Wojo, Chengelis, Charboneau break down the MSU-Ohio State and UM-Rutgers games this weekend.
The Detroit News

These are hazy, confusing times around here, and not just because Proposal 1 passed. We are a nation divided (blue versus red) and a state divided (Blue versus Green) and a sport divided (everybody versus Alabama). There is no compromise, only conflict.

For instance, the Buckeyes are ambling into East Lansing this weekend for the big showdown before the big showdown, and no one knows what to think, what to drink, who to cuss out.

Michigan fans are deeply conflicted: Do they root for the Spartans or the Buckeyes?

Michigan State fans are equally conflicted: Do they root for the Spartans or the Buckeyes?

OK, OK, I’m guessing no self-respecting Spartan actually has that dilemma. But self-loathing Spartans who drop their beer and fight at the mere mention of Mike Hart? They might consider short-term defeat in exchange for long-term relief. Scarf-cinched Wolverines who spit their flavored vodka at the mere mention of either rival? They have to be squirming more than usual.

It’s a fascinating, distasteful conundrum, like choosing between famine and pestilence, or kale and sprouts. Because if Michigan State (6-3) beats Ohio State (8-1), it essentially hands the Big Ten East division to Michigan, which would be the second-most controversial handover to staunch blue supporters this week.And if the Spartans lose, many of their hopes and dreams would still be alive, including their primary dream of watching the Wolverines fail to win the Big Ten for the 14th consecutive year.

A Michigan State loss would force Michigan (8-1) to go down to Columbus in two weeks and do the job itself, which is like asking an architect to go build the darn house. The Wolverines generally prefer to draw up fancy plans without getting their hands, or shoulder pads, dirty.

They wouldn’t mind a free trip to Indianapolis without the aggravation of actually having to beat the Buckeyes, but do they really want the Spartans to do their menial work? Also, wouldn’t it be better for the Wolverines to take on a highly-rated Ohio State in the finale, rather than a twice-beaten wreck? That way, their 14th loss in 15 years (theoretically!) wouldn’t look so bad. And in the crazy event of a Michigan victory, it would virtually assure a playoff berth.

You see what I’m saying about being conflicted?

(No, dope, I see you blowing smoke.)

Think about it this way: The dignity of the Big Ten is at stake and Michigan is the one that can restore it, after a decade of sullying it. Sitting at No. 4 in the rankings, the Wolverines have the best shot at a playoff berth and preventing the SEC from getting Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi State and Kentucky all in.

Obviously, the Wolverines have to take care of some preliminary paperwork, once they’re done picking Nittany Lion pieces out of their cleats. Revenge Tour 2018 continues Saturday at Rutgers, and Michigan will be seeking vengeance for whoever allowed Rutgers to join the Big Ten.

In this predictably unpredictable season, every little factor counts, and Michigan might need a victory over a top-10 Ohio State to polish its resume. It’s even more important because the Big Ten opted to return to bloated, overrated status and is seriously contemplating sending a four- or five-loss Northwestern to the championship game. The Spartans would destroy any resume-polishing possibility if they beat the Buckeyes, which would be a very selfish move on their part.

That’s why I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Mark “D” Antonio has a chance for another redemptive run, but he also has close ties to Ohio State. He was an assistant with the Buckeyes and has been known to keep company with all sorts of Tressels, including one reportedly on his staff. I’m not saying Dantonio respects the Buckeyes so deeply, he’d take it easy on them. Not since Urban Meyer showed his horns (figuratively and biblically) with his creative versions of the truth, as well as last year’s 48-3 stomping of Michigan State.

But don’t be surprised if the Spartans’ weekly pre-game Stormtrooper Stroll has a twist, and they march into the stadium in full gear, locked arm-in-arm with their Buckeye brethren. It’s quite the quandary for Michigan State, because while a victory increases its chances of going to the Rose Bowl, it also damages those chances. Huh? Well, the only way Michigan State goes to Pasadena is if Michigan goes to the playoff, and Michigan’s chances of going to the playoff are diminished if Ohio State is diminished by losing to Michigan State.

(Oy, getting dizzy, and hungry. Proposal 1 already started?)

It’s sort of dumb to debate with three weeks left, but we debate a lot dumber things. If Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame remain undefeated, they’re in. But if Notre Dame loses, does it still get in over Michigan, whom it defeated by a resounding, staggering seven points? And if Georgia beats Alabama, does it get in over Michigan, while Alabama stays in? And if UCF stays unbeaten, does it get in? Haha! Now I’m just goofing around.

A lot rests in Michigan State’s hands, and you know Dantonio wouldn’t dampen his competitive fervor one tiny bit to hurt Michigan. So his quarterback is ailing and might not be able to throw effectively against Ohio State but is still starting? Hey, it happens.

Pick: Ohio State 27-17


The picks

Michigan at Rutgers: Sure, the Wolverines won there 78-0 two years ago but they’d better be careful, and by “careful,” I mean “just get to the stadium on time.” Remember, they were in the playoff picture in 2016 and lost at Iowa. Rutgers is an equally tough place to play — if this were 1869 when it hosted the first-ever college football game, and has improved only slightly since. Jim Harbaugh needs to be smart and keep his team healthy, and if that means resting star defensive coordinator Don Brown, so be it. Pick: Michigan 48-7

Northwestern at Iowa: The Wildcats are 5-4 yet somehow hold all the tiebreakers in the Big Ten West. They could even stumble here and still reach the title game, according to statistical models that aren’t legally required to consider their loss to Akron. I’m guessing some Northwestern nerd hacked the computers, and the Big Ten’s crack cyber staff will fix the glitch in 3-4 years. Pick: Iowa 27-20

Clemson at Boston College: As everyone expected, the road to the national championship goes through a place called Chestnut Hill, apparently somewhere in Massachusetts. The Eagles are 7-2 and making a name for coach Steve Adazzio, even though you have no idea if I just misspelled it. This is the last major impediment for 9-0 Clemson, which plays in a loose conglomeration of club squads called the ACC. Pick: Clemson 36-13

Florida State at Notre Dame: Florida State used to be somebody, but in its first season under Willie Taggart looks horribly haggard at 4-5. This still could be interesting, because Fighting Irish quarterback Ian Book is out with a rib injury. And the Seminoles’ NCAA-record 36-year bowl streak could end, just as the state of Michigan’s bowl streak begins, if you get my meaning. Pick: Notre Dame 31-20

Twitter: @bobwojnowski