Undefeated Michigan And Undefeated Michigan State Will Play Each Other Next Saturday In What Will Be One Of The Most Anticipated Matchups In The History Of The Rivalry

Michigan held up their end of the bargain, dominating Northwestern on Saturday. Michigan State had a bye which means both of these bitter rivals will be undefeated next week when toe meets leather for a noon kick-off in East Lansing next Saturday. I figured at some point in my lifetime that we would have a game like this where both teams found themselves in the top 10 this late in the year when they played each other. I sure as hell did not think that it would be 2021. A victory in this game would mean everything for both of these programs, but let's start with Michigan State. 

No one, not even the biggest Mel Tucker supporter in the world, saw this coming from the Spartans this early in Tucker's tenure. They've been on an absolute roll. Their offense has improved immensely, and they have a legitimate Heisman candidate in Kenneth Walker. In a short period, Mel Tucker has established a culture that is every bit as good as it was during the heart of the Mark Dantonio era when they were competing for Big Ten championships. The leap that their program has taken just from year one to year two has been staggering. If they win this game, they will be in a position to do something that not a single person thought they would be capable of doing this early in Tucker's regime. And that is entering November in complete control of their destiny regarding the Big Ten title race. I still don't necessarily see them getting there this year regardless of Saturday's result. I believe that Ohio State remains the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, but for MSU just to put themselves in a position to compete for a title in year two speaks volumes about the job Mel Tucker has done. 

The word I would use right now to describe the 2021 version of Michigan football is "stable." Some of the issues that plagued this team last year appear to have gone to the wayside (for now). Their defense has improved immensely. They found their identity again as a team with a sound running game, a solid offensive line, and two stud running backs in Blake Corum and Hasan Haskins. As bad as things were last year, I was not somebody who fell under the belief that this was going to be a team that was going to go 6-6 or 7-5. There's still a fair amount of talent. Much like Michigan State, they find themselves one win away from putting themselves in complete control of their destiny. To be 8-0 in November would be a pretty substantial accomplishment considering the expectations. 

If you are Michigan, you have to win this game. I don't know if they will. I have some serious doubts considering how inconsistent their quarterback play is. Considering the talent on the roster, they're very much capable of getting the job done. I think both these teams are evenly matched. But Michigan State is in year two of a new coaching regime. Regardless of how they finish, general belief will continue to be that the future is bright for Mel Tucker's program, even with a loss this Saturday. Jim Harbaugh is in year seven. His losses will and should mean just a little bit more at this point. 

Everyone, myself included, has spent so much time focusing on Michigan's inability to beat Ohio State since Jim Harbaugh became head coach. While he's underachieved tremendously in that department (you literally can't do worse than zero wins), it's safe to say that it's not just Michigan who has an Ohio State problem. We're talking about a team in Columbus that's won 4 straight conference titles and played in the National Championship game last year. If Michigan wants to have any hope of ever getting to a point under Jim Harbaugh where they are competing for and winning Big Ten titles, they can't do it while also being the second-best program in their state. And I'm sure that statement is going cause a big uproar for some reason, but the fact is Michigan football lost to a Michigan State team last year that spent their entire off-season learning plays on zoom. That wasn't their fault, of course, but it should've spelled disaster for a first-year coach, and it didn't. Jim Harbaugh bought himself some goodwill, some hope, and a little time given how this football team has started their season in 2021, all that will come to an end with a loss on Saturday. Tuck's coming. They better be ready.