Michigan vs. Michigan State: Time for Fitz Toussaint & U-M to Put Up or Shut Up

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Michigan vs. Michigan State: Time for Fitz Toussaint & U-M to Put Up or Shut Up
Leon Halip/Getty Images
It is time for Michigan to back up its talk of championships, or keep quiet.

Well, the two words guaranteed to heat up the Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry have been uttered once again.

"Little Brother."

Fifth-year senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint brought the phrase back out at a press conference earlier this week when discussing the nastiness of the annual in-state clash.

"We labeled them as a little brother. And, you know the little brother always want to prove themselves and try to beat up the big brother one day," Toussaint said, according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "I think they really take offense to that."

There is nothing wrong with a little chatter between a couple of programs that have disdain for one another. In fact, it is part of what makes college football's rivalries so great.

Leon Halip/Getty Images
Michigan is no longer Michigan State's big brother.

However, there is no reason why anyone associated with Michigan should be referring to Michigan State as "little brother." Over the past six years, the Spartans have all but eliminated the notion the Wolverines are the superior program in the Great Lakes State. 

During this time frame, Michigan State boasts a 4-1 record against the Maize and Blue. The Spartans have won 31 Big Ten Conference games, while the Wolverines can only claim 19 league victories. Mark Dantonio's club won a share of the conference title in 2010. Michigan has not won a Big Ten Championship since 2004.

Sounds like the only little brother in this rivalry right now dons a winged helmet.

Make no mistake, these are not Bobby Williams' or John L. Smith's Michigan State Spartans anymore. This is a new era of football in East Lansing, one where Dantonio has placed a greater emphasis on beating the Wolverines than arguably any other coach in program history.

Leon Halip/Getty Images
Mark Dantonio has helped Michigan State become a thorn in Michigan's side.

"I think Michigan State plays with a great deal of anger and intensity, and it's because of the way over the years Michigan has viewed them," ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit said, via Mike Griffith of MLive. "Mark Dantonio has lived that and he makes sure his team understands that."

At least when Mike Hart coined the phrase in 2007 Michigan had won eight of the past 10 meetings and were a year removed from a Rose Bowl appearance.

Michigan had beaten Michigan State for the sixth straight time when Mike Hart labeled the Spartans "Little Brother."

What have Toussaint and the Wolverines done since 2008 to think they are worthy of belittling an opponent, rival or not?

This is not just about the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy either. It is about how head coach Brady Hoke and the Wolverines have continued to talk a big game but have done close to nothing on the field to back it up.

Remember this?

What is Michigan? Being a mediocre team in the nation's weakest power conference? If not, there is no reason to believe otherwise, because that is exactly what the Wolverines are right now.

Do things appear to be changing? Absolutely. Hoke is cleaning up on the recruiting trail, most notably in the state of Michigan. Seven of the top 10 in-state prospects chose the Wolverines in 2012. Six more did the same in 2013, and three others have committed from the class of 2014

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Elite-level talents like cornerback Jabrill Peppers, wide receiver George Campbell, running back Damien Harris and possibly defensive end Da'Shawn Hand could be exactly what Michigan needs to return to prominence. 

Until these players actually bring the Wolverines back to the national stage, though, Hoke's recruiting success means absolutely nothing. Zip. Nada. Zilch. 

Michigan has a chance to make a statement this Saturday in East Lansing. A second straight win over the Spartans would quiet the doubters and put Hoke and Co. in position to win the Legends Division in November.

Another loss to Michigan State would only further validate the notion the Maize and Blue are a shell of what they once were.

Team 134 has too much to prove to be spouting off about "little brother." Talk is cheap. It is time for Michigan to put up or shut up. 

 

Want to talk more Michigan football? Follow me on Twitter at @Zach_Dirlam

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