April 20, 2024

Why the pressure is on Jim Harbaugh to bring the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to Ann Arbor

Michigan State tight end Josiah Price (82) and offensive tackle Jack Conklin (74) hold up the Paul Bunyan Trophy in celebration on the Michigan Stadium field after an NCAA college football game against Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Michigan State won 27-23. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Michigan has won six-straight games and remains unblemished in conference play this season, but it’s no secret that Harbaugh has gone 1-2 against in-state rival Michigan State since he came back to his alma mater.

Former Wolverine running back Mike Hart’s comments about the Spartans being the little brother of the state still adds fuel to the fire in this rivalry. Regardless of what Michigan State’s record is, the team always bring their A-game whenever that Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line.

The Wolverines won their last trip to East Lansing, but it seems like Mark Dantonio has had Harbaugh’s number in Ann Arbor. Last season’s game was played in the pouring rain, but the Spartans played lights out on defense to pull out the win. A three-win Michigan State team played Michigan tough in 2016, but came up short. Michigan’s special teams blunder that cost the team the game in the final seconds of the 2015 clash at the Big House still haunts Wolverine fans.

The pressure is on Harbaugh and his players to win this Saturday and hoist the four-foot tall trophy over their heads. Michigan State may be catching Michigan at the wrong time. The Wolverines are clicking on all cylinders on offesne and averaging 41.6 points per game since their season-opening loss at Notre Dame. Junior signal-caller Shea Patterson has looked better every week for the Wolverines. Michigan’s defense is starting to play to its’ potential and have only allowed 14 points per game over the last six weeks.

The Wolverines are playing like a team on a mission and still can attain all of its’ goals this season, starting with a win Saturday. A berth in the Big 10 Championship game and a potential shot at the College Football Playoff should be enough motivation for Harbaugh to have his players focused.

Michigan State is coming off an upset win at Penn State last week and now has gained back some confidence and momentum with its’ 4-2 record. This will be both team’s biggest game of the season thus far. Harbaugh has an opportunity to silence a lot of his critics until the Ohio State game if Michigan leaves Spartans Stadium with a win. It would be hard to avoid the backlash if the Wolverines lose three of their last four games to the Spartans.

Harbaugh emphasized that his team has to get better, work harder and that’ll lead to championships. With the way Michigan been playing on both sides of the ball lately, improvement has been evident. Michigan’s defense will be the best unit Michigan State’s junior quarterback Brian Lewerke will see all season long. Both defenses pack a punch, so expect another hard-fought classic in this rivalry renewal, but this game will be won in the trenches.