There isn’t anything like a rivalry game in college football, especially between two in-state teams that truly dislike one another. This Saturday at Spartan Stadium the undefeated Michigan Wolverines face Michigan State, the defending Big Ten Champions. The Spartans enter this game with the nation’s best defense statistically, and the Wolverines come into the game with an old school attitude behind new head coach Brady Hoke, and one of the nation’s most exciting players in Denard Robinson.
There is more to play for in this game than just bragging rights though. There is Paul Bunyan’s Trophy and both teams are ranked in the top 25 in both major polls. More importantly, the winner of this game will be in sole possession of first place in the Legends Division of the Big Ten, a huge step towards winning the Big Ten Conference and having the opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game.
But bragging rights are what this game is all about, regardless of implications in the Big Ten race, BCS bowls, national rankings or on trophies. For some fans, the Michigan vs. State contest is the only meaningful game of the season. Adam Polson, a 2006 Michigan State University graduate is one of those fans.
“This game represents the entire season for me,” says Polson. “I realize MSU is not going to win a National Championship this year. I don’t really care what bowl game they make. All that matters to me is they beat U of M.”
The last three seasons have been outstanding for Spartans fans like Polson. Michigan State has won the last three meetings between the teams. But Michigan State fans are more worried about this year’s game then they have been in recent years. The Maize and Blue will go into Saturday’s match-up with confidence and a sense of purpose that was simply not there the last three years. The Wolverines are also rated higher in the national polls and are undefeated.
“A rivalry game is always a scary game regardless of statistics, rankings or records”, says Michael Pendy, a senior at Michigan State. “I think it will be even tougher than previous years, but State will pull off a victory,” predicted Pendy. “Spartan Stadium will be earsplitting, and Mark Dantonio prepares for this game all year long and just gets it done.”
Some people feel the fans of each team are downright mean to each other, which only adds to the excitement level of the rivalry. There are no limits on what can and will be said, and fans make no attempt to deny it.
“The campus would be filled with Wolverine fans,” says Polson. “We would take pride in running our mouths until the game was over.”
This rivalry mainly consists of fans that may have more hatred for fans of the opposing team than the actual athletes and coaches who participate in the game. But the players can get involved too. After Michigan’s victory in the game in 2007, running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as “Michigan’s little brother.” Since that comment was made, the little brother has won every meeting.
Kickoff is scheduled for Noon Eastern time and the game will be televised on ESPN.