Once upon a time, Michigan was a booming state. With ore and lumber coming in from the UP and the burgeoning auto industry in Detroit, Michigan was one of the richest states in the nation and it backed that up with a state university that was considered world class. And that university had a football team virtually untouched by anyone in the land.
To the south, Ohio was in the opposite situation. Mired in poverty, the state had yet to fully enter the 20th Century. It's flagship university was still a land grant school at heart, teaching the sons of farmers how to farm even better. With the manufacturing industry that would eventually bring the state some financial prosperity in it's infancy, Ohio was a backwater.
This was the birth of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. The have's vs the have-not's. The rich vs the poor. The educated vs the men of the land.
And it was a one sided rivalry, to be sure. We all know that Michigan didn't lose a game to the Buckeyes in the first 16, and that after a three year losing streak we reeled off another six straight. It's fair to say that, in a world where MSU was irrelevant and we'd yet to play Notre Dame, Ohio State was "little brother". For they had neither the tradition of competitiveness that defined our main rival, Chicago, nor the stakes of our jug stealing rivals in Minnesota. They were merely the school that couldn't accept that we didn't hate them as much as they hated us, they were the academically and athletically inferior hicks who couldn't run with us if they tried.
Then something funny happened. Chicago, our only true rival on the field and in the classroom, got progressively worse on the field until they just dropped the sport altogether. Meanwhile, those annoying Buckeyes had beaten us four years in a row... wait, let me rephrase that. They destroyed us four years in a row, to the tune of 114-0. We were also in the midst of what would become an 11 year Jugless drought. These were the circumstances in which Ohio State became our main rival.
I'm posting this for two reasons... one because it's not the way the rivalry is traditionally presented and two because it's funny how it fits our feelings about State today. Let me be crystal clear, the things that lead to OSU's rise as our main competitor will never happen with State. But maybe, just maybe, they might one day rival them in stature.