Technically, sports rivalries are the offspring of competition and ritualism, e.g., the Michigan/OSU Rivalry. It is always the last regular season game for both teams. Both teams have a clock in their locker rooms counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the game.
Like all things earthly, rituals evolve. For example, Brady Hoke refers to Ohio State as simply “Ohio”, which has caught on with Wolverines like “that team up north” did with Ohio. Hoke also refuses to shake the Ohio coach’s hand, increasing rivalry animosity. That or he’s just concerned his ring might be stolen and pawned.
Consistently playing yearly for decades, lays the foundation for a good rivalry, but that’s not enough. Geographical proximity or similarity often contributes to a rivalry, but that’s not enough either. A classic rivalry results from similarity compounded by basic differences. For example with Michigan and Ohio State the similarities are proximity, conference membership and team quality. The intrinsic differences primarily lie in institutional integrity and academic excellence; Michigan has a rich tradition in both and Ohio State has none in either.
There is also a disparity in moral turpitude between Ann Arbor and Columbus. When Michigan wins in Columbus, Buckeyes burn things in the street and vandalize cars with Michigan license plates. When the OSU wins in Ann Arbor, there is definitely remorse, but it does not escalate to criminal behavior. Those differences are the essence of the rivalry: good vs. evil, future physician vs. future felon, class vs. trash.
Schools often have more than one rivalry, raising the question: why isn’t the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State greater? The two teams first played in 1898 and have met almost every year since 1910. The game became a conference rivalry when Michigan State joined the Big Ten in 1950; the history exists.
The two schools are physically closer to each other than they are to any other Big Ten School. Additionally, the disparity in academic excellence and institutional integrity is as great between Michigan and MSU as it is between Michigan and Ohio State. For all intents and purposes Michigan State is just Ohio State in a gaudy green with a slightly tackier stadium.
The reason is probably because Michigan has dominated the competition. The Wolverines lead the series 68–32–5. The series record for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is 35–23–2 in favor of Michigan. The trophy wasn’t added to the rivalry until Michigan State became a full member of the Big Ten in 1953, at which point Michigan led the series, 33–9–3.
A home-and-home series did not begin until the 1958 season. Through the 1957 season, the game was played in Ann Arbor 44 times compared to only 6 times in East Lansing.
At the start of the trophy game series, the Spartans dominated the series for two decades. Between 1950 and 1969, MSU was 14–4–2 against Michigan. Then along came Bo Schemblechler in 1969. He was having none of that. The Wolverines ruled for the next 40 years. They were 30–8 against the Spartans from 1970 to 2007.
Then MSU hired Mark Dantonio in 2007 and have dominated since, winning four of the last six meetings. Michigan holds the longest winning streak at fourteen (1916–29). MSU has had four four-game winning streaks. The most recent was from 2008–11. Since 1950, the series rivalry stands at 35-27-2 in favor of U-M.
That having been said, the tradition of Michigan football is about dominance. The Wolverines have not dominated the Spartans recently. That is why it is crucial that the Wolverines re-establish dominance over the Spartans. “It’s about bragging rights,” Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon said. “It’s a big rivalry game to us,” Devin Gardner said. “After we won the game (2011), they didn’t really want to shake our hands, and so I find that as a sign of disrespect,” Calhoun, one of the stars of the MSU defense said.
The truth is MSU is not respectable. They deliberately try to injure players, play with a prison riot mentality and their coach has the demeanor of a constipated ape with a thorn in his paw. So it’s hard to get on that train. This is all the more reason winning this game is crucial.
Michigan needs to silence Michigan State once and for all, and move on to more important business such as building our multi-national championship teams. HAIL!
Dr. Billi Gordon
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