Michigan Football: This Year's Battle for Paul Bunyan Trophy Should Be Great

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterJune 15, 2012

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 15:  Keshawn Martin #82 of the Michigan State Spartans scores a third quarter touchdown as Kenny Demens #25 of the Michigan Wolverines attempts to make the stop during the game at Spartan Stadium on October 15, 2011 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defeated Michigan 28-14.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

Last year the Michigan Wolverines lost, in East Lansing, by a score of 28-14 as the Spartan defense bottled up Denard Robinson and imposed their will on Brady Hoke's team. The Wolverines would have the last laugh though, getting the BCS Bowl nod and beating Virginia Tech for a Sugar Bowl Championship. Meanwhile, Sparty lost a heartbreaker in the Big Ten Championship and then went on to win a thrilling game against Georgia.

While the rest of the nation is debating whether or not Michigan stands a chance in their opener against Alabama, the Wolverines' head coach has his eyes and mouth trained on the Spartans. He's mentioned the team in East Lansing, again, and this time with a bit of colorful language to as AnnArbor.com reports:

"We play an in-state rivalry game against Michigan State, and they have beat our ass for the last four years," Hoke told the players, most of whom hail from the state. "There's no other way to put that. It's been an ass-kicking. Just being honest with you. Pardon me about my language, but it's true."

Think this game matters to Brady Hoke, folks?

This year, while Michigan holds the Sugar Bowl Championship in their hands and the Heisman candidate on their sideline, it is Michigan State who holds the proverbial "belt." Mark Dantonio reminded the Wolverines of that earlier this year as he downplayed the threat of Hoke's Wolverines.

Both sides of this rivalry should be looking forward to October 20th in Ann Arbor when the two meet on the field. For Michigan State it will be about extending the win streak. The defense for the Spartans is going to be one of the nation's best and they will push to bottle up Denard Robinson as they have done for every year of his career. On offense, Sparty will be a question mark, but by this mid-season contest we'll know if Andrew Maxwell is capable of replacing Kirk Cousins.

On the Michigan side the motivation should be high. Brady Hoke has done two things that every Michigan coach is expected to do: get to major bowl games and beat Ohio State. Now, he has two more items on his list that must be checked off: win the Big Ten and beat Michigan State. Winning the Big Ten and beating Michigan State go hand in hand in the new divisional format.

Last year the Spartans carried the Legends Division thanks to their win over Michigan. This year the Wolverines hope to return the favor and push for the Rose Bowl, a game they have not visited since 2006; a 14-point loss to USC.

There's a lot on the line come October 20th and with both coaches playing into the rivalry, it should be appointment viewing when the date rolls around. Brady Hoke is going to have his boys focused, and as Mark Dantonio has shown the last four seasons, his team is always ready to beat the Wolverines.