Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner
College football media days are still to come and already the smack is flying between rival teams.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was recently asked by radio host Bill Simonson of WBBL 107.3 FM if Michigan can beat Ohio State this year.
"We always have room for improvement, but this is definitely a championship-caliber football team that will win in the Big House against Ohio State," Gardner replied, according to the Detroit News.
Now fans are up in arms over his reported guarantee of a win?
This is not Joe Namath guaranteeing a Super Bowl win, folks. Gardner answered a question by a radio host who clearly wanted a great sound bite. Simonson got it in a sneaky way. He set up a student-athlete with a loaded question.
What if Gardner had said, "No, we cannot beat Ohio State"? Imagine that uproar. Would that have set well with Michigan fans? Or with Wolverine head coach Brady Hoke? Probably not.
Nobody wants a wimpy quarterback.
Good for Gardner for answering a dumb question from a radio host who probably thought he asked a brilliant one. It was a gotcha question.
All football players think they can win a game. If any player states he does not think he can win a game, he will be sitting on an aluminum bench when the game kicks off. Semantic debates, for the most part, have no place in football. Leave that to the politicians.
Indiana probably thought it could beat Ohio State last year. The Hoosiers came close, losing 52-49. Appalachian State did beat Michigan in 2007. It was the first time an FCS team had beaten a ranked team.
Athletes are individuals fueled by testosterone and a competitive desire. Asking them if they think they can win is like asking a toddler if he wants a new toy. The answer is always yes.
Gardner has nine starts at quarterback and wide receiver. In his five starts at quarterback last season, he posted a 3-2 record, including a 26-21 loss to Ohio State. Not bad for a then-sophomore taking over the field general duties from quarterback Denard Robinson.
Gardner has confidence, especially when it comes to talking about his rival. He has learned well.
Hoke refers to Ohio State as "Ohio." Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer refers to Michigan as "the team up north." Both coaches are trying to rekindle the decades-old rivalry between Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler.
It's not working because Meyer probably does not hate the state of Michigan, Hoke has beaten Ohio State only once in two years and the Big Ten conference is not as dominant as it was in the 1970s.
The Big Ten has beaten only two Pac-12 teams in the Rose Bowl since 2000. The SEC is 9-0 against Ohio State in bowls, 9-1 if you count the vacated 2011 Sugar Bowl win by Ohio State against Arkansas.
Ohio State and Michigan tussling over semantics is no big deal. It is just background noise.
While Ohio State and Michigan wrestle over rivalry smack five months too early, the big boys in the SEC are polishing up rings and trophies from seven consecutive takedowns in BCS title games.
Rivalry games are important.
So is the bigger picture.