A resurgent Michigan Wolverines football program ranked 12th in the nation will host the undefeated and seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans on Saturday in a bout for a critical Big Ten victory, but the rivalry extends well beyond the gridiron.
Yes, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh's return to his alma mater has sparked Michigan's resurgence in an expedient manner, and he must overcome Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, whose MSU teams have dominated recent matchups.
But that's not the only story to tell. The rivalry lives in the heart of campus. It's heard in the marching bands. It's seen in the schools' newspapers. It's felt the same way in other sports.
Last year, the block "M" in the diag—which is in the center of the Ann Arbor campus—received a fresh coat of the wrong-colored paint three days before the football game.
Call it what it is—vandalism—but the practice unfortunately is not exclusive.
In East Lansing, the marching band annually organizes "Sparty Watch," which is meant to protect the famous statue of the Spartan during Michigan week.
However, presumed Michigan supporters blemished an unprotected icon sometime on Thursday morning. Michigan State junior guard Alvin Ellis III shared a picture showing the statue of Spartans legend and NBA great Magic Johnson defaced.
That statue was an easier target, since the Spartan Marching Band focuses on keeping Sparty pure. Nevertheless, retribution can be had on a Saturday too.
"Every performance matters," said Ben Kremkow, a graduate of Michigan State who performed in the marching band for four years. "You have respect for the other band. But at the same time, you want to do the best show you possibly can."
The bands battle through music, while campus newspapers clash on more occasions than in print.
"It's a pretty big mutual dislike between the newspapers," Max Cohen of the Michigan Daily said. "The State News always says they're a better newspaper than us because of random awards I guess they've won."
Random or not—serious or in jest—the State News does claim the awards.
On the other hand, the Michigan Daily has raked in victories during the annual touch-football game between the papers over the last decade.
"We've beaten them 10 times in a row, so let's hope it's 11," Cohen said of the matchup that will take place at Elbel Field in Ann Arbor on Friday night.
But Matthew Argillander of the State News said there's a little extra on the line this year. He made a promise to a former editor, and the Wolverines have a legitimate chance to sweep the weekend at Elbel and in the Big House.
"I think the intensity will transfer," Argillander said. "At the end of the day, we're still about doing journalism and putting out quality news. But it is important to win."
Understandably, that same intensity and importance is felt across all athletic teams. Though in some cases, a victory brings more than laurels. The football teams vie for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. Michigan State has held the trophy for six of the last seven seasons.
"It's their time to have at [the rivalry]," Harbaugh said of the 2015 Wolverines, per Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. "It's something they're going to remember for a long, long time. They're going to remember that 5, 10, 20, 30, 50 years from now."
Paul Bunyan isn't the only trophy that can change hands for the 65-mile journey.
"We had a State Pride Flag that we would always battle for," said Jenilee Rathje, a third-team AVCA All-American for Michigan State volleyball in 2011. "Winning it was always great."
The Spartans and Wolverines volleyball teams typically meet twice per season, and the ultimate winner earns the right to take the trophy home. Michigan State has already retained the State Pride Flag in 2015.
Last year, however, the season series was a literal tie. Both programs won one match. Both programs won four sets. Both programs tallied 196 total points.
But on Friday, there will be no tie between the State News and the Michigan Daily. On Saturday, there will be no musical deadlock between the Spartan Marching Band and Michigan Marching Band. The scoreboard most certainly will not remain even in the Big House.
Then next year—perhaps without vandalism—the Spartans and Wolverines, their flutists and drummers, editors and writers, setters and hitters, quarterbacks and safeties, will do it all again in hopes of besting the hated school.
The rivalry knows no bounds.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.