COLUMN: Little brother grows up
Few things are more demeaning in sports than the term “little brother.”
In turn, few things are more motivating.
In November 2007, former Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as his “little brother” following the Wolverines 28-24 come-from-behind victory at Spartan Stadium.
“Sometimes, it’s just like when you’re playing your little brother in basketball,” Hart said. “You let him get a lead and let him get excited, but then you take it back from him.”
Since that day, the Wolverines have lost to MSU four straight times.
The moral of the story: sometimes little brother grows up.
For years, the Mid-American Conference has served as the metaphorical younger sibling to the major BCS conferences, but this season, the big boys aren’t letting little brother win. Instead, they appear helpless to stop it.
Last weekend, the MAC had four teams – Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, Ball State and Central Michigan – defeat teams from BCS conferences.
NIU rallied from a 23-14 fourth–quarter deficit to defeat the Kansas Jayhawks. The Huskies have just one loss this season, which came in its opening game – a one-point loss to Iowa.
WMU defeated Connecticut for the second consecutive season, and Ball State scored a touchdown with 1:02 left in the game to defeat South Florida. The win was the Cardinals’ second-straight victory against a BCS team; BSU beat Indiana 41-39 on Sept. 15.
And then there is CMU, who scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and made a 47-yard field goal in the final minute to defeat Iowa 32-31 in front of 70,000 people at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
Even MAC teams that lost last weekend were impressive. Eastern Michigan held a 7-3 lead against No. 21 Michigan State at halftime, only to falter late.
Not to mention the undefeated Ohio Bobcats, who beat Penn State in their first game of the season and appear to be one of the top candidates to crash the BCS party in January.
It’s safe to say the days of MAC teams collecting fat paychecks to let older brother beat up on them are gone. I mean, the paychecks are still there, but not the losses.
CMU senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff said at practice Tuesday that he believes the MAC is closing the gap on major conferences, but if last weekend’s games are any indication, that gap is already closed.
Only time will tell if it’s just a matter of major conference teams over-looking the MAC or if the gap really is closing.
But one thing is for sure: little brother is not looking so little anymore.
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