Minnesota is preparing to take on Michigan State this week, immediately after the Spartans pulled off a hard-fought road win against Michigan last week. The win by the Spartans seemed to catch many off guard considering last year’s struggles and the rise of the Wolverines under head coach Jim Harbaugh. But Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck wasn’t surprised at all.
Asked about the win by Michigan State last week, Fleck said he was not surprised at all by the Spartans victory in Michigan Stadium. Fleck went a step further to suggest it would be more shocking if Michigan managed to beat Michigan State instead.
“I think they beat them eight out of the last 10 times, so I don’t think you would be surprised at all,” Fleck said when asked if he was surprised by the result. “I think it almost be the other way, if Michigan beats Michigan State you should be surprised.”
Saturday’s 14-10 win was indeed Michigan State’s eighth win in the last 10 meetings with Michigan, so Fleck is well aware of the recent history between two Big Ten rivals. And Fleck’s remarks may have had dual purposes attached to them as well. On the one hand, Fleck is offering some praise for his next opponent by stressing his lack of surprise over the Spartans winning. On the other, by suggesting it was no surprise Michigan State won, he is taking a bit of a jab at Michigan as well.
Fleck coached Western Michigan to an undefeated regular season last year, but that largely was overshadowed by Michigan’s own run to an undefeated regular season until November. So he knows a thing or two about the state of college football in the state of Michigan. He also knows that anything that pecks away at Harbaugh and the Wolverines could bode well for him and his program at Minnesota. Fleck is known to find every possible recruiting angle he can use to his advantage, and chipping away at Michigan whenever the opportunity arises should be exploited by Fleck as he looks to build the Gophers into a Big Ten contender.
Fleck and Minnesota will get their chance to measure up against Michigan later this season. The Gophers visit Ann Arbor on November 4. Don’t be surprised if this comment is revisited in a few weeks.