I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I was never into comic books growing up. I did not have anything against them, I just never owned any or got into super-hero fantasy. However, I have loved all of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and have watched and re-watched the entire series far too many times to keep track of or want to admit to.
I mention this as the lead in to SB Nation’s theme this week of the Marvel Universe being particularly fun for me. However, I will admit when you actually put pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard really) it is a bit challenging in terms of adapting it to MSU sports specifically. So to start I figured I would make it a fun and easy first attempt by taking what I personally consider the 22 best wins of the Mark Dantonio era and picking each win’s counterpart as a movie in the MCU list (I did not include 2008’s The Incredible Hulk in this list). Today is the first 11 of those movies paired with its corresponding game, and tomorrow will be the next 11 that have been released.
These are in no particular order of ranking the movies or the games from good to best (because with either category, there is no bad obviously). Instead, it is the movies in order of release date and my attempt to match an important theme or relevance of a win with the seeming takeaway plot or theme of that movie.
So without further ado, let’s get into it!
“Iron Man”/2007’s win over No. 22 Penn State
Iron Man was the movie that started it all. Mark Dantonio’s 35-31 regular season finale win over No. 22 Penn State was the start of many a victory over a ranked opponent. Really, this one was the easiest for me to make the match. Both were the spectacular start of something amazing.
“Iron Man 2”/2017 No. 7 Penn State
The first fight of Iron Man 2 leaves Tony Stark looking vulnerable to the world. The first iteration of this game most everyone (falsely) believes MSU was doomed. However, Whiplash, just like the severe storm, breaks free to set up round two and the Spartans emerge victorious on the day just like Tony did to demonstrate there is no going quietly and we are still a force to be reckoned with.
Thor encounters seemingly three separate enemies in his first movie. First we are led to believe Laufey the Frost Giant is the primary antagonist of the film. Soon we encounter S.H.I.E.L.D. as an opponent to overcome. Finally we discover Loki is the true antagonist and finally defeat his schemes. Similarly Georgia takes three extra turns before finally being defeated.
“Captain America: The First Avenger”/2008 Michigan
This one is probably self-evident to everyone. The victory in 2008 was the first of many wins over Michigan. Similarly, Captain America was the origin of the entire future Marvel cast of superheroes to come.
“Marvel’s The Avengers”/2015 No. 12 Michigan
Just when all hope was lost as Loki’s army started to overwhelm the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s council launched a nuclear warhead at the site of the battle, Jalen Watts-Jackson... I mean Iron Man, redirects the warhead to the end zone... I mean the army’s base at the other end of the portal and victory is suddenly attained!
“Iron Man 3”/No. 21 Washington State in the 2017 Holiday Bowl
While the triple-overtime win over Georgia might have also fit this movie given the constant unwinding of who all ends up being a bad guy, The Mandarin’s secret true identity of British actor Trevor Slattery is the perfect encapsulation of the true pirate that is Head Coach Mike Leach. A seemingly loony but skilled actor, The Mandarin’s counterpart of seemingly loony but truly genius character of a personality in Mike Leach is too obvious to not pair these together.
“Thor: The Dark World”/2010 Notre Dame “Little Giants”
Not to seem like I am attacking someone’s appearance, because that isn’t my goal here, but Brian Kelly is a dark elf if there ever was one. As for the end, just when all hope seemed lost Thor manages to throw the death blow pass to Charlie Gantt... I mean throw the hammer down on the dark elf leader Malekith. Seemingly overwhelmed by the effort, Thor lays stricken by a heart attack after destroying Malekith for the win, or rather overwhelmed by the effort. However, he makes a full recovery to continue his march of victories in the coming movies ahead.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”/2014 No. 19 Nebraska
You thought you defeated Hydra back in The First Avenger? Wrong. Ameer Abdullah ran it against you before and Bo Pelini says he will again this time. Nebraska didn’t lose the game in 2013, they were the better team who just beat themselves with turnovers. Similarly, Hydra has lain in wait and is rising up again just like the undefeated and No. 19 ranked Cornhuskers. Despite being able to launch the heli-carriers, Nebraska shoots themselves down against the superior Spartans just like Hydra.
“Guardians of the Galaxy”/2013 No. 23 Michigan
The Guardians have the power stone and have to try and keep Ronan from gaining possession of it. Despite the perceived power of the No. 21 ranked Wolverines offense, it is the Spartans defense who hold the power stone as a team, just like the Guardians, and use it to obliterate Michigan to the tune of -48 yards.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron”/2013 Nebraska
Ultron is the enemy that you just can’t defeat. Similarly, in seven bouts with Nebraska, the Spartans just could not defeat the Huskers. Finally, the ultimate defensive battle arrived with just the right amount of offense to finish the job. Just like how the Avengers managed to mix the right amount of offense in cracking how to prevent the climbing rock of Sokovia from destroying greater civilization while defending the civilian population from Ultron’s various spawn, the Spartans mixed the right amount of defensive takeaways with just the right amount of offense to slay Herbie Husker and the Nebraska team.
“Ant-Man”/2015 No. 7 Oregon
I admit, this one is probably the biggest stretch on today’s list. Darren Cross/Yellowjacket are a gawdy and flashy attempt to one-up themselves into the ultimate market controller of the global military industrial complex. Similarly, Phil Knight attempts to elevate his alma mater and his own corporate brand of Nike to the pinnacle of the college sports world and worldwide sports gear. Standing in their way is none other than a band of criminal misfits in the case of Ant-Man and an army of worker ants capable of banding together to slay any foe in the case of the Spartans.