Saturday was a tale of two teams in Michigan going in two very different directions on the season. In East Lansing, the Michigan State Spartans choked away a dominating defensive performance and lost 19-16 to an Iowa team that had absolutely no business winning the game.
Meanwhile, over in Ann Arbor, it was all Michigan, all day in a 45-0 rout of visiting Illinois. Michigan racked up 527 yards of offense—including 287 total yards and four total touchdowns from Denard Robinson on just 22 plays—and held the Illini to an anemic 134 yards of their own for the entire day.
Now sure, Iowa is a better opponent than Illinois. Iowa's 2-0 in the Big Ten, as is Michigan, while Illinois is 2-5 (0-3) and completely flatlining. We'll grant that argument.
That said, this is the same Iowa team that lost at home to Central Michigan and scored all of six points against Iowa State in another home loss, so we're not exactly talking about a heavyweight program here. Heck, according to Jerry Palm's bowl projections on CBSSports.com coming into the week, Iowa wasn't even a projected bowl team.
So sure, Michigan State played Ohio State tough. But the Spartans are 1-2 on the season, and the only win was a 31-27 win over lowly Indiana—one where MSU had to erase a 17-point deficit in the second half. We haven't seen an impressive game from the Spartans since the Week 2 41-7 walloping of Central Michigan (yes, the same one that beat Iowa, because this is college football and nothing makes sense).
Since that win at CMU, Michigan State is 2-3 and has looked painfully average in the process. The Spartans' Legends Division hopes aren't dead, but one more loss should be the nail in the coffin—and MSU has to go to Michigan and Wisconsin in the next two weeks. There's little respite after that when Nebraska comes to town.
Meanwhile, Michigan is starting to resemble the team people thought it would be coming into the season. Denard Robinson has averaged over 10 yards per carry in Big Ten play. The Wolverine defense has allowed 39 points over the last four games combined. Illinois had more turnovers (two) than first downs (one) or total yards (minus-two) in the entire second half against the Michigan D.
You want defensive dominance? Sorry Sparty but the defensive dominance is in Ann Arbor these days.
Now, schedules do matter, especially when comparing teams in the middle of the season. And yes, Michigan hasn't yet played (much less beaten) either of the teams that Michigan State has lost to on the year. So, there will be time and an opportunity for Michigan to sink to Michigan State's level still.
But for right now, Michigan's back to being the big brother in the state. And if Michigan State wants to do something about that, wouldn't you know it, the two teams play each other next week.
And if things go the way they've been going over the last month, Michigan's only going to make its "Big Brother" status official.
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