Michigan Now Just an Average Program
By DREW SHARP • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • October 18, 2012
When Michigan and Michigan State face off this Saturday in Ann Arbor, it will be a meeting of two programs going in opposite directions.
While Mark Dantonio has established consistency and attitude in leading the Spartans to a 4-1 start, the sheen on Rich Rodriguez's back-to-back Big Ten championships and 2011 National Championship appearance has obviously worn off.
The sounding bell for Michigan's trip back to mediocrity was last week's debacle at Indiana, which dropped the Wolverines to 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten this year.
That the legendary Wolverine program could fall to the perennial bottom-dweller of the Big Ten is anathema in Ann Arbor.
This latest loss may be the worst in Michigan's history. Appalachian State, which has won every NCAA Division I Football Championship since, was a good team that snuck up on them, while Toledo in 2008 could be chalked up to the inevitable attrition of instituting a brand new offense. Indiana, however, was a clear sign that the NCAA has caught up -- and passed by -- Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.
The Hoosiers knew everything the Wolverines were going to do before they did it. They pounced on every football. They showed up intense and ready to play, something that cannot be said for Rodriguez's squad.
Even when the Rich-Rod era was reaching its apex -- before Nick Saban's Crimson Tide proved in Miami that high-tech SEC football is far superior to the cavemen of the Big Ten -- the end of the Spread Option was in sight, as Ohio State limited Michigan's vaunted running game to just 86 yards.
The losses this year are a reflection of a team falling apart. We've heard grumblings from players about disjointed leadership in the locker room. Their motivation has been called to question. The resounding victory over an overrated Notre Dame team is a forgotten memory. This was the real Michigan, failing epically when not showing off for a national audience.
Now, with Superman Sam McGuffie and Tate Forcier playing in the NFL, Michigan has struggled to find offensive life against real defenses. And Rodriguez has taken the heat for this latest embarrassment, with many Michigan faithful ready to move on without him. Following the loss this year to Indiana, the website www.firerichrodriguez.com reported a record number of hits.
Coaches, it seems, have a short shelf life in today's win-now environment.
In that paradigm, MSU's Dantonio, who took over the program way back in 2006, is the exception. Dantonio, who won a national championship at Ohio State in 2002 (something Rich Rodriguez has never accomplished), has stuck around by preferring substance to flash. Under his direction, Michigan State has focused on building its foundations with a power running attack and a tough, in-your-face defense, and with a win in the Big House Saturday, could emerge as the new power in the state.
Michigan State has had a decided edge in the battle for in-state recruiting in recent years, holding a 3-to-1 advantage in Top 20 in-state talent. Dantonio has eschewed the exotic speed demons of Florida that Rodriguez favors, instead choosing to build his team by establishing strong relationships with in-state coaches. The dividends of this long-term investment are now paying off, starting with State's home-grown 'lighting' and 'thunder' tailback duo of Edwin Baker and Austin White. This week, they hauled in yet another highly regarded athlete, gathering a commitment from the Free Press' No. 13 in-state recruit, linebacker Damien Hirst of Birmingham Seaholm.
The recruting differential tells the story: in-state high schoolers are already looking at Michigan State before Michigan even extends an offer.
It starts Saturday. If the Spartans can roll into Ann Arbor and dispatch Rodriguez's flailing Wolverines, it could signal the beginning of the end of Michigan dominance in this state, and a return to the days of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, when Spartans dominated the rivalry and competed every year for the national title.
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Does anyone else out there crack up while watching Generation Kill? There's a guy who says "Brah" all the time, I've nicknamed him Crpl. Sparty.
Great show in all other respects BTW.
As a primer, the Red Cedar Message Board (RCMB) is little brother's treehouse. There, they continue to plot their revenge against big brother.
I found this thread to be pretty amusing: http://www.spartantailgate.com/forums/msu-red-cedar-message-board/320428...