EAST LANSING Michigan did not “deserve better” Saturday, regardless of what Lloyd Carr says. Michigan State outplayed Michigan, and while there were a number of bad calls late in the game, the team that deserved to win won.

Paul Wong
The SportsMonday Column<br><br>Raphael Goodstein

Obviously in an ideal world, the officiating would have been better, but Michigan State was going to find a way to win that game one way or another.

At the beginning of the year, Michigan was viewed as a team that would lose two or three games and contend for the Big Ten title. Each statement is still true.

Michigan will likely win out, win the Big Ten title and play in a BCS game. If you”re honest with yourself, you know that is the best this team could have hoped for the second Drew Henson left Michigan.

Everyone pretty much realized that Michigan was not the fourth best team in the country regardless of what the BCS said last week. The Los Angeles Times went so far as to call Michigan the BCS” worst top ten team.

While that”s probably not true, had Michigan found itself in Pasadena this year, it likely would have been exposed.

Does anyone really think Michigan could beat Miami (Fla.)?

Saturday”s loss ended any hopes Michigan had of playing in the national title game, but the reality is that Michigan is not one of the best two teams in the country and over the course of the year, the best two teams in the country separate themselves.

When Miami (Fla.) or Nebraska have their opponents on the ropes, they knock them out.

Michigan never could knock out Michigan State or Washington.

In both games, the Wolverines had opportunities late in the game to go up two scores, and couldn”t get it done.

If it wasn”t a blocked kick returned for a touchdown, it was a dropped pass.

If it wasn”t bad kickoff-return coverage, it was a stupid penalty.

It”s easy to look at Saturday”s loss and blame the officials, who by the end of the afternoon had lost control of the game. But what about Jeremy LeSueur”s penalty? That was one of the dumbest penalties in Michigan football history.

Maybe the dumbest.

What about Marquise Walker dropping passes in the fourth quarter? What about John Navarre blowing easy passes? What about the best run defense in the country giving up 211 yards to T.J. Duckett?

There”s no single reason Michigan lost Saturday. There were many reasons.

The Wolverines are a 9-2 team.

And they”ll get what they deserve nine wins.

Obviously it would have been nice to go to the Rose Bowl, but over the course of a season, 9-2 teams lose two games.

This is nothing to be ashamed of 9-2 is very good. Especially in a conference like the Big Ten, and with the nonconference schedule that Michigan annually plays. How many schools in major conferences are annually as good as Michigan?

After Florida, and Nebraska, you”d be hard pressed to find another team (The ACC does not constitute a conference like the Big Ten, thus excluding Florida State.)

Saturday”s loss was, perhaps, the most gut-wrenching loss in Michigan sports since Chris Webber”s timeout. But at the end of the day, Michigan State was the better team.

The Spartans ran the ball at will on Michigan.

Their secondary as bad as it is prevented Michigan”s passing attack from doing much of anything in the second half.

Actually, it”s probably more accurate to say that John Navarre prevented Michigan”s passing game from doing much of anything in the second half. But until Michigan recruits a better quarterback or starts Jermaine Gonzales the quarterback position is only as good as Navarre.

And the difference between Navarre and a better quarterback, and the difference between LeSueur and a competent defensive back, are the little differences between 9-2 and 11-0.

Raphael Goodstein can be reached at raphaelg@umich.edu.

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