Michigan Football Preview 2016

2016 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 41 of 179

40 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2016 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON T hey jump off Michigan's 2016 schedule like mountain lions attack- ing from a rocky ledge. Spearing at least one of Michigan State and Ohio State in their own lairs looms essential to the Wolverines' hopes. A sweep would rocket-propel the season into another stratosphere completely, likely portending a Big Ten championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Michi- gan hasn't beaten either yet under Jim Har- baugh, and certainly not on the road. The Wolverines defeated MSU for 59:59 of the 2015 meeting in Michigan Stadium, until the Spartans crossed the goal line carrying a bobbled-away punt snap in a 27-23 shocker. Michigan simply couldn't keep pace with the Buckeyes' spread offense in the second half of a 42-13 punch in the gut. Now the Wolverines — ranked as a top-10 team heading into the 2016 season — are star- ing down the two old rivals with something to prove. While MSU and OSU both suffered far greater personnel losses than Michigan, they both retain strong talent, and the venue can tip the scales. Ohio Stadium can be a house of horrors for the Wolverines (and spittle-averse Michigan fans). U-M hasn't won a game in the Horse- shoe since 2000, before the rise of Jim Tressel, the disgraced, displaced former head coach found guilty of cheating and lying repeatedly to the NCAA. Meanwhile, Michigan's 0-4 record in East Lansing since a win there in 2007 has featured some even more emphatic beatings. The Wol- verines lost in back-to-back years there in 2013 and 2014, 29-6 and 35-11. Last year's cliffhanger at Michigan Stadium signaled the end of the decided bully edge administered by Mark Dantonio's teams on weaker U-M crews. But the ending of that game also whispered that the Spartans aren't going away easily. For Harbaugh's team to begin a serious at- tempt at a Big Ten championship game the Wolverines have yet to see, it has to go through East Lansing and Columbus. Even those in- volved with the strongest U-M squads know that's easier said than done. Misery At MSU Bo Schembechler and his bunch learned the hard way about invading East Lansing. In 1969, the eventual Big Ten champions knew the title went through Columbus, but the for- mer Woody Hayes assistant got a serious re- minder about a major pothole to the northwest. A Duffy Daugherty squad that sneakily switched to a wishbone offense the week of U-M's arrival ambushed the Wolverines, 23- 12. To this day, former Schembechler assistant Jerry Hanlon recounts that stinger. "They had never shown that before, and beat us," Hanlon said. "Right then and there, it taught us how important the Michigan State game was. To live here is a whole lot easier if you beat the Green and White. "If you don't, it's miserable to have them walk around with their chest stuck out and having to listen to what they say." Schembechler had to begin listening almost immediately, according to former U-M full- back Bob Thornbladh, who was in the stands From 1976-2000, Michigan went 8-4-1 at Ohio State, but the Wolverines have lost seven straight at Ohio Stadium since that successful stretch. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL zRoad Warrior SHOWDOWNS Michigan State And Ohio State Draw An Extra Circle On The Calendar

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