Mark Dantonio is a zombie – Just when you think he is dead, he sneaks up behind you and rips out your jugular.
I’ve thought Dantonio was dead a couple of times before and every time, he comes back from the dead and rips out the heart of Michigan fans. There was the “trouble with the snap” play in 2015, when after an entire game of domination, Dantonio still found a way to beat Michigan. Then there was the “downfall” in 2016 when MSU went 3-9 and we thought the program was finished… Only to have Dantonio march into Ann Arbor the following year and embarrassed Michigan with a 14-0 victory, that wasn’t as close as the score read.
But even in the games when Michigan has beaten MSU throughout the Dantonio era, MSU has always exceeded expectations. Look back to the game in 2012, when an 8 win, good, Michigan team barely beat a 6-6 MSU team, 12-9, on a last-second field goal. Or in 2016, when the best Michigan team of the past decade only beat a terrible, 3-win, MSU by one score. Hell — even last year, a UBER talented, Michigan only beat MSU because Donovan Peoples-Jones got open for a 79 yard TD bomb in a 14-7 victory.
Something about this game brings out the best in Dantonio — Almost as if he is a werewolf* and playing Michigan is his full moon.
*Yes, I am comparing Dantonio to both a zombie and a werewolf, that should show you how scared of him I am.
Which is why Jim Harbaugh (Van-Helsing) and the Michigan Wolverines, need to load their revolver with silver bullets* and use this game to kill Dantonio … for good this time.
*Special thanks to Werewolves.com for the information on how to kill a werewolf and the movie “Van-Helsing”, starring Hugh Jackman, is one of my favorite “guilty pleasure” movies. For real though, if I found out Dantonio was a werewolf, I would put about 30 bullets through his balls and his heart.
Jim Harbaugh and Michigan have never had a better opportunity to end the “little brother” debate like they do Saturday. Sure, in 2016 Michigan was favored by 21 points, but that win was just about Harbaugh getting over the hump against MSU. This year, it’s about ending the Dantonio era and restoring the “big brother” title to Michigan, something the Wolverines haven’t had since Dantonio took over in 2006.
This game is Dantonio’s last chance to show the MSU fanbase “he’s still got it” and even if he still decides to retire after this season – if he beats Michigan on Saturday, it will be the perfect storybook ending to his time at Michigan State.
If you looked at the record of both these teams, you might think this is one of the least hyped match-ups these two have had since Harbaugh took over in 2015. I can admit it might not have the same amount Big Ten Championship implications as the game in 2015 did, but what it lacks in national importance, it makes up for in storylines.
The drama heading into this iteration of the “Battle for the Big Brother” has never been higher, because there are a few different things at work here: For starters, you have Dantonio’s legacy on the line in his potential last game vs. the Wolverines. But he isn’t the only coach with something to lose – the heat under Jim Harbaugh’s chair has grown throughout this season and a loss at home, as a 14-point favorite vs. rival MSU, will only make the seat hotter. Two polarizing head coaches are coaching for their jobs on Saturday and if that doesn’t get the blood pumping, then you might be a zombie, like Dantonio.
But all of the “is Dantonio done” and “this is a must-win for Michigan” chatter doesn’t matter once noon hits, then it’s up to the players and the coaches to get it done.
Michigan is a 14-point favorite heading into Saturday, which they should be. If you took away the names on the front of the jerseys and just looked at the talent-gap between these two teams and their resumes — You would think Michigan should win by 3-4 four scores, but that’s the thing about Dantonio and this rivalry, they always save their best game for the Wolverines and they are going to have plenty of bulletin material to use as motivation.
I don’t like that Michigan is already starting to trash talk MSU, because the last thing Dantonio needs is fresh motivational material. Oh! and you know this has been playing on a loop at MSU for the past year:
But off the field motivation and chatter don’t matter once the pads are on and MSU is not as bad as their record shows.
They should have beaten Arizona State in week 3, they beat a 7-2 Indiana, and they have given Ohio State their toughest game to this point. With or without Joe Bachie* – MSU has some talent and the gap between them and Michigan isn’t as big as it might appear. But if the Spartans want any chance of pulling off an upset, Brian Lewerke is going to have to play the best game of his career.
*I’m going to take the high road and not call MSU and Mark Dantonio “cheaters” after the Joe Bachie suspension, but they definitely are cheaters and MSU should receive the death penalty.
It’s not impossible and Lewerke has shown us glimpses of his potential throughout his career, but without a strong defense, he can’t hide anymore and with Michigan’s man-to-man, blitzing defense,* he’s going to have more on his plate than ever before.
*I like to imagine Doctor Blitz (DC Don Brown) with snot bubbles and smoke coming out his ears dialing up blitzes all day against Lewerke.
It seems Michigan is peaking at the right time in the season, but we honestly don’t know which team is going to show up on Saturday: Is it going to be the team that Wisconsin bullied or the team that bullied Notre Dame? I’m not sure and judging from “Battle of Big Brother’s” (ala’ ghosts of Christmas) past, I’d lean toward the latter.
If Michigan wants to avoid the upset, really it’s quite simple: Just don’t turn the ball over, run the ball, and don’t give up big plays on defense. I know those are cliches; But as long as Shea Patterson doesn’t fumble or throw interceptions, Michigan’s offense is going to be able to run the ball well enough to win this game. The same goes for their defense, as long as they don’t give up the big play and force MSU to string together a whole drive (which I’m not sure Lewerke and crew can do), then Michigan should be able to win this game by two scores.
But this game has always been about more than just the X’s and O’s… it’s always been more about toughness than RPO’s or technique and that’s what makes it special. Well that, and the fact that it has a pretty damn good trophy.
Michigan should win this game easily and my prediction is that they win 24-7 in what those unfamiliar to the rivalry would call a “snoozer”. But if you grew up in this rivalry and understand the history behind it and how much it means to both of the fanbases, then you can grow to appreciate this game.
But they are predicting a full moon will be out on Saturday and Dantonio isn’t going out without a fight and if he decides to unleash the “secret weapon” and announce his retirement to his players in the pre-game speech before they hit the field, then Dantonio just might have enough magic left to give one final “F-U” to Michigan before he calls it a career.*
*Seriously though, I hope this isn’t Dantonio’s final game. Because this rivalry just wouldn’t be the same without him.
Each of these videos has a special way about them that makes you hate the other fan base — But honestly though, what the hell does “the pride comes before the fall even mean?”