For the first time since 1964, Michigan and Michigan State will play with both teams ranked in the top 10. Now, nearly sixty years later, No. 6 Michigan heads to East Lansing to take on the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans.
With contention for the top of the Big Ten East and undefeated seasons on the line, will this game be one of the biggest in the rivalry?
Saturday’s game is the hot ticket item of the weekend. To get into Spartan Stadium, expect to drop a minimum of 200 dollars per ticket. Hopefully, if you’re going, you already have somewhere to stay. Hotels in the East Lansing area range widely and you can expect to drop a minimum of 150 dollars a night to over 600 dollars a night. Michigan fans have discussed for weeks getting the ‘Woodshed’ to turn maize, and MSU fans are making it a pretty penny to do so.
Michigan fans aren’t the only ones descending into East Lansing this weekend. While FOX and Big Noon Kickoff are hosting the game, ESPN’s College Gameday will also be making an appearance. The Woodshed holds 75,005 people, but they should have a record crowd this Saturday given the hour drive that separates the two schools. Ann Arbor natives are used to over 100,000 people descending upon their city for home games. Numbers of a similar proportion should be expected to arrive in East Lansing, given the state of the rivalry and the nature of this game.
Over the past two decades, the series has split 10-10. MSU fans can claim all they want that they have the last nine of thirteen, but they have elected to not include their five year losing streak the years prior. Michigan leads the series 71-37-5.
This rivalry has produced highly notable games since it started in 1898. They introduced the Paul Bunyan trophy in 1953 to cement the rivalry within the Big Ten, with the Spartans winning the inaugural game. Another game came in 1990, where an unranked Michigan State upset the No. 1 Michigan, but sparked controversy with the missed interference on Desmond Howard. There was the infamous 2007 game, where Mike Hart, dubbed the Spartans Michigan’s “little brother” as the Wolverines staved off an upset. Then there’s the infamous “trouble with the snap” game in 2015 where a bobbled snap and attempted punt ended Michigan’s hopes of beating the Spartans in Coach Jim Harbaugh’s first year. This game hasn’t even happened yet and it falls amongst these games because both teams are ranked within the top ten and both have never had 7-0 starts when facing one another.
Since 2001, Michigan State has given the Wolverines four upsets, all in East Lansing. Historically, in the four games that had both teams in the top 10, the road team has won. The Wolverines are currently projected to win by 4 points.
Mel Tucker and Michigan State already handed Michigan an upset loss when they shouldn’t have. Handing Michigan another could only serve to turn the scales of in-state recruiting. Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines want to prove they have what it takes to vy for the Big Ten East and win big games. Michigan State proves to be a crucial hurdle for Michigan and getting the win in East Lansing is quite the statement.
This game has been writing itself to be one of the top showdowns of the season and within the rivalry. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whiter released a declaration for the game, cementing how the mounting anticipation reaches far across the state of Michigan. People across the country are placing their bets on who will win, and some do so without truly understanding the type of rivalry this is. So what is it about Michigan State that makes this rivalry so intense? For those who don’t know the dynamic between the two, when did you realize it was more than a game?
I grew up outside the state of Michigan before heading there to go to UM. My first exposure to the rivalry was when I stepped on campus in 2014, but even then I didn’t firmly grasp just how brutal it could be. When walking through the diag, there would be a tent over the M and people would sit out there to guard it from MSU fans. They do the same in East Lansing for their spartan statue. My sophomore year was the infamous “trouble with the snap”. I will never forget how silent the Big House went, ignoring the MSU section at the other endzone of course. Every year since they have shoved it in our faces, and that’s how I learned that there was truly something different about Michigan State.
This game has all the makings to go down in this storied rivalry’s history book. The jabs have been coming in all week, both sides guilty of snide and petty comments. There is no doubt the “which running back is better” and “which team is the best in the state” narratives will finally have their answers.
From the ticket and hotel prices, to the moments before that made this rivalry unique, will this be the biggest game in its history? Does it have the makings to be with the other memorable games in the rivalry? Let us know in the comments!