College football: Michigan still undefeated; Michigan State one win from bowl eligibility
The Michigan Wolverines are 10-0. They are third in the College Football Playoff Rankings. Meanwhile, the Michigan State Spartans are working to keep their bowl-game hopes alive as they await word on possible criminal charges against some MSU players.
Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to talk about the investigation and this week's games.
Saturday's games: Illinois at No. 3 Michigan - Noon; Indiana at Michigan State - Noon
Doug Tribou: Let’s start with Michigan State. This week, the University of Michigan Police Department announced it had completed its investigation into the incidents in the tunnel at Michigan Stadium after the Michigan-MSU game last month. The Washtenaw County prosecutor is now reviewing the case. The Big Ten Conference says it will wait until those findings are released before issuing any penalties. Meanwhile, eight MSU players remain suspended. Is [waiting] the right call by the Big Ten?
John U. Bacon: Well, if you follow me on Twitter, you know, I do not think so. I think the Big Ten has blown it here in a big way on several fronts. Look, it's perfectly fine for the University of Michigan police to investigate this and the Washtenaw County prosecutor to review the case. That's all well and good, but they're looking at criminal activity that does not involve the Big Ten.
The Big Ten should be looking at sportsmanship, protocols, and how to make the tunnel safer in the meantime. It has been almost three weeks since this happened and the eight suspended players still don't know their fate. So it's unfair to Michigan State, mainly, to the eight suspended players, but also it's a bad mark on the Big Ten itself.
So, there's my answer. I give them a D-.
DT: Well, John, as a counterpoint there, what if the Big Ten put out a penalty now and then there are maybe more serious criminal charges? We don't know that that's going to happen. But what if the penalty sort of doesn't fit whatever comes out of the prosecution?
JUB: Well, then you always leave a gap in your investigation and say, look, this is what we found so far. The suspensions are ongoing and we'll wait to hear about an extension or not. But the other stuff is simple and easy, and [the Big Ten has] communicated almost none of this. When you don't communicate, you breed paranoia and suspicion. And that is exactly what's happened.
DT: MSU, meanwhile, has won two straight and are at home against Indiana at noon Saturday. The Spartans need to win one of their final two games to be eligible for a bowl game. I think it’s fair to say that this weekend’s matchup is the easier path for coach Mel Tucker to get there.
JUB: No question. Look, they they were 3-5 after the Michigan game. And with the players suspended, the future was very bleak. Then they went and beat Illinois. They won again last weekend [against Rutgers]. They've got a good chance against Indiana this weekend because Penn State is the team that's after that — their last chance. Penn State is 8-2 right now and ranked 11th in the country. Beat Indiana is my advice.
DT: Let’s turn to Michigan and Wolverines running back Blake Corum. He is having an incredible season. Corum leads the nation in total touchdowns with 18. He’s second in rushing touchdowns. He's got 1,349 rushing yards. That’s third in the country. What makes him such a special player?
JUB: In short, he's a bowling ball with moves. His thighs are like my trunk, and my trunk is no longer skinny. I mean, he's strong all over. Short, compact. But he's got wiggles. And that's why it's so hard to stop him. He'll either bowl you over or slide around you.
DT: Michigan is coming off a solid 34-3 win over a struggling Nebraska team. They’ll face Illinois at noon in Ann Arbor on Saturday. Illinois is also struggling. The Illini have lost two straight. But this could be a very different game. Illinois is a team that spent some time in the Top 25 this season. What are the keys for Michigan in this matchup?
JUB: Honestly, the biggest thing is simply not looking ahead. The temptation is so great with Ohio State coming the next weekend and they just got to focus and stick to their business.
As they say, "the upset is in the mind of the favorite." In other words, Illinois can't beat Michigan without Michigan's permission. So if they stay focused and play their game, they'll win the game. That's all they have to do.
DT: Well, at the risk of looking ahead, if Michigan wins tomorrow and Ohio State beats Maryland, that would mean the Wolverines and Buckeyes would both be undefeated coming into their game on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend in Columbus. Just, you know, no pressure there. [laughs]
JUB: Yeah, that would be the fifth "game of the century" and it's 2022. But yes, that'll be a colossal. It'll be No. 2 versus No. 3, probably, and the whole nation will watch that one. So yeah, like you said, no pressure at all, kids. Good luck, college students!
Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.