Staples: Every Big Ten team should support Michigan in game

Every Saturday night, Andy Staples and Ali Wasserman react to the weekend’s slew of games on “The Andy Staples Show and Friends.” On Monday, Andy relived the biggest takeaways he and Ali got from Saturday night’s instant response. This week: Neither Michigan nor Ohio State enter the game with a lot of glory. But Michigan really has a chance to change things…for everyone.

The biggest game of competitive week could herald a new era in the Big Ten, or it could return the league to a mind-numbing status quo after a season of hiatus. Michigan has a chance to change everything. Ohio State has an opportunity to make sure nothing changes.

Sound exaggerated? Maybe a little bit. But such a storied rivalry deserves hyperbole. Especially when it’s rooted in truth. To understand what’s at stake in Columbus on Saturday, it’s first necessary to understand some recent history. …

The tune is called “Buckeye Swag,” a title that seems very fitting. The best damn band in the land blew up the band in a rapidly emptying Spartan stadium over 10 years ago. On the court, Ohio State players dance. Even Urban Meyer celebrated his 17-16 win over Michigan State, one of Ohio State’s leading contenders at the end of the Jim Tressel era, with a slight nod.

After covering that game, I wrote this message to the rest of the Big Ten in my Sports Illustrated column:

You are totally screwed.

You might get Meyer this season. His Buckeyes are still vulnerable at times. Heck, Nebraska might even beat Ohio State on Horseshoe Saturday. But Meyer will give you a living nightmare for several seasons in a row. It won’t last forever, as the same outside factors that plagued Meyer toward the end of his tenure at Florida were also present at Ohio State, but the next few years will be miserable.

Almost every word came true. (Unfortunately for Nebraska, Ohio State won 63-38 the next week.)

The point is, after watching Meyer beat some of the better programs in the league with lineups of Braxton Miller and Tape, it’s clear that Ohio State is going to elevate to a completely different level than the rest of the league. Meyer will build the same roster at Ohio State that he did at Florida. Unlike the SEC, which has Nick Saban and a few others who understand what Meyer is doing, Big Ten coaches were barely prepared for how Meyer would radically elevate Ohio State’s talent. Tressel recruited well, but it’s going to be a whole different beast.

Mark Dantonio’s MSU program fought valiantly, beating the Buckeyes for Big Ten titles in 2013 and 2015. Penn State shocked Ohio State in 2016. But in the end, they all caved in. If Ohio State had won the league title every year from 2017 to 2020, the Buckeyes — according to Las Vegas’ power rankings — typically had at least two more touchdowns than any other team in the league.

During that span, Ohio State went 31-2 in the Big Ten regular season and 4-0 in the Big Ten title game. Although Mayer stepped down after the 2018 season, successor Ryan Day took the same approach to building the roster. Nowhere was the gap between the Buckeyes and the rest of the league more apparent than in the Michigan game. After losing by the ass in 2016, Michigan lost its next three games by a combined 63 points.

Too many COVID-19 cases led to games being canceled in 2020, which might be for the best for Michigan. Almost certainly, it was yet another blowout loss. Could that be the final straw for coach Jim Harbaugh? It’s hard to say. It was a strange year. Maybe the Michigan state government will be happy with the same Harbaugh salary cut and coaching shuffle happening on our timeline. But what emerged from that turmoil was an entirely different entity.

Harbaugh has been building a roster that he hopes will thwart Ohio State’s athletic dominance through blunt force trauma.

In defensive coordinator Mike McDonald — on a one-year loan from brother John’s Baltimore Ravens staff — Harbaugh found a tactician who could match wits with Day and Buckeyes coordinator Kevin Wilson. (Harbaugh replaced Macdonald with former John Harbaugh staffer Jesse Minter, and the defense continued to roll.) By bringing tight end coach Sherrone Moore to the offensive line, Harbaugh taught it how to do damage by providing the positional groups where it can do the most damage with its best man . In essence, Harbaugh built an old-school Big Ten team capable of playing the modern game.

Combine that with the development of elite edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, and you have a recipe for a statement win against the Buckeyes. Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud was battered all day, and Moore’s offensive line broke the Buckeyes defense, which had turned to a new coordinator.

But as dominant as Michigan 42 and Ohio State 27 are, it’s just one game. If Michigan can’t build on that, it’s a blip in Ohio State’s long reign. If Ohio State does what it did in 2018 — beat Michigan in Columbus with a weird, overly tough win at Maryland — then maybe nothing really changes. As long as Day wants to work at Ohio State, the Buckeyes will continue to dominate the Big Ten more or less every year.

But if Michigan can play in this game — and especially if Michigan can win it — it could mean something different not just for the Wolverines but for the league as a whole.

