The Wolverine

January 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 168 of 171

I f Michigan head coach Jim Har- baugh didn't realize it before (and he probably did), he knows it now — U-M's competition in the Big Ten East Division is formidable. However, for all the fans lament- ing Michigan State and Ohio State's success — easy to do when the Spartans somehow made it to the four-team playoff and after the Buckeyes laid a pounding on U-M in the finale — remember that a) few predicted the Wolverines to be as competitive as they were in Harbaugh's first year and b) it took the "fluke of all flukes," as special teams coach John Baxter called it, for MSU to beat U-M this year. You could see it on the face of red- shirt junior wide receiver Jehu Ches- son when asked in early December how far the team had to go to be able to compete for a Big Ten champion- ship. "Eleven seconds?" Chesson said, recounting the time remaining when fifth-year senior punter Blake O'Neill dropped a snap, allowing MSU to re- turn it for a game-winning score. Between the once-in-a-lifetime play in Ann Arbor, horrible weather that grounded the Ohio State offen- sive game plan in MSU's 17-14 win and a few other breaks, including a missed target- ing call in the Big Ten champion- ship game, the Spartans have a chance to win the national title. Give them credit for tak- ing advantage of those breaks. MSU has also benefited from U-M bungling its first coaching hire of the millennium to enjoy unprecedented success. But the Spartans were also rolling in the 1960s when Bo Schembechler arrived, and it didn't take the coach long to vanquish the regional pro- gram and build his national program to Ohio State's level. That's where this is headed again under Harbaugh. Not taking any- thing away from this year's squad, INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Rivals' Success Will Strengthen Resolve Michigan State needed the "fluke of all flukes," as special teams coach John Baxter called it, to beat U-M on its way to a College Football Playoff berth. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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