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October 24, 2008

Staff predictions: Michigan State at Michigan

Was it a crystal ball that helped Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio when he predicted Michigan football's demise with his "pride comes before the fall" remark after last year's annual stumble against U-M? Or did he just get lucky?

Maybe Dantonio knew of Lloyd Carr's impending retirement and had an inkling that the Wolverines' transition year would be made more difficult by a coach with a completely different approach. Perhaps he anticipated that the offensive line would lose three starters who lost their desire to work (in some cases, simply run) and that the defense would take a "tackling optional" approach in the first half of the season.

Or maybe it was just typical Spartan bluster tossed against the wall that, for once, seems to have stuck … much more likely.

But Michigan State still has one little detail to take care of before it can proclaim state supremacy, if only for a year - winning a few more football games, starting tomorrow in Ann Arbor. While many in the local media have already written stories of MSU's return to the glory years (which most under the age of 50 wouldn't remember), not learning from past midseason mistakes (don't these guys have editors?), the Spartans still have to win a few more before they can say they've made it back to the top (half of the Big Ten).

This year, though, they might get a break. While they still aren't all that good, the rest of the Big Ten seems to have fallen to their level. The Spartans missed one opportunity to prove they were "for real" when they spent Ohio State week preparing for U-M instead, getting waxed by a decent, but not spectacular Buckeye team as a result.

That one was irrelevant anyway, according to a few Spartans.

"Michigan is the biggest game of the year," said running back Javon Ringer. "We could lose every game the rest of this year as long as we get this one."

Added safety Otis Wiley: "It means more to us than a championship."

So what happens if the Spartans fail? Plans for a leather bound "State Championship 2008" picture book to complement Dantonio's "One Game Season: How I Almost Beat Michigan" offering last year go on hold and couches burn - bad for the economy, bad for the environment but good in that the apocalypse will have been avoided for another year.

Congratulations to last week's winner … tomorrow's receives Pancake Puffs (as seen on TV … Golden, perfect puffs each time!) and two tickets to Wisconsin's win over Michigan State in East Lansing next week.

The picks:

Chris Balas: Starting quarterback Steve Threet makes it through three quarters before getting hurt and Nick Sheridan leads the winning, fourth quarter touchdown drive, capping it with a touchdown pass to Kevin Grady with a second to go in an improbable Michigan victory.

"He's even shorter than Mike Hart," a defiant Mark Dantonio says of Sheridan in the postgame. "The Threet kid has excessive nose hair and Rich Rodriguez is still Mr. Poopy Pants."

Michigan 26, Michigan State 24


John Borton: If anything could break the 10-year Curse of Spartan Bob, it'd be a Michigan offense and defense that have plunged downward like a leg-ironed sumo wrestler running into a swamp. But until the curse is broken, to quote a gentleman and a scowler: "It's not over."

Michigan 24, Michigan State 23


Michael Spath: Little brothers are a pain in the butt. They tattle on you, steal your things, whine, cry, push and punch always looking for a fight, and worst of all, they are envious of you. They simply want to be the big brother, but here's what they must accept - it's never going to happen.

Well, except this year, temporarily.

Michigan State 24, Michigan 17


Josh Helmholdt: This week, the Wolverines finally get back on... ahh, screw it.

Michigan State 31, Michigan 20


Matt Pargoff: In a normal year, I'd say that if Michigan stopped Ringer that the Wolverines would win. But this season, even if they do stop Ringer, there's really no guarantee that Michigan can put points on the
board.

Feeling oddly encouraged that Ohio State scored more points against the Spartans than they had in the previous two games combined, I'm picking U-M to win.

Michigan 17, Michigan State 13



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