On Saturday the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans will meet in East Lansing for their annual rivalry game for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, the largest and ugliest trophy in all of college sports.
Between the injury to Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier and the quizzical play of the Michigan State Spartans so far, it's difficult to predict who will emerge the victor.
That is, for some people it's difficult.
Myself, I'm reminded of the preseason talk regarding how good Western Michigan was and how they might bring the Big House down for a third straight opening game loss.
You all saw what happened to the Broncos, right?
No completions for a first down until the last drive of the first half. No points until midway through the third quarter. A defense that couldn't stop the Wolverines in the first half en route to 31 straight.
A lot of people might say you can't compare Western Michigan to Michigan State. They're not the same team.
You're right. The Spartans are probably worse.
The only reason I need to call a 35-14 victory for the Wolverines this weekend is Michigan running back Brandon Minor.
Minor will do to Michigan State what was done to it by Chris Perry in 2003—wear them down to a nub while rushing 51 times for 219 yards.
Actually, Minor will get 219 yard on 15 carries. Heck, he might get it on five carries.
The Michigan offensive line has been the most improved unit for the Wolverines (besides quarterback, naturally). They'll put the MSU defensive line on skates just like Wisconsin's O-line did for John Clay en route to his 142-yard effort last week.
Any doubts about Minor's production so far are misguided.
He's been held in check so far mostly because of a lingering ankle injury. There's also been no sense of urgency to put him in.
Carlos Brown has filled in admirably, even astoundingly, rushing for 8.4 yards-per-carry and three touchdowns, including the third-longest run in Michigan history. He's the speed back.
But Minor brings the thunder.
He's going to pound the Spartan secondary into submission. The defensive line won't touch him, the linebackers will be whiffing at his feet, and all he'll have to worry about is the two-star free safety peeing himself as he waits for Minor to bust his chops.
I went to Michigan from 2004-2007. I saw Mike Hart juke every player in the Big Ten. But juking's not my style; bowling over is.
If you asked me who my favorite Michigan running back of all time was, I would say Brandon Minor.
His play provided the only encouraging moments of last year. He ran four straight times against the Ohio State D-line to get our only touchdown. If they couldn't keep him out, there's no way the Spartans will be able to.
The only word to accurately describe Minor's style of running is "haunted."
He runs like you're the only thing between him and surviving.
When he hits the end zone he looks more relieved than fired up. He's been through the fire, heard the talk and played through pain. He'll show this MSU secondary what it means to collapse.
Spartan fans: This is Michigan week.
Let's hear the talk. Let's hear the preemptive excuses.
Brandon Minor could care less about how loud your stadium gets, how green your valley is, how far your safeties creep up.
He's the Blue Ox in the tall tale. He will ram it down your throat this weekend, and all you'll have left is the memories of last year, when you thought you were back.
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