Saturday, September 13, 2014

UM/MSU football

Some things are predictable in football. Michigan and Michigan State will always host a patsy team to open their seasons. Despite all their spring and summer practices, it's like they need a warm-up game before they take on anybody serious.

This year was no different. MSU walloped Jacksonville State in East Lansing. The latter may as well have been the original Jackson Five, dead or alive, for what little resistance they put up against the Spartans on the gridiron. But they got a big check for marching off to a slaughterhouse.

To no one's surprise, UM had their way with Appalachian State in their own first game. It was a blow-out as well. The Mountaineers limped home to the boonies, or more properly Boone, North Carolina. But they got handsomely paid as well.

Evidently, the adminstrators and coaches at second-tier football schools think it's OK to send their troops off to be humiliated, as long as the cha-ching factor is high.

But occasionally it can backfire on the powerhouses. A few years back, the very same App St. waltzed into Ann Arbor and knocked off the "mighty" Wolverines. A day that shall live in infamy in Maize and Blue land.

And after all, what do the big schools have to gain by scheduling such patsies? They're SUPPOSED  to beat them handily, and the money is the same for them. However, if a monumental upset happens, they have a lot to lose. If they were "ranked" going in, they can kiss it goodbye for the season coming out. So why bother?

Yes, for some reason Big "10" schools are still only allowed to play 8 conference games a year, but the conference itself now consists of 14 teams. That means at least 5 potential conference opponents are left off every team's schedule. Yet given a 12 game schedule, that also means 4 games are left over as "electives", as they say in college.

Typically, UM and MSU will front-load their schedule with these 4 games. Also typically, three of them are of the Campfire Girls variety, with one being against a worthy opponent.

It was, and is, the same way this year. After jacking up the jackies from Lynard Skynard land, the Spartans went out to Oregon and got blistered. No shame there. The Ducks are a Top 3 national team. But in week 3, they take a vacation so they can prepare for --- Eastern Michigan, followed by Wyoming? Please.

After the Wolverines finally got revenge on the Apps, they went to South Bend and got lit up themselves by Notre Dame. Not just a thorough butt-whuppin', but skunked 31-0. It was the first time a Michigan team had been shut out in 30 years. At that, the score likely should have been even more lop-sided. Such was the beatdown they suffered. Sadly, at least for Michigan fans, this was the last time the teams will meet, at least for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame can forever crow about taking Michigan to the woodshed in their final go-around.

But like the Spartans, Michigan had yet ANOTHER patsy on their schedule coming up. At home, against a gawdawful Miami of Ohio team. The blue beat the red by a score of 34-10, but still fell well short of covering the point spread (33) against such pitiful competition.

Next up, they host Utah. Chances are the Utes will at least give them a decent game.

But the question remains. The Big 10 went to 12 teams a few years back. Now that it actually consists of 14 teams, why should schools like UM and MSU play 4 non-conference games when those same games could be devoted to teams WITHIN the conference? What's the point of allowing more teams in the conference only to ignore them in favor of playing 4 games a year OUTSIDE the conference?

And it's certainly not like UM and MSU stand to gain a lot of respect by scheduling a few patsies every year with their electives. Yeah, a lot of teams from other "power" conferences do the same thing every year -- but it doesn't make it right.

Interesting trivia question. When was the last time the Ohio State Buckeyes lost a football game to an in-state opponent?

Turns out, it was way back in 1921, when a guy named Warren Harding was President and, if I'm not mistaken, roughly about the same time Vin Scully called his first Dodgers' game. Or Regis first stepped in front of a camera. I wonder if any other team in any other state can boast the same? But enough of that nonsense.

Thing is, if the current trend continues, Michigan State, under head coach Mark Dantonio, might reel off several years of being unbeaten within the state. Michigan appears to be no match for them anymore. No, it likely won't last for 93 years and counting, ala the Buckeyes, but if Dantonio and UM coach Brady Hoke miraculously live to be Methusal-esque while remaining the head coaches of their schools -- it's theoretically possible.

Yes, another September has been wasted in non-conference play. But the date to keep an eye on is Oct. 25. The Wolverines visit the Spartans. And if MSU blows them out, which would come as no surprise, it might also spell the beginning of the end for Hoke.

Dantonio was the answer for MSU. Under his tutelage, that program continues to rise in prominence. Hoke is not, and never will be, the answer at Michigan. Despite their annual trumpeting of "blue chip" prep recruits every year -- UM just can't seem to get it together anymore to compete even within their own conference, let alone the national stage. And that falls on Hoke. No pun intended, but the blue-bloods in Ann Arbor that are in charge of such things won't tolerate this for very much longer. I look for Hoke to be gone after this year.

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