This could mean that the beast that Urban Meyer hatched and raised and then handed over to Ryan Day is injured and vulnerable. That should be on the attention of everyone at Penn State, Wisconsin State, Michigan State, USC and UCLA.

Because it could mean they have opportunities in the future.

Let’s look at the short- and long-term benefits of a Wolverines win.

Why a Michigan win could be good for the Big Ten in the short term

With the tie between College Football Playoff contenders already faltering, a victory at Michigan State on Saturday might provide the Big Ten with its best chance to move two teams into a four-team roster. The SEC has done so twice already, and the ACC has done so when Notre Dame holds its conference schedule in 2020, but so far the richest conference in America hasn’t taken half of the seats. The CFP will expand to 12 teams in two or four years, with multiple teams entering the Big Ten each year thereafter. But this may be its best chance to dominate the proceedings while the number is still four.

How would that work?

If TCU finishes 13-0 and USC beats Notre Dame and its Pac-12 championship game rival, the game’s underdog is unlikely to stand a chance. But given everything we’ve seen, TCU and USC have less than a 50 percent chance of combining to go 4-0 over the next two weeks. If one of them misses, the second Big Ten team has a chance. If they all go down, the odds only increase.

That’s especially true if the underdog of the game is Ohio State. An 11-1 Michigan might not be able to overcome the weakness of its non-conference schedule against 12-1 Big 12 champion TCU or 12-1 ACC champion Clemson. The 2019 decision to forego a scheduled 2022-23 home-and-home series with UCLA looked wimpy at the time and looks even worse in retrospect. Although Michigan gets its projected seven home games in 2023 — UCLA games will be played at Michigan Stadium this season — it missed out on a nonconference win, even with a loss to Ohio State. , which could also make the Wolverines a CFP candidate.

But 11-1 Ohio State might still be a strong CFP candidate. The Buckeyes are in particularly good shape compared to Clemson. Why? Because the CFP selection committee told us through its previous rankings that it disrespected the ACC this year, and because the Buckeyes and Tigers have a particularly prominent non-conference opponent.

Ohio State opened the season with a 21-10 win over Notre Dame in Columbus. On Nov. 5, Clemson went to South Bend, where it was defeated 35-14. Ohio State’s victory will look even better if Notre Dame beats USC and knocks the Trojans out on Saturday. So even if TCU locks up third with wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, the Buckeyes still have a good chance of competing for third. 4.

Of course, Ohio State doesn’t want to go back to CFP. It hopes to reassert its dominance of the Big Ten and put Michigan in contention for the participation trophy in the Rose Bowl. Harbaugh’s assertion in 2021 that Day was “born at third base” could poke the face of a coach whose only Big Ten loss in his four-year stint remains in that game.

Why a Michigan State win is great for the Big Ten in the long run

This game is also important for Day. While the loss was only his second in the Big Ten in the aforementioned four seasons as Ohio State head coach, it would go a long way toward indicating that Ohio State’s previously prohibitive talent edge may no longer be enough to dominate. alliance.

Penn State always seemed to play hardball against Ohio State, finishing just one spot behind Michigan in the 247 Athletic Talent Composite. If Michigan can close the gap with planning and style of play, Penn State might be able to close the gap with planning or developing a five-star quarterback who happens to be a long-term starting backup during his freshman season.

Michigan State paid Meltucker huge sums of money to bring the Spartans to Ohio State’s level. It’s blowing up in everyone’s face this season, but Tucker continues to try to move up Michigan State’s roster with recruiting and evaluation skills honed at Ohio State, Alabama and Georgia.

Wisconsin is looking for a new coach after the government dumped Paul Crist before the program fell too far behind. If Chryst’s successor — presumably interim coach Jim Leonhard — upgrades the recruiting department and brings in an offensive coordinator, the Badgers could suddenly become a problem.

What if Iowa coach Kirk Ferenc realized that just a capable offense paired with the Hawkeyes’ elite defense and special teams could provide some special seasons?

Don’t forget, Lincoln Riley is coming in 2024 and bringing with him a Trojan horse. Quarterback Caleb Williams is leaving — and in his case a possible Heisman Trophy. But Riley has shown he’s always going to have a dynamic quarterback. If Riley figures out how to configure and deploy an adequate defense, everyone should be terrified. Including horse chestnut.

But that’s another question for another day.

This week, Day and company must grapple with the possibility that Michigan might be on par with Ohio State. The Buckeyes built a huge talent advantage over the other Big Ten teams over the past decade. But if they can’t use it in practice for the second year in a row, it could herald a new era, with a battle for the crown every season.

(Photo by Jim Harbaugh and Ryan Day: Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images)



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