Sans Spartans, state teams do well in bowl season

The college football postseason is finally upon us. Well, the NCAA Division I FBS version is. The Division I FCS, Division II and Division III playoffs have been underway for a couple of weeks, but the big schools are the ones that grab national attention.

In Michigan, there is a lot of joy spread across the state. That is, unless you are a Spartans’ fan as Michigan State is the only FBS program not playing in a bowl this season as the team shared the title of my Pie in the Face Team of the Year award in this space not quite two weeks ago.

Other state schools have had seasons that were impressive, though on differing levels. One showed it was back on the big stage, another had an undefeated regular season, a third ended a long postseason drought and the other pulled a major, yet controversial upset at the start of the season and did just enough to earn a bowl spot.

The most impressive is the one out of Ann Arbor. In just two seasons, Michigan has gone from an afterthought to a legitimate national title contender. The Wolverines (10-2) should be playing in the College Football Playoff, but ended up blowing a lead in the second half and fell to bitter rival Ohio State.

The Wolverines hopes of making the playoff died the following week when Washington and Clemson won their respective conference championships.

Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh spent his time after the Ohio State game complaining about the officials and as a result, got dealt a $10,000 fine. He’s tried to move on and emphasize he had quoted the English ballad “Sir Andrew Barton” in a press conference Wednesday.

Hopefully, Harbaugh and his team have moved on because they face a good Florida State team in the Orange Bowl. The No. 11 Seminoles are led by freshman quarterback Deondre Francois, who has had a good first season.

Unfortunately for FSU fans, Francois sits behind a shaky offensive line, which doesn’t bode well against a tenacious Michigan defense. The game should be close in the first half, but the No. 6 Wolverines will pull away in the second. Michigan wins 35-21.

The Wolverines may get most of the glory, but Western Michigan deserves its share, too. The Broncos got off to a good start with wins over Big Ten foes Northwestern and Illinois and kept “rowing the boat” to an undefeated season and Mid-American Conference championship.

So Western achieved the goal of all small-conference programs to make one of the big bowl games. The No. 15 Broncos face their biggest test yet when they face No. 8 Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl after the Badgers suffered a tough loss in the Big Ten title game. WMU star receiver Corey Davis has the potential to have a big game, but the Badgers are much better than Northwestern and Illinois and they’ll be too much for the Broncos to handle. Wisconsin wins 31-20.

Moving to Ypsilanti, Eastern Michigan surprised the college football world by making only its second bowl game in program history, and first in 29 years, after winning four of its first five games. As a reward, the Eagles get to leave the probably snowy Lower Peninsula and head to the Bahamas Bowl.

Based on recent history, the Bahamas will have an entertaining game. Opponent Old Dominion has a balanced attack that can give the opposition fits, but I’m going with the upset. Eastern topples the Monarchs 28-24.

The final Michigan squad in a bowl is the team from Mount Pleasant, Central Michigan. The Chippewas earned a huge win over Oklahoma State with a wacky touchdown on the final play of the game near midseason. According to the rules, the play never should’ve happened, and maybe that moment had a negative effect on CMU.

The Chippewas lost four of their last five games and went from a 3-0 start to a 6-6 finish. Now Central faces a high-powered Tulsa team in the Miami Marlins baseball stadium. It’s an appropriate setting as the Golden Hurricane will blow away the Chips easily in the Miami Beach Bowl. Tulsa rolls 42-24.

Regardless of the outcomes, it’s been a fun season for the teams in Michigan and their fans should show up in droves — the Bahamas sound tempting this time of year!

And don’t fret too much, Spartans fans. This season was just a bump in the road. They’ll be back in a bowl next year and the other four should as well.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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