Whether the odds were in their favor or not, the Spartan army of ancient Greece would back down from no challenge. Their tactics were not overpowering and their skills did not reign supreme, but sheer determination and will kept them atop their archaic state, cutting down challengers in their path.
Mark Dantonio is King Leonidas, and has been for his Spartans since he arrived at the throne of head coach in East Lansing. A great leader — the men he has recruited were not the best athletes, nor the greatest students, but dedication to his process of intense, hard-nosed training and conditioning has led him to glory no Spartan coach in the modern era of MSU football has achieved. “Those who have stayed are already champions.”
Four 11-win seasons in the last five years. Two Big Ten championships. A Rose Bowl win for the first time in 25 years. An improbable come-from-behind New Year’s Six bowl win, an appearance in the College Football Playoff thanks to one of the most historic plays in college football history and a 7-2 record against the Wolverines in the last nine years.
That final point knocked U-M off their proverbial pedestal they perched atop for too long.
As for “Big Brother,” you might be the winningest team of all time, but what have you done for your fans lately? A couple of wins in the Sugar Bowl and the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, but nothing else notable comes to mind.
Jim Harbaugh is Xerxes as he leads his Persian army into Spartan territory — a place U-M hasn’t won a game at since 2007 and recently has turned in some historically tragic performances. For instance, remember the bewildering negative 48 yards in the rushing column against the Spartans in 2013? We do.
Harbaugh and his Wolverines embody the cockiness of those Persians. Harbaugh consistently runs up the score on lesser opponents, and even did so during his days at Stanford. He keeps his starters in for the majority of the game, and even ran a fake punt in the fourth quarter against Illinois while up by more than 20 points. Classy move, Jim.
Now, our counterpart at The Michigan Daily surely has a statistical edge for this year’s content: U-M is ranked No. 2 with an undefeated top defense while MSU sits at a lowly record of 2-5. It’s certainly a flipped script from prior years, when last year’s Daily writer resorted to a poorly constructed satirical piece about East Lansing loving Jim Harbaugh. If I were to walk down the streets of Ann Arbor proudly sporting Spartan garment, I would receive belligerent remarks as well.
But to the readers of this content, whether it be through The State News or The Michigan Daily websites, know this — MSU’s student newspaper has won 15 Pacemaker Awards, the highest honor a student-run publication can achieve. This is done with a newsroom of hardly more than 30 students, nearly half of them underclassmen.
The Michigan Daily, on the other hand, falls well short of that mark and employs a newsroom more than double the size of ours, full of freelance writers who probably get their work done while eating in cafeterias their own former basketball golden boy described as serving “jail food.”
Get some salmon in your diet, Daily staff, some brain food — based on your lack of recognition and achievement for your work, you certainly need it.
The large newsroom staff The Michigan Daily has naturally gives them an advantage for the annual “touch” football game between The State News and The Michigan Daily, played the Friday before U-M and MSU take the field. Touch is quoted, considering the fact that it left one of our female designers in the emergency room following a cheap shot from a Daily reporter during last year’s contest.
Back to the gridiron, it is tough to deny that the Wolverines have the better athletes, with more skill and speed on the outside and stronger interior line presence. They will certainly be hungry to avenge last season’s gut-wrenching defeat in the final seconds to MSU, one that surely still leaves a sour taste in the mouths of Wolverine fans, Walmart or not.
The Spartans have had improbable wins against U-M, too. Remember in 1990 when an unranked MSU team upset the No. 1 Wolverines? We do.
MSU will have to call upon their Spartan brethren of old in order to beat these odds, and perhaps the Gods of war themselves, but if there was a leader who could inspire a group of warriors to defend their home against their enemy to the southeast, it would be “Leonidas.”
Perhaps he will have some tricks to flip the script of history once again.