While Michigan State plays to redeem the Big Ten’s tarnished national reputation Saturday in Eugene, Ore., Michigan will try to regain a foothold for national respectability in South Bend, Ind.
Unlike many, I truly believe the Spartans will win their game against the Ducks. Michigan State’s program turned the corner last year, and Saturday’s tilt will be the exclamation point.
Connor Cook has made me a believer. The kid has mad quarterback skills, and as much as I detest the antics of defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, he has a superior defensive mind and can flat out coach.
Everything has been trending upward in East Lansing, and coach Mark Dantonio isn’t about to let his program stray off the course of establishing itself as perennial national power.
If people are still unaware of Spartans football, that will all change on Saturday when they beat the Ducks with little problem.
It’s Michigan that will have its hands full with Notre Dame.
As impressive as the Wolverines were against an overmatched Appalachian State team in their season opener, this weekend will be a different story against the Fighting Irish. It will also be the most pivotal game in coach Brady Hoke’s Michigan career.
Since he became Wolverines coach, Michigan has been a horrible road team, going 7-11 away from Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have been physically beaten down away from home, have frequently turned the ball over and surrendered huge chunks of yardage on defense.
Any resemblance Michigan has of being a legitimate championship-caliber team seems to vanish as soon as the Wolverines don their road whites.
This is an alarming trend, and Hoke understands that for Michigan to get back to being Michigan, it must win on the road.
For the last few years, Hoke’s program has had the built-in excuse of being young and in a transitional period.
Well, this is year No. 4 under Hoke, and although the Wolverines might still be a bit wet behind the ears, their recruiting efforts have landed them a collection of athletes considered to be among the nation’s very best.
With so much perceived talent, the time is now for Michigan to re-establish itself as a team that can play anybody, anywhere and win.
We’re all aware that the Wolverines’ biggest games this season are at Notre Dame, at Michigan State and at Ohio State. And many pundits believe that their best shot for a statement road victory will be against the Irish.
The Wolverines’ road schedule is exactly the measuring stick needed to see where they really stand under Hoke, who’s proven that he can attract talent to Ann Arbor.
Whether he can coach them will begin to be answered Saturday night at Notre Dame.