Unlike Michigan's rivalries with Ohio State and Notre Dame, which are based on football, the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State is about much more. Michiganders (Michiganians?) are forced to choose allegiances at a young age. The two schools compete over everything from fan base to recruits to the front pages of the News and Free Press. To narrow this rivalry down to football we can see that Michigan holds a 67-31-5 record against the in-state in-conference foe. The teams play for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, which Michigan has won 34 times to State's 22.
For most of the 2000s, Michigan made this seem like less of a rivalry by posting the longest winning streak since the 1970s. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, coaches like Nick Saban, Bobby Williams, and John L. Smith could not compete with Lloyd Carr's Wolverines. Once Carr retired, and John L. Smith was fired, things started to move in Michigan State's direction. Rich Rodriguez and Mark Dantonio took control of the rivalry, and Michigan State got the competitive advantage. Rodriguez never beat Michigan State. The Michigan State seniors have the chance to be the first class, since the seniors of 1963, to never lose to Michigan.
When did we see them last?
I almost don't want to talk about it. Last year the Spartans stormed into Ann Arbor. After a first quarter field goal (?!) and a second quarter touchdown catch by Martell Webb, MSU showed why they tied for the Big Ten title, and thrashed the terrible Michigan D (GERG!?!?) for 34 points. An early fourth quarter touchdown run by Denard was essentially meaningless, and the clock ran out with the final score Michigan State 34 - Michigan 17. Denard accounted for 301 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions (sounds rather familiar), Broekhuizen (obviously) missed a field goal, and the three-headed running back tandem didn't even break 80 yards on the ground. On the other side, Kirk Cousins was very effective going 18/25 for 284 and a touchdown and State's three-headed backfield ran for 259 and three touchdowns. The game wasn't even as close as the score indicates, and this was one of the first games where I really started to question Rich Rodriguez's offense in the Big Ten.
(Fun to watch if you like seeing bad things happen)
When did we last win?
In 2007, Michigan's Senior Class, lead by Mike Hart, Chad Henne, and Jake Long, swept Michigan State. Michigan owned the beginning and end of the game, while Michigan State controlled the middle. Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Jehuu Caulcrick took a one yard run in for a touchdown to put MSU up 24-14. Chad Henne would not allow his team to be beaten by little brother, and threw touchdown passes of 14 and 31 yards to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham. Henne ended the game 18/33 for 211 and 4 TDs, Mike Hart ran for 110 on 15 carries, and Mario Manningham caught 8 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns.
(Fun to watch if you like seeing good things happen!)
What do they look like?
Well this is actually a kind of funny question. Other than keeping to their colors of Green and White, MSU has never had a true identity on the field. Since 1993, the Spartans have changed their uniforms 8 (!!!!!) times. So lets break down their uniform combinations since 2000, because 8 changes is just ridiculous.
- 1999-2000: These jerseys had enormous letters on the front spelling out Michigan State. But otherwise made a lot of sense. The stripes on the helmet matched the stripes on the pants. Spartan head on the helmet.
- 2001: They stuck with the enormous lettering, but changed their striping patterns on the helmet. The helmet switched to one solid white stripe. S on the helmet.
- 2002: These were just terrible. Weird stripes were added across the shoulders and the Michigan State word mark was replaced by State. S on the helmet.
- 2003-2006: Enormous Michigan State wordmark returned, in addition the stupid shoulder stripes were removed. They added green pants on the road. Spartan head on the helmet.
- 2007-2009: Changed the font on the Michigan State wordmark to be more reminiscent to their championship teams of the 1960s. No more green pants on the road. Added helmet stickers. Spartan head on helmet.
- 2010-Present: Lots of changes here as MSU tried to create their brand by updating all of their teams at once. First change again was the wordmark and numbering, which are now in a weird font and outlined in bronze. They have two home jerseys, one with very little white, and one with a white yoke. The away jersey has a green yoke. They added terribly stupid striping patterns to both sets of pants. Their helmet stripe starts very thick in the front, and ends up very thin in the back. Spartan head on the helmet (and the palms of their gloves).
- Of course Nike has decided that a game against Michigan is an opportunity for Michigan State to wear terrible "Pro Combat" Uniforms. The base of the uniform is the current home jersey, which Nike took and made darker. They replaced all white on the jersey with gold and black. Rather than the Michigan State wordmark, it is black lettering that says Spartans. The numbers and Nike logo are gold. Pants are black, and have a "Spartans" tramp-stamp. Helmets are gold with the Spartan head. Of course they got special gloves and cleats for the occasion as well. Also, hilarious undershirts. These uniforms definitely don't look anything like the Green Ranger...
Do they have good coaches?
Unfortunately, yes. Mark Dantonio played his college ball at South Carolina, but all of his coaching is based in the Mid-West. He worked on Jim Tressel's staff at both Youngstown State and Ohio State and worked on Nick Saban's staff at MSU in the 1990s. He was the head coach at Cincinnati from 2004-2006, and has been Michigan State's head coach since 2007. He is 37-20 since taking the State job. Before Dantonio, John L. Smith roamed the side lines of Spartan Stadium. He was not so good at football coaching, but at least he had a funny voice and was prone to mental breakdowns...
Have they won a National or Big Ten Championship?
Well last year they shared the Big Ten Championship for the first time since 1990. They have seven Big Ten Championships in total. They also have 6 National Championships, all happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Not a Championship note, but MSU has not won a bowl game in their last 5 tries, with their last win coming in 2001 against Fresno State.
Did anyone famous play there?
- Plaxico Burress - Current member of the New York Jets and former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants, and the Oneida Correctional Facility.
- Drew Stanton - Detroit Lions third-string QB.
- Brian Hoyer - Back up to Tom Brady, and soon to also back up Ryan Mallet on the New England Patriots.
- Charles Rogers - Former Detroit Lions WR and professional marijuana smoker.
- James Caan - Sonny Corleone and Ed Deline amongst other famous roles.
- Wayne Fontes - Former Detroit Lions head coach.
- Kirk Gibson - Former Detroit Tigers great, currently the Arizona Diamondback's head coach.
- Tyrone Willingham - Former head coach of Stanford, Notre Dame, and Washington.
Sparty is a big deal on Michigan State's campus, and in my opinion is much less goofy than many of the other mascots. He has been around in his current form since the 1989 season. They also have a bronze statute of Sparty on campus in East Lansing. During the week of the Michigan game they guard it so this doesn't happen.
Where do they play?
Spartan Stadium was built in 1923 and was original called College Field. They added luxury boxes to the stadium in 2004. Here is what the field looks like.
2011 Michigan State is the exact opposite of 2010 Michigan. They have the number one defense in the nation, but an incredibly mediocre offense. They do have players who have great ability on the offensive side of the ball. At any point Kirk Cousins, Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, and B.J. Cunningham could explode, but their offensive line has been abysmal. This will be a close game, and will be determined by the running game for both sides. Prediction baed on everything but football: Michigan 21 - Michigan State 20.