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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

College football: Michigan goes on the road, Michigan State tries to right the ship

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker yells during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Akron, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in East Lansing, Mich.
Al Goldis/AP
FR11125 AP
Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker, shown during a win over Akron on Sept. 10, is known for his intensity, but the Spartans haven't had much spark lately. MSU comes into Saturday's matchup against Maryland with a two-game losing streak.

In college football, Michigan is going on the road while Michigan State is trying to right the ship.

The Wolverines are 4-0 and preparing for their first road game Saturday. Michigan State is 2-2 after two straight losses.

For a preview, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou spoke with Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon.

Saturday's games: No. 4 Michigan at Iowa - Noon; Michigan State at Maryland - 3:30pm

Doug Tribou: Let’s start with Michigan, the Wolverines played their first Big Ten Conference game last weekend and beat Maryland 34 to 27. Michigan running back Blake Corum shared Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after rushing for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Despite some big moments, Michigan’s performance felt uneven. What are your takeaways from the game?

John U. Bacon: Well, they played three tomato cans in the first three games, three of the ten worst teams in college football. So, you had expected a bigger challenge this time around. And they got one. Maryland's defense is not very good, but their offense is very good, by all accounts. And they tested Michigan's defense, as you saw, for quite a few points there.

The [Michigan] defense proved human. And J.J. McCarthy, the celebrated quarterback, he also proved human. I wouldn't say [he] had clay feet by any means, but he was not as spectacular as he was in the first three games.

These are the adjustments you make. It's the big-boy section of the of the season. Right now you're into Big Ten play. So these games will get tougher and tougher as they go forward.

DT: Up next for Michigan, it’s a road game against Iowa. Kickoff is at noon Saturday. Michigan is ranked No. 4 in the country. Iowa is unranked. What will you be watching for when Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines take on the Hawkeyes?

JUB: This time the opposite. Maryland has got a great offense and a so-so defense. Iowa is has got a fantastic defense and an abysmal offense. In fact, the defense outscored the offense when they had two safeties versus a field goal for the offense [against South Dakota State]. That's how bizarre things are at Iowa.

DT: John, since we last spoke, Michigan State lost to Washington. Then last weekend, the Spartans lost badly to Minnesota, 34-7. What’s gone wrong for coach Mel Tucker and the green and white?

JUB: This one simple. Kenneth Walker III, their star tailback last year, is now playing elsewhere. So that's what happened.

DT: The NFL, in fact. [laughs]

JUB: Yes, exactly. The NFL thought he's very good and they're paying him now to do that. He's a fantastic back. And they rode him all last year. But keep in mind also, in fairness to Michigan State, right now Washington is ranked [in the top 25] and so is Minnesota. Those are two ranked teams. Michigan has not played a ranked team yet, although having said that, they've got a gauntlet coming up, as you know.

DT: Well, yes, and MSU will be on the road against Maryland, who, as we mentioned, gave Michigan a hard time last weekend. Game time for the Spartans and Terps is 3:30 Saturday afternoon. After Maryland, MSU will face Ohio State then Wisconsin then Michigan. That’s not an easy stretch for any team - never mind one on a two-game losing streak.

JUB: Well, exactly. And those games pretty much get harder as they go on. No real rest in there. It's not quite clear how good Maryland or Wisconsin are, but they're both solid teams. And right now, Michigan and Ohio State are in the top four, so if they get out of there with two wins out of four, that would be heroic.

Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can hear the full interview near the top of the page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Radio staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
John U. Bacon has worked nearly three decades as a writer, a public speaker, and a college instructor, winning awards for all three.
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