There has been a lot of talk about Michigan State’s recent domination over its bitter rival, the University of Michigan. Whether it’s the fans or former players, those who hold the contest near-and-dear aren’t afraid to chime in on the subject.
The Spartans’ win streak, on both the football field and basketball court, is approaching 1,000 days. For Wolverine fans, the streak is attributed to inexperience, coaching changes and bad luck.
For Spartan fans, it’s a sign of the times that Michigan State is finally shedding its dubious “Little Brother” moniker that has been bestowed upon it by the Wolverine faithful.
When debating the significance of the trend, numbers are all one needs.
It was Feb. 27, 2007 the last time the Wolverines got the best of the Spartans on the hard wood. Michigan’s Dion Harris scored a game-high 24 points in the 67-56 victory at Crisler Arena, but the Wolverines have found themselves on the losing end of the rivalry four times since.
Michigan owns an all-time record of 67-30-5 over Michigan State in football, so Spartan fans can’t deny the Wolverines’ historical success. Spartan coach Mark Dantonio has his team on the right track with his recent recruiting classes, and could extend the streak to three years in 2010.
It was Michigan quarterback Chad Henne's 31-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass to wide receiver Mario Manningham on 3rd and 12 that sealed the Wolverines' 28-24 victory over Michigan State on Nov. 3, 2007 at Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans rolled over the Wolverines 35-21 in 2008, and then-freshman Larry Caper became an instant campus legend with his 23-yard touchdown-scamper in overtime that vaulted the Spartans to a 26-20 win over the Wolverines last October.
The consecutive victories were the first since 1965-67, when Michigan State took three in a row, and claimed two national titles under legendary coach Duffy Daugherty.
Former Michigan State football player Michael Jordan remembers the back-to-back wins, as he was in East Lansing for both. Like other proud alumni, Jordan absolutely loves to weigh in on one of college football’s timeless battles.
“Oh man, that’s been the thing in Michigan,” Jordan said by phone Thursday. “If you’re from Michigan, you know the importance of the rivalry. Growing up in Michigan, I’ve always been a State fan. It’s about time to re-establish ourselves as the premier team.”
So what does Jordan think about Michigan’s affectionate nickname for his alma mater?
“I refer to Michigan as 'The Little Blue School,'” Jordan said. “I don’t associate anything in my life with those two colors—whether it’s a blue spoon, or a yellow wash cloth— it runs that deep.
I’m proud to say that I’m alumni, and it’s a good time to be a Spartan. We never saw ourselves as 'Little Brother,' but it’s good to be looked at as the more dominant school now in the state, and gaining some real national attention.”
Andre Weathers started at cornerback for the Wolverines, opposite of Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, and was a member of their 1997 national co-championship team. He was also an All Big-Ten selection in 1998.
Weathers is now the defensive coordinator at Flint Northern High School, but will never forget what the Michigan vs. Michigan State rivalry has given him. The way he talked about it, you would think he was still in Ann Arbor.
“I mean, at the end of the day, a rivalry is exactly what it sounds like,” Weathers said. “At any given time, any team can win. It’s a battle of the state.
It’s Michigan vs. Michigan State. It’s bragging rights for 365 days… It’s a game you throw out all the records. It doesn’t matter how good or bad a team is.
Here’s something crazy: I don’t even carry cash, and I don’t own anything green. Going to that school, that rivalry is instilled in you. Indirectly, it does affect you, whether you know it or not. I’m not going to say it’s a bad thing to carry cash, it’s just the fact that it’s green."
Weathers relayed a story about the Michigan coaching staff’s approach to the in-state grudge match. He said coaches would assign players extra sprints if they were caught wearing enemy colors.
“You’re not just playing for a win or loss for you,” he said. “You’re playing for all those that played in that game. The sprints were to help you understand how serious it is. It’s deeper than what you think it really is.”