Monday, February 24, 2014

UM/MSU. Turning worms

Not that long ago, it was pretty much a given the University of Michigan reigned supreme on the gridiron, at least in the mitten state. Conversely, Michigan State ruled the roost on the hardwood. Yes, occasionally upsets would happen between the two schools -- in both sports -- but they were just that. Upsets. Anomalies, if you will. By and large, UM had the better football program, which in turn resulted in more "blue-chip" preps wanting to go there -- while the same could be said of MSU's basketball program.

But somewhere along the line, worms started to turn. Of late, the Spartans appear to be superior in football, having thrashed the Wolverines last season and, as Big 10 champions, going on to defeat a very good Stanford team in the Rose Bowl. Despite their bluster, the once proud Michigan program seems to be merely a middle of the pack team in their own conference. Given their current coaches and states of their programs -- this trend may well continue into the foreseeable future. Good for green. Not so good for blue.

On the other hand, after a couple decades of playing second fiddle to the Spartans in basketball, the Wolverines seem to be the real deal these days. Just last year, they made it all the way to the NCAA championship game before bowing out. An improbable run? Maybe, but you have to give them credit for accomplishing it. To boot, they swept the Spartans this year in their two meetings, both convincing victories.

Granted, neither school in either sport has approached the "dynasty" level, whereby they're perennial threats to be national champions like, say, Alabama football or UConn ladies basketball. Though also not that long ago, MSU was a regular visitor to the Final Four in men's hoops. To be sure, earlier just this year, MSU was briefly ranked #1 in basketball, but that was likely more the result of their reputation in the past, which so often happens. Yet Michigan aside, Michigan State has taken it on the chin a few other times this year. Besides being clobbered by then unranked North Carolina, they've also lost to definitely unranked Georgetown and Nebraska -- all at home. It's to be expected that even the best teams will lose games here and there on the road, and perhaps even rarely be beaten at home -- but usually by another team that is a highly ranked opponent as well. It happens. But MSU seems to have gone from striking fear in the opposition, to the other guys knowing they have a shot at beating them in any given game.

How all this will turn out come NCAA tournament time is anybody's guess. There's a lot of really good college teams, but Wichita State aside (a story for another day soon), they've all been beatable so far.

Michigan State might well roll into another Final Four. Maybe even win it all. Michigan? Nobody thought they could get as far as they did last year, so who knows? Maybe they make another big splash. Stranger things have happened.

But MSU almost expected to keep beating UM in football, while the opposite might well be true in basketball? Who would have thought it possible just a few short years ago?

The worms are quite busy turning in the state of Michigan. Maybe if they get a little spare time away from college athletics -- they can figure out something to do about all the potholes on the roads. Lord knows, the humans don't seem to have a clue......

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