Let’s all take a breath
One of the best things about college football rivalries is the reactions of the opposing fan bases after a game is over.
Last weekend, on Oct. 7, didn’t disappoint as Michigan and Michigan State fans took things to the extreme after the Spartans upset the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
On the jubilant MSU sideline, you had fans believing that the Spartans are completely back on track, Big Ten title contenders and even playoff contenders. They are also heaping praise on head coach Mark Dantonio after some of them wanted him fired after the disastrous 2016 season.
Meanwhile, on the Wolverines side, you have fans acting like they want to jump off the ledge of their workplace. There’s been talk that the season is over, that the team sucks or my favorite one because of its extremism, that head coach Jim Harbaugh needs to be fired.
During the days after a game like that, it’s important to have a rest period to rethink the state of the situation.
In the case of the Spartans, I was impressed with their victory, but fans need chill out a little bit. Yes, the Spartans were 4-1 heading into Saturday night’s game against Minnesota, but two of those wins came against Mid-American Conference teams Western Michigan and Bowling Green State.
Yes, they’ve gutted it out over two good teams in Iowa and UM. However, there’s still some flaws in Spartanland. MSU’s offense is still struggling. Going into last night, the Spartans had only cracked the 30-point mark once this year (the opener against BGSU) and hadn’t reached the 20-point mark since Week 2 against Western.
Granted, they have faced two stout defenses in the Hawkeyes and Wolverines the last two weekends, but they’re not going to keep winning games if they can’t get to 20 points on a regular basis.
While the offense is the big question, a smaller one is can the Spartans keep getting better. After Minnesota, MSU has two more winnable games against Indiana and at Northwestern before dealing with No. 3 Penn State in East Lansing and No. 9 Ohio State in Columbus.
If they continue to sharpen things up and end up pulling another upset in November, then I’d say the Spartans are back.
Meanwhile in Ann Arbor, things aren’t as bad as you might think. The loss to the Spartans was a little unexpected, but not surprising. MSU had taken down UM seven of the previous nine games, so this wasn’t a shocker.
Still, the Wolverines looked far different from the team that beat Purdue the week before. John O’Korn had the starting job at quarterback and put up some pedestrian numbers. He also looked rattled at times and pulled a hilarious flop on the MSU sideline that deserved an Oscar nomination. O’Korn then somehow managed to get even worse against Indiana Saturday throwing for only 58 yards.
The good thing for Maize and Blue fans is that Michigan’s defense is ranked No. 1 in the country and held the Spartans scoreless in the second half. It also stepped up big yesterday, holding the Hoosiers to only 80 yards rushing and stopping them on fourth down in overtime to earn the 27-20 win.
As far as the whole “Fire Harbaugh!” cries and “Is Harbaugh overrated?” debate go, both need to stop. Michigan isn’t going to get rid of Harbaugh, especially after wooing him back to Ann Arbor and throwing a bunch of money at him. If Harbaugh leaves, it’s going to be his decision.
Is he overrated? It’s hard to say. There’s been a lot of hype around Harbaugh because of how he turned around Stanford and the San Francisco 49ers, and he helps that with his personality.
As a result, people’s expectations get raised and sometimes they get so high, they become rather unreasonable.
Yeah, he’s 1-2 against MSU, but take away that bizarre punt block two years ago and he’d be 2-1. Yeah, he hasn’t beat Ohio State yet, but last year’s loss came in double overtime and Michigan is more of a threat to beat OSU now than it was with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke at the coaching helm.
Now that Harbaugh is here, people are wondering who will win the U-M-OSU game, not how badly will the Buckeyes crush Michigan.
What people also need to remember, and therefore why a rest period is important, is that Harbaugh is only halfway through his third year. He didn’t inherit a team that was a national title contender and instead had to build one.
That takes a lot longer than a lot of U-M fans want, but it’s true. If you look at what Nick Saban has done at Alabama, that didn’t just happen overnight. It took Dabo Swinney nine years to get a title at Clemson. Nine years!
And you guys are mad at Harbaugh midway through his third season? C’mon folks.
So Michigan fans, start humming that Third Eye Blind song in your head and “step back from that ledge my friend.”
And Spartan fans, let’s put the champagne back on ice. There’s a long way to go this season and a lot could still happen.
The rest period is over. Hopefully your heads are thinking clearly now.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.