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The Last Word: Hoping For An Early Christmas

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This week features ALL the great matchups. One in particular will decide the tenor of Michigan’s season.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan-Ohio State is here again, and it’s either going to be Christmas come early or a frightening combination of April Fool’s and that holiday where everyone dresses up as slutty presidential candidates. (Team Jennifer Aniston 2020! Aaagh!)

No matter where you fall on the Optimism Spectrum amongst Michigan fans, it’s hard to find a way to be okay about a theoretical loss to OSU. Not only are there conference championship implications and playoff implications, but there is also the prospect of a whole nother year of waiting to beat OSU if this team can’t get it done. It would be like staring into the deepest corners of hell, and seeing your mother-in-law working on research.

The hope is that Don Brown, Jabrill Peppers, and Michigan’s defense proves to be both enigma and bulldozer against a rather simple but effective OSU offense. Michigan’s offense has question marks of its own - the offensive line! quarterback! predictability! the deep ball! - but there is, in theory, a full tool box to work with, and Jim Harbaugh will make sure to throw tons of curve balls at the team we all hate.

So, I guess it’s time to buckle down and ride the ride. I, for one, will be nervous as hell.

Alright, close your eyes for a moment. Are they closed? Okay, good.

Now imagine I told you that MSU continued their spiraling season, that Indiana lost, Purdue lost, Rutgers lost, Maryland lost, Northwestern lost, and Illinois lost, too. Wouldn’t that feel intuitively right? Turns out, it’s exactly how Week 12 played out, and it happened by a combined margin of 210-65. The winners were Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Iowa, respectively. Only OSU-MSU and Michigan-Indiana were close at all.

Iit will be very interesting to see how the Spartans (who are 3-8) turn the page for 2017. They’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde team all year because of their depth, slow growth, and having to rely on talented freshmen who play erratically. But I think they’ll be better at quarterback and on the line of scrimmage next year.

And on the other hand, they are losing three senior o-linemen again, and they’ll be young all over the place again, too. So 2017 could be a sequel of 2016 if they’re not careful.

Also, a shout-out: this is now three 8-win seasons in the past four years for Minnesota. Wahoo, or whatever it is they say in Minnesota.

I know this always gets forgotten about, but Minnesota-Wisconsin, man! It’s definitely an underrated matchup that will have Jon Gruden shouting Spider 2 Y Banana at some unsuspecting and startled person nearby. Plus, the most-played rivalry in Division-I is currently sitting at 59 wins for Minnesota, 58 wins for Wisconsin, and 8 ties - which, like sunglasses, hats, and collars, is an annoying amount of one accessory.

So in honor of the matchup, here’s something that the young folks would call a kerfuffle - this was a game from two years ago, with some visible anger and frustration by the Badgers at what was a 2-13-2 record at the time, en route to a 4-27-5 record on the season.

I love seeing a heavy dose of respect in sports, but you also have to love a big dose of hate from time to time, too. That’s what sports is, after all.

As rivalry games go, this will be even more overlooked, but Purdue-Indiana carries bad blood as well. Don’t believe me? Here’s another non-football brawl to prove it.

“Things getting ugly down there” is also something my girlfriend... well, never mind.

Of course, nothing else really compares to Minni-Wiscy or Michigan-Ohio State, but a couple of interesting games will be taking place between Michigan State-Penn State and Nebraska-Iowa.

MSU-Penn State is an opportunity for Michigan State to get a win they can be proud of this off-season (Furman? Notre Dame? Rutgers? Yeah, they currently have none), and Iowa-Nebraska is part of a weird, four-team circle of hate that I don’t fully understand.

The barely alive Northwestern-Illinois rivalry will only be interesting to see if Northwestern gets its sixth win or not; meanwhile, Maryland and Rutgers will go do whatever it is they do when the actual Big Ten isn’t watching. The Terps, like Northwestern, like Indiana, need a win in order to be bowl-eligible.

Then, there are other bitter rivalry games outside the Big Ten: Hawaii-Massachusetts, South Alabama-Idaho, Indiana (Pennsylvania) against California (Pennsylvania), and Western New England against Alfred - which, hey, don’t laugh, as they’re both currently undefeated. Good luck, Alfred! Hopefully Batman taught you a few things.

Well, that’s it for this week. Hopefully there’s a win against Ohio State on the horizon. If part of you was hoping for some more videos of sports-related fisticuffs, I’m sad to say I couldn’t find anything Big Ten-related. Still, this was a rough-and-tumble fight between some lacrosse players that I enjoyed. Actually, just kidding, that’s a scene from the Devil’s Brigade. Great old war movie, by the way, about an elite force of American and Canadian troops that don’t like each other at first, but end up taking on this Nazi stronghold thanks to their training and even some martial arts.

(Alright, fine, here is an actual lacrosse fight. Careful, though, that is a legit fight for about 20 seconds and there’s some language.)