Why does Michigan downplay the rivalry with State?

Submitted by Blue and Joe on October 21st, 2014 at 1:59 PM

I've lived in the Lansing area all my life. Some of my best friends are huge MSU fans. Most of my family members are MSU fans. For these reasons, and many more, I have grown up to despise Sparty more than our rival down south.

I completely understand that OSU is our biggest rival, but what I don't understand is the nonchallant attitude the football program has towards MSU. During the week we get polite comments and compliments for their players and coaching staff. Meanwhile the word out of EL is how much they hate us and want to beat us.

When Saturday comes along the result on the field is reminscent of the attitude during the week. MSU plays like a team hellbent on kicking our asses. We play like every other game: not good.

Why is it so hard for us to bring even a fraction of the hatred we have for OSU to a game against MSU? For a program that prides itself on having important rivalries we seem to forget all but one. All I want is to see some fire and passion on that sideline on Saturday.

EDIT: A lot of people are pointing to history and past dominance. While true, I think that is a terrible reason. Right now they are kicking our asses. Last year we showed up against OSU with a great gameplan. We were actually prepared. I want to see that for more than just one game a year.

EDIT 2: After writing that I am seeing that my question is actually "why doesn't Michigan ever appear to be prepared for games against not-OSU?" Which is why Hoke will be out of a job at the end of this season.


Blue and Joe

October 21st, 2014 at 1:59 PM ^


October 21st, 2014 at 2:14 PM ^

I think these tweets have quite a bit of hindsight revisionism. Newspapers need to assign a narrative to the game, and MSU is obsessed with Michigan, so when MSU wins it was because of the obsession.

The real reason MSU has dominated this rivalry recently is because they've had better teams. MSU lived for this game before Dantonio was their coach, but they ususally lost anyway because Michigan was the better team. However, since Lloyd retired, MSU has usually had the better team over the whole season. And (suprise!) they usually ended up winning this game too. I think very little of the outcome Saturday will have to do with intensity of mid-week presser quotes and a lot more to do with which team has better coaching.

Blue and Joe

October 21st, 2014 at 2:28 PM ^

I would agree with you, but talent doesn't always win out. There are upsets every week in college football by teams with less talent. How do they do it? They make up for it by being better prepared and highly motivated. When is the last time Michigan showed up against MSU with a competent gameplan?


October 21st, 2014 at 2:32 PM ^

Talent doesn't always win out is a super bad response shows a fundamental lack of understanding how probability works. If 10 teams play games that they're 95% to win, one loses about 40 percent of the time. Upsets happen 'all the time' in college football because of the number of games played far more than anything else.

There may be some sort of magic for getting an upset somewhere, but it sure as shit isn't going to have anything to do with press conference statements.

Blue and Joe

October 21st, 2014 at 2:39 PM ^

There may be some sort of magic for getting an upset somewhere, but it sure as shit isn't going to have anything to do with press conference statements.

You're right. The press conference statements are just an example of the overall attitude. They don't mean much.

My argument is that being prepared and motivated is what wins games. Talent certainly makes it easier, but it's not the only thing. Michigan is the perfect example of that. How many 4 and 5-star recruits do we have? What is our record?

See my edit above. I've realized this is not just a MSU-game problem.


October 21st, 2014 at 3:16 PM ^

not noticed a lack of motivation from Michigan this year, just a lack of competence.  I mean, yeah, I think the team has mailed it in a couple of times when it became clear that they stood no shot whatsoever at winning the game regardless of how hard they tried, but I don't think a lack of motivation is the primary diagnosis.  I think of last year against Kansas State as a team without any motivation, this year it looks like a flat out inability to perform the Xs and Os of the game as good as their opposition.


October 21st, 2014 at 4:58 PM ^

The hatred has always run much deeper on Sparty's side.  A good friend of mine played for MSU in the early 80's and he told me that if there was a scenario where MSU needed UM to win a game at the end of the season in order for Sparty to win a Big Ten title or conversely a Michigan loss meant Sparty would not win it, he said he would rather see UM lose than win a conference championship.

And he wasn't kidding.


October 21st, 2014 at 4:39 PM ^

...well, over the last six years, anyway.

They were living for it less when Lloyd Carr owned them. 

And before that when Bo/Mo mostly owned them as well.

You're right, wile-e8, the papers run a narrative, nothing more. If Michigan shows up like v. Ohio State last year things could go well. If not, new coach/AD sooner.


October 21st, 2014 at 5:13 PM ^

be it work, or relationships and it most definitely has a lot to do with football. Do you think App State would have beat us had we had a better attitude? I don't know if those reporters are right, but if we are not taking this game as seriously as the OSU game, we're going to get punked for at least the next three years. It would not surprise me if we beat the Buckeyes before we beat the Spartans.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:03 PM ^

and this is just from my perspective:

1.  Up until the past few years, it was the osu game that gave us the best competition and therefore was more of a rivalry because of the effort level involved in winning.  Proximity aside, it was the more "in your face" rivalry with the bucks.  However, as we all know that's changed recently and therefore has changed many folks viewpoint on this particular rivalry.

2.  Bo and Woody.  They created the rivalry to what it is today.

3.  We know that downplaying it pisses them off, so we keep telling them they're second place in our rivalry order (maybe 3rd to some folks who liked the ND series), and it just pushes them over the edge.  Sort of fun to watch, truth be told.


