It’s that time again.
That crisp fall breeze, a subtle golden hue in the air, the explosive color of leaves overhead and equally brilliant crunch underneath.
On the Ann Arbor campus, the first week of October signifies much more than the unofficial start to fall. For one, white and green clothing is frowned upon. Ugg boots and North Face jackets once again reign. The typical wait-time at local coffee shops doubles with students needing the extra jolt of caffeine in preparation for mid-term exams.
To most, these changes indicate the coming of fall. In the state of Michigan, another element is added to the mix.
Call it a battle of the intrastate powerhouses—the Paul Bunyan contest, the rivalry that tears apart family members, (hopefully only for an afternoon), or as students like to refer to it as, the “Big Brother—Little Brother” showdown.
That’s right—it’s Michigan versus Michigan State week.
Campus hype is at an all-time high this season. Not surprising, since the Michigan versus Michigan State rivalry is always highly anticipated, no matter the conditions.
However, this season’s excitement-level is especially distinct. Students are weary that the first road game is against Michigan State, a team whose record and spirit is more than dependent on this game.
Well, sorry Spartans. The Maize and Blue will ensure that a win will be challenging.
For either team, however, a victory will be a formidable task.
As Donovan Warren noted earlier this week, “We hear all that talk...that’s just fueling our fire this week in practice just for us to stay focused and put all that to rest—we are still Michigan and this is our state.”
“That talk” refers to pre-season notions that Michigan State may this year establish a clear hold as the Michigan powerhouse.
With a 1-3 record, those notions have since been wiped clean.
A Sunday night practice session held by the Spartans signals, however, that they are perhaps even more determined than ever to claim a win against the Michigan Wolverines this upcoming weekend.
The Maize and Blue are out to prove that a 4-0 record was earned—not the result of chance. This is undoubtedly the game to illustrate this.
Michigan State needs this win to turn around a dismal start to the 2009 season.
Michigan, to prove that last season’s historic disappointment was nothing but temporary relapse in a nationally renowned, and obviously rebuilding-phase football program. With 19 fresh commitments to the University of Michigan as of Monday, it is certain that history is repeating itself. The Michigan football program is once again headed in the right direction.
It may drive the fans crazy, but the Wolverines are stellar in clutch situation game predicaments—led by the seemingly nerveless starting quarterback Tate Forcier.
Despite a capable offensive line, last week’s performance was sloppy and frustrating for both players and spectators. Weak snaps and freshman-moment play resulted in major potential yards lost for the Wolverines offensively.
Defensive coverage was intermittently impressive and patchy. This was evident when Darius Willis made an 85-yard run to the end zone unscathed by the Michigan defensive line. Backfield coverage was inconsistent, the secondary teams weak.
Overall game performance slowly improves. But Indiana capitalized on weak points and inexperience—making usually agile Michigan players appear sluggish and replacing consistency with haphazard confusion.
As Rich-Rod explained in his Wednesday press conference, play was far from “clean” in the Indiana game, and competition for starting positions continues.
The cornerback position (not surprisingly) is up for grabs. Special teams emit stability, but there is definite room for improvement.
Both Michigan and Michigan State plan on coming away from this matchup with a victory. Perhaps more appropriately, both depend on it.
There is no doubt that both teams are practicing furiously this week. All mistakes made by both teams will be pivotal—perhaps game changing in what is sure to be an intense rivalry game.
After all, it’s Michigan versus Michigan State week – anything can happen.