NCAA FB

Michigan, Michigan State back in familiar roles

Share This Story

foxsports admin

 
   
 
The auto industry remains stuck in neutral, unemployment continues to hover around 15 percent and nearly 20,000 homes entered foreclosure in August. Clearly, the state of Michigan remains mired in hard times, longing for a return to the prosperity of the past.
downlevel description
This video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.
In one respect, though, things have come full circle since last year. Michigan's little corner of the college football universe seems to have been restored to order. As they prepare to play Saturday in East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State have settled back into the familiar roles they've occupied for most of the past 40 years. That means the 4-0 Wolverines are finding ways to win games, while the 1-3 Spartans keep discovering new ways to lose them. It wasn't supposed to be like this again this soon, given Michigan's 3-9 record last season and MSU's 9-4 finish. Rich Rodriguez, the thinking went, was a bad fit as the coach in Ann Arbor, and Mark Dantonio was custom-tailored for the Spartans. In-state recruiting started tilting toward MSU for the first time since the mid-'60s, signaling a seismic shift in a pecking order that had prevailed since Bo Schembechler promised, "Those who stay will be champions." Instead, it's Rodriguez enjoying a Year 2 renaissance with the Wolverines. He's already surpassed last season's win total, despite an eve-of-the-season Detroit Free Press investigation that alleged he violated NCAA rules by engaging players in workouts beyond the allowable 20-hour weekly limit. Since that story broke, freshman quarterback Tate Forcier has directed pulsating victories over Notre Dame and Indiana with last-minute touchdown drives, prompting a Detroit News columnist to joke that Michigan's new motto has become: "Those who stay really, really late will be champions." The story is completely different at Michigan State, as it often is in comparison to its archrival. Picked third in the Big Ten's preseason poll, the Spartans had a 2-0 start in their hands, leading Central Michigan, 27-26, after denying a two-point conversion attempt at home with 32 seconds remaining. All MSU had to do was recover an on-side kick. (Uh-oh.) OK, so then all it had to do was stop Central from advancing into field-goal range from its own 47-yard line. (Uh-oh.) Three completions later, all MSU had to do was block the field goal. It didn't, but Central missed the kick. Uh-oh, Michigan State was offside. So Central, of course, hit the 42-yard game-winner in a 29-27 final. A week later, Michigan State lost by a field goal at Notre Dame. Last week at Wisconsin, MSU played as if reeling from those two early sucker-punch losses and got worked, 38-30, in a result made to look respectable by two oh-by-the-way touchdowns in the last two minutes. So now Michigan State is in the all-too-familiar position of needing a win over Michigan to salvage its season. Dantonio spent this week answering the same questions about his team mailing in the second half of its season that his predecessors routinely faced. Such pratfalls, after all, defined the tenure of John L. Smith, Bobby Williams and, yes, even Nick Saban before he was washed in the healing waters of the Southeastern Conference. Dantonio has made no secret of his distaste for Michigan and its perceived arrogance. He cautioned the Wolverines after they crowed about rallying from 10 points down in the final seven minutes to win at Spartan Stadium in 2008, "pride comes before a fall." That looked prophetic last year, but now the wrath of the football gods has been turned back on Dantonio. Why? Maybe because he's the latest coach to think he'll be successful playing two quarterbacks. Dantonio has rotated sophomores Kirk Cousins and Keith Nicol all season because "to just X one of them out and say, 'Hey, you're the guy; don't worry about the other guy,' and not give the other guy an opportunity to experience growth would be the wrong thing to do." Speaking of the wrong thing, Dantonio removed Cousins after he threw a touchdown pass last week to forge a 7-7 tie at Wisconsin. Nicol came on, threw an immediate interception to set up a Badgers score, and MSU never again found the momentum with the chance to win. Michigan State is struggling so much defensively — last in the league in turnovers forced, red zone defense and pass defense — that it can't afford to have its offense or coaching staff add to its problems. "We have to continue to embrace each other and not point fingers," Dantonio said. "...we should not have a problem (being motivated). I don't think we can sit around too long and have the 'Poor me's.' We have to get ready to play." Rodriguez knows all about imploding. Just last year, he was trying to run the spread offense without a quarterback suited to implement it and saddled with a defense that was dreadful in every way. The defense, under new coordinator Greg Robinson, must still improve to even be considered average, but it's getting off the field just enough to give Forcier a chance to pull out a victory. He's probable for the game Saturday with a bruised right (throwing) shoulder that might be the reason Rodriguez closed his Wednesday practice for the first time all season. Fellow freshman Denard Robinson has played some, too, but the Wolverines use the run-oriented Robinson as a change of pace — not as an essential equal as Nicol is for Cousins at MSU. "This game is personal and we need to win it," Cousins said. "And we better win it." If not, it will mark the 42nd straight season the Spartans have failed to win even two in a row against the Wolverines. "It's a critical game for us," Dantonio said. "It always will be, regardless of our record."
Tagged: Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Central Michigan, Middle Tennessee State, Connecticut, Notre Dame

More Stories From foxsports admin

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Sumlin annoyed by media's Manziel questions Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Kevin Sumlin responds to questions about life after Johnny Football by toying wi...

AJ Pasquale's journey back to UCLA Posted: Jun 17, 2014
UCLA football ops intern AJ Pasquale describes his own personal journey after th...

Winston issued adult civil citation Posted: Apr 30, 2014
Get the latest news surrounding Jameis Winston's recent shoplifting fiasco.

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash