Friday, October 19, 2012

Who Are You and Why Do We Care?: Michigan State Spartans

Is there a rivalry here?
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 67-32-5 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 23.

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. Brady Hoke also lost in his first attempt to defeat the in-state rival, and State has their first four game win streak against Michigan since the Spartans won four straight from 1959-1962. 

What happened last year?
The game, in East Lansing, started very well for the Wolverines. Denard Robinson and Vincent Smith marched the Wolverines down the field ending with an incredible 15 yard Robinson touchdown. 

That would be the last time Michigan fans were celebrating for a while. State's following possession resulted in a one yard Edwin Baker touchdown. The rest of the first half included Will Hagerup and Mike Sadler punting the ball a lot of times. When Michigan State got the ball after halftime, Kirk Cousins completed a pass to Keshawn Martin in the endzone to put the Spartans in the lead 14-7. On State's next possession, Edwin Baker fumbled, but the Wolverines couldn't respond, going three and out. When the Spartans got the ball back, Cousins connected with Martin for another touchdown. Midway through the fourth quarter Michigan got the ball on the Spartan 34 yard line. One play later, Roy Roundtree received a pass from Denard, broke a tackle, scored a touchdown. Michigan would have an opportunity to tie the game two plays later when Keshawn Martin fumbled, and JT Floyd recovered. Michigan had a 4th down opportunity on the Michigan State 9 yard line. The Wolverines went for it and  Johnny Adams sacked Denard for a ten yard loss. Michigan State went three and out , and Michigan got another chance. On the next play, Denard threw a pass, which was intercepted by Isaiah Lewis and returned for a touchdown. The game would end with a final score of Michigan State 28- Michigan 14 . 

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.  

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 beat Georgia last year in the Outback Bowl. 

Where do they play football?
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. Until the Notre Dame game this year, Michigan State had a fifteen game home winning streak. Now, they have a three game home losing streak. 

Do they have any interesting traditions?
  • Cheers from 300: Pretty much if there was something yelled in 300, it is also yelled in Spartan Stadium. 
  • Zeke the Wonder Dog: A dog that catches frisbees during halftime.
  • Thunderstruck: Similar to Michigan playing "In The Big House" before the team ran onto the field last year, Michigan State comes out after "Thunderstruck" plays. 
  • Go Green/Go White: You've all heard this one before. No explanation necessary. 

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. 
Do they have a goofy mascot (other than John L. Smith)?
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

Prediction based on everything but football: Michigan 28 - Michigan State 16


  1. MSU won its bowl game last year against UGA.

  2. MSU beat Georgia in a bowl game last year