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Harbaugh places cone of silence around humbled Wolverines

michigan-vs-michigan-state.jpgI’m a bad husband.

I picked out the biggest Michigan Wolverine booster I could find and waited for him to be within listening distance of my wife Abs. Just to let you know,  Abs is a die hard Spartan. She is always nervous during Michigan-Michigan State week for fear that Michigan might beat her team by a ridiculous score of 82-0.

Any way this guy is strolling around Kroger with the biggest, boldest Michigan Wolverines shirt in history. I waited until he was near Abs to ask: “Who is going to win the big game this Saturday?”

In years past the Wolverine would pause for effect, take a stance like they were John Wayne before proclaiming: “We are going to kick some Sparty ass.”

This guy didn’t. My Wolverine friends at the gym didn’t either.

“Well you can tell who I am rooting for,” he said. “I think we should win but you just never know. I am worried.”

He went on to proclaim MSU coach Mark Dantonio to be some kind of magician who spins wins out of thin air. The Wolverine was nervous.

A Michigan writer asked Coach Jim Harbaugh can his team muster up enough energy to face a Spartan team who makes this game their Super Bowl and World Series all rolled into one.”

That is no longer true. The Spartans do not make this a life or death situation any more even though beating Michigan is important to them. They get riled up when Michigan players bombard them with “little brother” talk and other disrespectful terms. Harbaugh, who once guaranteed victory over Ohio State as a player, has put the cone of silence around his players this week and they followed his lead.

Harbaugh has won the week by his players not talking a lot of noise. MSU is already fired up about this game. Why add fuel to the fire?

Do your talking on the field.

And you know the media is dying for a Michigan player to utter the term “little brother.” So is Dantonio.

The Spartans have finally humbled the Wolverines. They’ve won eight of the last 10 meetings, won two Big Ten championships and been to the BCS national championship semi final.

Michigan, who used to rule the state, hasn’t even played in a Big Ten title game.

MSU also wins games it has no business winning. That is why the Michigan program is being more respectful and silent.

I’ve spent years snooping around the Spartan program as a journalist. MSU players would give us the standard “we hate Michigan” sound bites. Calm stuff. Then someone from Michigan would talk about little brother and suddenly State players had razor blades piercing from their eyes with anger.

My advice for Michigan players was to shut up and play the game. It looks like the humbled Wolverines learned their lesson and it is one of the reasons I pick them to win a dreadful, boring game over the Spartans.

 

 

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MSU rivalry with Michigan is personal

MSU football

Two things struck me in the aftermath of Michigan State’s prime time 14-10 victory over Michigan Saturday night at Michigan Stadium.

I thought of all the emails and tweets my former broadcast partner Mike Valenti used to receive from Wolverine fans saying “How does it feel to have your Sparty run over now that Jim Harbaugh is in town?”

And I remember how angry that used to make him.

And I thought of MSU coach Mark Dantonio who said about the rivalry and Mike Hart’s little brother comments: “This is personal.  It will never be over.”

Dantonio is the master motivator and I am now convinced that Michigan State is a threat to beat Michigan every time they play. He will make it personal every year and have his team playing like its pants are on fire when it takes on the maize and blue.

He had plenty of ammunition this year. Vegas established Michigan initially as a 17-point favorite. It needed to establish that ridiculous line just to get people to bet on State and even the betting.  More than 70 percent of people in the state of Michigan predicted Michigan to win.

Dantonio is 8-3 against Michigan and 2-1 against Harbaugh. Some of this Harbaugh love should disappear because he is now 1-4 against chief rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.

State players also told me that if you are a two star athlete and are recruited by State that you remain a two star athlete. If you are a two star and Michigan signs you then you are often bumped to a three star because the program is viewed as superior.

Dantonio plays off all of that and motivates his guys.

You can point to the five turnovers that cost Michigan. But those turnovers were often the result of Michigan failing to establish a consistent running game, never securing a secure lead and feeling the need to pass in a monsoon.

 

 

 

 

 

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