely owned Ohio State last century and UMAA treated John Cooper and the Buckeyes in the same way that the current president of the United States treats Canada?”

The UMAAer responded with a pretty quick and assertive, “Yeah – of course I remember that.  That was like a beautiful and never-ending party…”

I said to the UMAAer, “Yep.  That’s precisely how all Spartans feel about the way in which Michigan State has a complete stranglehold on UMAA.”

The UMAAer stared at me with the look of a man who had just been told that his wife is actually a lesbian and is having an affair with the cleaning lady.

UMAAers – just accept this whole thing for what it is.

Try and find a way to enjoy the hilarious nature of the feud.

Because here’s the real reality – by midnight this coming October 20th, it’s all going to be even worse for you than it is right now…

Wojo: Wolverines and Spartans on collision course

You’re weary debating which Tigers should be traded. You’re exhausted trying to figure out when the Red Wings and Pistons will win again, and whether the Lions will go 7-9, 8-8 or 9-7.

More than any summer in our collective lifetimes, you can’t wait for college football. You can’t wait to launch into irrational arguments and bait your rivals. Your time is coming.

Michigan and Michigan State will be good, perhaps very good, and even in mid-July, they’re generating the buzz. Both are loaded with returning starters, stacked on defense and stocking up on prospects. The only big victories around here these days (not counting the Tigers’ goose game) is when another recruit commits to the Wolverines or Spartans, and giddy hyperbole ensues.

Surely you heard the latest shocking controversy. The Las Vegas SuperBook gives Michigan the fifth-best odds of winning the national title, while Michigan State is 15th (#disrespect)! It’s never too early to argue or get angry, so here’s Professor Wojo with your summer-school primer:

Q: Wait, Michigan has better title odds and better Big Ten odds (third behind Ohio State and Wisconsin, with Michigan State fifth)? It’s the same old routine with you media people – build up the Wolverines and downgrade the Spartans. Don’t play dumb with me!

A: I’m not playing. And we don’t make the odds. And I’ll need that in the form of a question.

Q: Why is Mark Dantonio’s team always underrated and Jim Harbaugh’s team always overvalued?!

A: I’m not sure either premise is totally accurate. A website called BamaHammer – an impeccable source – got so tired of penciling in Alabama at No. 1, it recently put together a composite of preseason rankings from 14 publications. The Spartans’ average national rank: No. 9. The Wolverines: No. 12. For the record, Ohio State was third, Wisconsin fifth and Penn State 10th.

Q: But Dantonio pounds Michigan, eight of the last 10 meetings, and doesn’t get as much fanfare. How do you explain that?

A: Dantonio is 2-1 against Harbaugh but the Spartans’ 3-9 season skewed things. Actually, since Harbaugh arrived, Michigan is 28-11 and Michigan State is 25-14. Dantonio is a tremendous motivator and rivalry coach, and rightly acknowledged as such. Harbaugh still bears the shine from his NFL success, although that won’t last forever.

Q: Don’t people realize Michigan hasn’t won the Big Ten since 2004, hasn’t won a national title since 1997, and Harbaugh is 1-5 against Michigan State and Ohio State?

A: Yes, this is the source of great consternation and frustration in our state. Spartans are flabbergasted people still pick Michigan to win anything. Wolverines are flummoxed they still haven’t won anything, although there was that one time they nearly measured up in Columbus. The fact is, hype never truly helps Michigan, and disrespect never truly hurts Michigan State.

Q: Michigan was 8-5 last year and Michigan State was 10-3. What are people seeing in Michigan? What are people missing in Michigan State?

A: Uh, hello, I just pointed out the Spartans are getting top-10 love. Some might wonder if they have enough play-makers on their defensive line. And some might be overlooking how dynamic Brian Lewerke can be, and how many talented receivers he has.

One major reason the Wolverines are touted: On paper, they’re packed with NFL-type defensive talent. On a Sports Illustrated list (yes, another list!) of the top 100 players in college football, Michigan had six, including five on defense, led by No. 9 Rashan Gary. Michigan State had one, running back LJ Scott at 87. Even Michigan transfer Shea Patterson checked in at 80.

Q: Ohhhh, the great Shea Patterson. Michigan State already has the superior quarterback in Lewerke. Guy threw for 2,793 yards and ran for 559 last season. Hasn’t he proven more?

A: He might be the second-best quarterback in the Big Ten, behind Penn State’s Trace McSorley. Lewerke’s accuracy (59 percent) and decision-making must improve, but that’s true for Patterson too. In fact, I’ll give you the season’s key number for both teams: 10.

Q: Victories to win the conference?

A: Nope. Maximum number of turnovers (interceptions and fumbles) that Lewerke or Patterson can commit. They go over that number, it’s trouble.

Q: OK, let’s take a question from our Twitter audience. Frank in East Lansing writes: Who do you think will win their division first, the Wolverines or the Detroit Lions?

A: Haha, good one. Both have to prove they can beat Green (Bay).

Q: Next question, from Chad in Ann Arbor: Do you think the Spartans will beat Michigan on another fluke this year, or in a regular way?

A: Tough call. The game Oct. 20 in East Lansing will be an absolute slugfest. Michigan State is stocked in the same key areas as Michigan – secondary and linebacker. Joe Bachie doesn’t show up on as many All-American lists, but he’s as valuable a linebacker as Michigan’s Devin Bush. I’ll say the final score will be 20-13.

Q: In favor of?

A: I’ll let you know Oct. 19.

Q: Chicken-(bleep). OK, right now, which do you think is the better team?

A: Michigan, narrowly, because of Don Brown’s defense. But that doesn’t mean it will finish with a better record. Patterson is tantalizing but still a wildcard until we actually see him, and the road schedule is brutal — Notre Dame, Michigan State, Ohio State. To contend, I strongly advise the Wolverines upgrade their offensive line from “flimsy” to at least “sort of sturdy.” The Spartans’ schedule is more favorable, with only one daunting road test – Penn State.

Q: I saw Lindy’s magazine took a shot at Harbaugh’s overseas travels. It listed five capitals the Wolverines would visit – Paris, London, Munich, Geneva, Oslo – before they beat Ohio State. That’s funny. Which capital do you think they’d love to visit next?

A: Indianapolis.

Q: Nationally, we know Alabama and Clemson will play for the championship again. Give me a couple teams not named Georgia or Ohio State that could challenge.

A: Washington or Wisconsin (yeah, I said it).

Q: Man, I can’t wait. Exactly how long is it before Michigan State opens against Utah State and Michigan plays at Notre Dame?

A: For the Spartans, 74,880 minutes. For the Wolverines, 76,320. We can’t count fast enough.

bob.wojnowski@detroitnews.com

Twitter.com/bobwojnowski

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