You have a text
By Bryan MacKenzie
I must first apologize to Counterpunt. You see, every week we email each other about the coming game, and then we retire to our separate hemispheres to mash our respective keyboards. We seek to achieve a balance of approaches to give you, the reader, a full picture of the day’s events… and to avoid the jinx that would certainly accompany a unanimous declaration of impending triumph. And this week, I expressed a pessimism about the upcoming game. You see, Mark Dantonio has this voodoo magic, and Michigan State cares more and always finds a way, and the weather is going to be bad, and chips, and shoulders and, and, and.
Enough of that.
The reason Michigan State has beaten Michigan 8 out of the last 10 is straightforward. It’s the same reason Michigan beat Michigan State in 10 of the 12 matchups before that. It’s the same reason most streaks go the way they go: the better team usually wins.
Post stake ergo propter stake
Since the beginning of the S&P+ era (2005), the team that finished the season with the better S&P+ rating has won the Michigan/Michigan State game 10 times. The three exceptions:
- 2011: MSU beat Michigan in the Trash Tornado game.
- 2012: Michigan beat MSU in the 12-10 Didn’t Even Score a Touchdown game.
- 2015: MSU beat Michigan on… that.
In none of those seasons was the ‘upset’ loser ranked more than 11 spots higher than the winner. And in the last 20 years, the team that ends the season with the better record has only lost this game twice: 2011 and the Spartan Bob 2001 game.
So. The better team wins. The exceptions are close and generally fluky. And in years where one team is significantly better than the other (2006, 2008, 2014, 2016), the better team has won somewhere between comfortably and crushingly.
I suppose that’s both the good news and the bad news. The bad news is that, yes, Michigan State was a better football team than Michigan for much of the last decade. That isn’t a great thing to admit, especially following on the heels of a similar level of dominance for the dozen years before that. And because so many of those years Michigan fans entered the game with high hopes for the season, it’s tough to retroactively say, “yeah, they weren’t as good as we thought.”
[After THE JUMP: But are we as good as we think?]