A Completely, Truly, Totally Unbiased* Look at the Michigan-MSU Football Rivalry
*Disclaimer: This post is in every way, shape, and form biased toward the Michigan Wolverines football program.
I write to you today about something that really grinds my gears, to borrow a phrase once championed by everyone's favorite family guy Peter Griffin. I write to tell you that some things are not as they should be, or at least they haven't been for the last eight years.
Of course, I'm talking about college football and my beloved Michigan Wolverines and those disreputable characters up in East Lansing. I'm talking about one touchdown-less win since Michigan running back Mike Hart uttered the term "Little Brother" and a 2015 finish that I'd rather forget. I'm talking about negative rushing yards and an overtime loss to a mediocre Spartan club in 2009 and a Denard Robinson-thrown pick-six that sealed one of only two losses in an otherwise stellar 2011.
All of these things are on my mind as I sit down to write. And all of them contribute to a fact that doesn't feel right, which is this: Ohio State is Michigan's arch nemesis, but I have much more ill-will toward Michigan State these days. The Buckeyes are the sworn enemy, yes, but, personally, I only ever really deal with a single hairless nut (not a euphemism) on a regular basis, while Spartans, sadly, abound throughout this great state of ours. And good lord are they aggravating, especially when they have the right to be.
To be perfectly honest, other than my first ever Michigan football game — a 31-13 drubbing of the Spartans on October 7, 2006 — I've never known a Michigan that was dominant over either Ohio State or Michigan State.
When I actually started paying attention (AKA giving a crap) about the Wolverines football program, it was 2008, Rich Rodriguez's debut of the spread offense in Ann Arbor. That team finished with more losses in a single season than any other in Michigan's history. So I guess you could say things started off pretty well.
Thankfully, it's been better since then. But over that period, from 2008 to the present, Michigan's record versus the Buckeyes and Spartans is a combined 2-14, with those two victories coming in 2011 (a 40-34 decision over the Nuts) and 2012 (the aforementioned touchdown-less, 12-10 win over Sparty during my freshman year at U of M).
Now, here's another fact that pains me: it would seem losses to Ohio State are not as crippling as losses to Michigan State because the Wolverines have only beaten the Buckeyes three times total in the 21st century (2000, 2003, 2011) as things stand anyway, and the Spartans are a team, as I've come to understand in the most Michigan-biased sense possible, that we're supposed to beat year in and year out.
I know, I know, that sounds... arrogant, to use an adjective favored by our Spartan brethren. But listen to this, dear friends: between 1968 and 2007, there was not one instance where Michigan lost to the Spartans in consecutive seasons. In that 39-year span, Michigan State won the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy (which was instituted in 1953) nine times. Nine. Thus it's not hard to comprehend why losing seven out of the past eight contests is so troublesome to the Michigan faithful.
I have personally witnessed four contests between these two programs. Three of them — 2006, 2012, and 2015 — have already been mentioned plainly, while I only alluded to the fourth one earlier, a particularly forgettable performance on a rain-soaked afternoon in East Lansing in 2013. As of this writing, my record for Michigan-Michigan State games is an even 2-2.
This weekend, on Oct. 29, I'm looking to climb above .500 when I visit Spartan Stadium for what I can only hope will be the beating of a lifetime (*someone knock on wood for me*). It's looking that way, but these rivalry match-ups don't care how well or not well one team or the other is playing. Anything can happen on the field. Last year taught us as much.
One hundred years ago, on October 21, 1916, Michigan shut out Michigan State, which was then called Michigan Agricultural College, 9-0 in Ann Arbor. It was the the 11th game in a series that writes its 109th chapter this Saturday. It was also the beginning of a 14-game winning streak against the team that would come to adopt the nickname Spartans, and it still stands as the lengthiest such streak in the rivalry.
Now, I'm not trying to live in the past — as some of you are surely going to sound the alarm on that one. All I'm saying is, if we're doomed to repeat it, I wouldn't be complaining in this scenario.
A new winning streak against Little Brother sounds pretty damn fine to me.
**All facts presented in this post were checked using Wikipedia. Readers are encouraged to address any grievances, should they arise, with the appropriate source.