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Wolverines, Spartans go in two very different directions in key moment for both programs

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At least if Michigan fails, they do so having taken a chance.

Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Michigan Football answered the cries for change on Thursday when it announced the hiring of Josh Gattis to be their next offensive coordinator, coming over from the Alabama Crimson Tide. He coached the wide receivers and was the co-offensive coordinator there this past season.

On the surface, it checks off all the boxes, especially in what had been a somewhat dark week for the football program. I’ve said it for the better part of the last few seasons that it was time for Michigan to hand the reigns over to a young up-and-comer with new ideas and a modern outlook on how offenses should be run.

So, for Gattis:

34-years-old. Check.

Excellent recruiter. Check.

Presumably being given playcalling autonomy. Check.

He coached the wide receivers at Penn State from 2014-17 and the fact that they lost him to Alabama was seen as a big loss in their eyes. Five Alabama receivers caught 40 or more passes this past season in Tuscaloosa. Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff with 68 catches for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns.

All of that seems like good news for guys like Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black and Nico Collins.

Listen, anyone who thinks they know is this will be a great hire or not is mistaken. This could very well backfire, especially if it is just window dressing and Jim Harbaugh retains control of the offense. Now, would a guy give up a coordinator job that would see him calling plays at Maryland, his suitor that was reported earlier in the day, to go be a part of a by-committee approach at Michigan? I doubt it, but money talks, as well. However, this feels like a legitimate passing of the torch, at least for now. I won’t believe it until I see it until September, or more accurately, when the big games start showing up in late October.

The optics of it are pretty positive. Nobody can for sure say what the result of it is, but facing a crossroads of where this program was going to be headed moving forward, this was a big leap of faith in an attempt to modernize what has otherwise been an archaic and out-of-style offensive approach to Michigan’s offense.

Alabama and Clemson have met four seasons in a row for a reason and that is because each team has embraced a changing landscape in college football and as a result, that’s why they are always in contention. Gattis may not be Lincoln Riley or Ryan Day (yet), but this isn’t like the last time Michigan poached a coordinator from Alabama in Doug Nussmeier, who probably would have been fired if he didn’t land the Michigan gig under Brady Hoke.

So hats off to Harbaugh. Nobody can accuse the guy of not addressing a problem he has seen and improving on it. His assistant coaching hires are something that, to this point, we have no reason to question. His approach in-games still is a major question mark, but nobody can argue with the idea of the move he made today.

Which leads me to my next talking point.

On the day of craziness that was in college football, Michigan’s rivals up the road, the Michigan State Spartans, had some coaching staff changes to announce as well. Finally, Mark Dantonio is shaking up his offense.

....by doing this.

Michigan State had a horrible year offensively and had to do something, anything, to get things back on track. Dantonio elected to shuffle the deck chairs on the Titanic and keep his entire staff in place, but just put them in different roles.

That’ll really shake the cobwebs off of it.

This isn’t to pile on Dantonio and the Spartans, but this decision on his part is egregious. There is not a single person on board with this in their fanbase and as a result, things could start to really get toxic there. If I was a fan, I’d be outraged. If I was a season ticket holder, they’d no longer get a single cent out of my pocket.

The reason I bring all of this up is because what MSU just did is what people feared and speculated Harbaugh would do in terms of staying loyal to his friends and not doing anything to change the foundation of what they are.

Dantonio is a stubborn guy and the game of college football looks like it is passing him by, and he should be firmly on the hot seat in 2019, except for the fact that with all that’s going on in East Lansing, he does not really answer to anyone.

So kudos to Harbaugh and Michigan for adapting and at least trying something different to put them over the top. At least if they fail, it will have happened by swinging for the fences and the realization that what they have been doing is not working.

With Urban Meyer gone from Ohio State, there’s a chance at a bit of a power shift in the Big Ten East. Day is putting together an impressive staff and they are still the program to beat, but Michigan positions themselves better to topple them with this move. Michigan State, well, it looks like they may be once again battling for what they have dogged Michigan for in recent seasons.

Third place in the Big Ten East.