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MnB staff roundtable: Michigan can make MSU go away for awhile with a victory

Spartan Super Bowl, 2019 Edition

Michigan State v Michigan Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images

If ever there was a year where the Michigan-Michigan State game is one team’s super bowl, this might be the one. The Spartans made the oft-repeated mistake of looking ahead to the Bunyan Game and got served some schadenfreude by a pretty good former Michigan quarterback who amicably left the school and certainly wasn’t rejected because I seem to remember Brandon Peters starting several games in a maize and blue uniform. Gotta be difficult for them to keep track of which quarterbacks beat them since there have been so many.

As has been the running theme of the Harbaugh era, Michigan is just on the outside looking in at being in the driver’s seat for their division. Bye weeks are supposed to be where things get fixed, but recent history shows that Michigan struggles after being off, and it would be nice if this coaching staff could solve that problem. At least that would provide another marker for whether the team is truly getting better heading into these final weeks.

So, Michigan can’t lose to an inferior team, especially this one. There is the potential here for Jim Harbaugh to expedite what may be unavoidable now: Mark Dantonio’s exit. No better man to put things in motion than the guy Dantonio disrespekts the most. The Michigan-Michigan State game is never really a game in the traditional sense, it’s more like if the movie Road House were a football game. No one emerges unscathed.

That’s where we away. If I see one mention of a certain phrase that should never be heard again, your punishment will be to only be allowed to read Graham Couch stories for a week.

David: Growing up in Michigan, this game means a lot and is on a different level than any other. It’s a divide that creates bragging rights and trash talk year-round. It’s what you’re brought up with as a Michigan native that stays with you, no matter where you live. If you continue living there or active on social media it’s always a topic of discussion and arguments for football and basketball. Both have seen success and created some amazing games in the rivalry that is unlike any other.

For this game tomorrow, Michigan and their fan base is licking their chops ready to not only see a major beat down but keep Paul Bunyan in Ann Arbor. This also comes at a time many wonder if this is the last game for Mark Dantonio. With all the problems on and off the field, this game also gives Michigan the chance to show they’ve turned the page of some early season struggles knowing Michigan State will try everything they’ve got as their biggest game of the year. Heck, it could be their “bowl game” as well. I know that how this matchup has been over the last few years, the away team seems to do well and come out victorious. That defensive performance last season for Michigan holding them to just 94 total yards is how they want this game to unfold with the chance to blow the doors off the Spartans. I’m not expecting it but if Michigan can put up over 40 points ending in a blowout, it could be the nail in the coffin for Mark Dantonio.

Michigan has three tough games left and I know they’re not looking past this game by any means. It will be cold, but that stadium tomorrow is going to be rocking soaking up what could be potential blowout while enjoying every minute of it. Let’s Go!

Jay W: Hey! Look! There’s a shiny quarter on the ground! Might take you a while to look for it so stay down there!

Alright now that all the Spartan fans are gone I have to admit something: I am very nervous about tomorrow. Everything about it just feels wrong. It is the first time in the Harbaugh era that Michigan is playing a straight-up bad Spartan team at home and I find the whole thing unsettling. No matter how much I look at previews that show Michigan’s advantages or re-watch the MSU/Illinois highlights I just can’t shake the feeling that if a game is going to get weird, this is the game. Dantonio puts all of his eggs in this basket, setting up maximum Spartan fan arrogance. (I got taunted by a Spartan fan at work today, and I work for the University of Michigan.) The home team has yet to win a Harbaugh/Dantonio Paul Bunyan game, and even in years when Michigan has been clearly better, Michigan State spends at least three quarters making Wolverine fans nervous.

The saving grace, of course, is that in those games where I’ve been nervous in the third, Michigan has finished. They finished during the 3-9 season, and they finished last year after the big rain delay. I’ll be nervous, I’ll probably be annoyed at some point in the third, but Michigan is going to finish this year too, because the better team always wins Michigan/MSU. If you don’t include 2011, the last time the team that finished with the better record lost was 2001. (In 2011, MSU’s record was worse by one game by virtue of their Big Ten Championship Game loss.) I expect the better team to win again.

Michigan needs to win this game. There’s no room for any error. Some say Michigan has a chance to finish Dantonio’s career. I don’t think that’s true, I think we’ll go into next years game wondering if that is the game that finishes his career, but I want the team to play like it’s true. I want Michigan to beat them so bad that people look at the MSU/Maryland game next week and wonder about the upset. (A funny subplot to me is that a Michigan win means MSU plays must-win games against Maryland and Rutgers. I think they would win, but the idea of needing a win against Rutgers makes me cackle.) I don’t know what’s going to happen for the rest of the season. I don’t know what’s going to happen in two weeks. But if Michigan goes out there and destroys MSU, and the season ends up with two fun rivalry wins with memorably poor weather, then that’s not too bad a season in my book.

Paul’s ours. The state is ours. Go Blue!

Kevin: Okay, so MSU is going to be out for literal blood, and the danger here is twofold: unnecessary injuries, and overthinking a game plan.

The coaching staff found something during the almost-victory against Penn State. Harness that balanced feeling, and run the Spartans over.

It's what they'd do, and it's only fair to use Dantonio's own strategy against him. Especially if it meant putting him into coaching purgatory.

One final note to our Spartan adversaries: Charles Rogers was awesome at football, and certainly gave Michigan defenders fits his awesome junior year. Condolences.