So here the Spartans are again. Didn't they just go through this four years ago?
An embattled coach, coming off some embarrassing losses including a homecoming loss to an inferior opponent, facing a tremendous amount of heat from the media, alumni and fans and heading into Ann Arbor to face a strong Michigan team.
In 2002, Bobby Williams was 3-5, 1-3 and headed into Michigan with a backup quarterback leading his Spartans due to some off-the-field issues with his star starter. After taking a 3-0 lead to start the game, U-M then went on a 49-0 run to wax the Spartans. It was Bobby Williams' last game as MSU's coach, especially when he responded "I don't know" to a question about whether or not he has "lost" his team. He finished with a 17-18 overall record with MSU.
This season, John L. Smith is heading into Ann Arbor to face undefeated and sixth-ranked Michigan while hearing from the critics after blowing a 16-point lead to Notre Dame in the fourth quarter and losing 23-20 to an Illinois team that had gone 1-25 in its last 26 Big Ten games.
Also, like Williams, Smith had trouble coming up with answers for why his team failed to perform against the Illini. He said he couldn't get them to practice hard all week and didn't have the answer as to how to get them motivated.
Will John L. suffer the same post-Michigan fate as his predecessor?
Smith needs one, if not both, of the next two games. Both will pose a stiff challenge to MSU, heading to Ann Arbor and then bringing in #1-ranked Ohio State the following week.
We'll see if 2006 still has a chance to be a special season.