October 21st, 2014 at 3:50 PM ^

I don't get that "down playing" thing either, and truly I don't see them as being bothered by it.  I think Ohio State and Michigan State see each other really as the other's biggest rival right now and they really don't care that much what we think.  Any thought that we can "down play" the State game lasted right up until they won the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl last year.  It is simply not a viable position now.

turd ferguson

October 21st, 2014 at 2:09 PM ^

There's also an academics side to this.  The reality is that many MSU students would have gone to Michigan if they had gotten in, and the reverse of that is not true.  When you're 18 (or any other age, for that matter), it's shitty to have someone tell you that you're not good enough to go there, so people naturally resent those places.  Plus, even if they didn't apply, most MSU students/alumni have to deal with a more widely held opinion that they would have gone to Michigan if they had been up to it.

MSU is a perfectly fine school, so I'm not shitting on their academics.  But there's no doubt in my mind that this is part of why they seem to hate us so viscerally when our response to them is more eye rolls than hatred.


October 21st, 2014 at 5:56 PM ^

And yes, MSU is much favored by the farming community. One of the reasons is that, as a university, State does a lot more that is relevant to farmers. Other than their misguided devotion to MSU, they are a bunch of hardworking people and I'll take their backward, provincial backwater values over most things that I see day in and day out thank your very much.


October 21st, 2014 at 4:15 PM ^

This is what Notre Dame always says about us.

Truth is we have better talent but not better coaching or player development. That has been the difference. You can play with all the energy, anger, and passion you want but if you are not properly developed or coached, good luck to you. May work against App State, but not MSU. The team wil have to play flawlessly and the coaches cannot make any bumbling tactical mistakes during the game.

turd ferguson

October 21st, 2014 at 5:13 PM ^

But with Notre Dame it's not true.  Kids applying to Michigan don't necessarily think about applying to Notre Dame.  It didn't even cross my mind, honestly, and I think I might have been accepted.  Partly that's because I'm not Catholic.  It's probably true that ND is harder to get into than Michigan, but the two schools aren't coupled like Michigan and MSU are (for reasons of geography, religion, tuition, etc.).

On the other hand, most kids applying to MSU either also apply to Michigan or would apply to Michigan if they thought they'd get in.  It's a completely different situation.  Similar to ND, Michigan and OSU don't have this academics thing going on, because I don't think many kids growing up in Ohio want to go to Michigan.  OSU fans hate us because they're fucking crazy, not because we associate ourselves with a really good university.

You Only Live Twice

October 21st, 2014 at 6:48 PM ^

He is exactly correct, not to mention,  diplomatic in saying they are a perfectly fine school.  There are lots of perfectly fine schools.  But Michigan turns people away in droves who end up at these other fine schools and it's only human nature to feel resentment.  Some do choose MSU for a specific program.  More often than not, though, there is that factor that contributes to the "visceral" hatred.  The Michigan fan base is very generous in not calling out these factors publicly - after all, there are family dinners and friendships that can get strained in the process.. So the really ugly stuff tends to come from the Staee side while we grit our teeth and roll eyes instead of responding with similar hatred.  I shouldn't say "we".  Most of you on MGoBlog are far, far better than me.  I have a lot of contempt for their fan base.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:04 PM ^

Could it be that since historically we've dominated the series and it makes you look terrible to want to beat up on someone you always beat up on? The rivalry with Minnesota became that way for us. This is the way it works in reverse for basketball right now. We're not getting fired up out of stubbornness as well. We don't want them to think that we care because we haven't in the past, and when things return to normalcy in the future, we don't want to go back to beating up on them.

Or not.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:05 PM ^

It's because in the past this game has been the third of fourth hardest on our schedule. We beat them consistently for 50 years! After losing for many years you get irritated and start to do something about it. It's gonna take 10 more years of dominance for the roles to reverse.

Voltron is Handsome

October 21st, 2014 at 2:38 PM ^

I could be wrong, but when I read his comment, I believe he meant MSU needs another decade of dominance to finally surpass our program, which is true. I know MSU fans like to think that the rivalry started in 2008, but it didn't.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:06 PM ^

Mainly because msu was always just a door stop until MD showed up..for us it was mainly an instate rivalry game that didnt mean much but just trash talk at the end of the day. I think lately it has changed a bit but our team/coaches cant do shit about it because they are not ready and have not been ready for a rivalry game for awhile now..we still hate them and i hope we pound their face and teach them a lesson finally


October 21st, 2014 at 2:06 PM ^

My question is, why can't Hoke and the coaches play up BOTH MSU and OSU games? Seems like there's all this attention/season's Super Bowl on OSU and par for the course/just another game on MSU when both are spaced out equally enough so that there can be hard attention on both games.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:08 PM ^

from 67 to 2007 we lost that game 10 times and I think Bo only lost it 3 or 4 times in his 20 years.  We were never the underdog (except 67).  Most wins were laughers.  There was little special satisfaction in winning just great pain after the occassional loss.  In short, except for talking a little smack at school or in the office it didn't feel much like a rivalry.  Younger folks will obviously feel different.  It will be nice to get our footing again and make them pay for their little run of success.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:16 PM ^

We've always had larger goals than beating Sparty.  It really is a provincial rivalry, fuelled by Sparty's historic inferiority complex.  Moreover, I can't recall this game ever determining the B1G championship.  Either Michigan is down, as for most of the 1950s, 1960s, and since 2007, or Sparty is down.  Arguably the most meaningful game played was the 1999 game, as either team could have won the Big Ten. 


October 21st, 2014 at 2:16 PM ^

I always wanted to go to the Michigan vs MSU game because I knew a beatdown was coming. With that said I think our program is still having a hard time taking them serious, even with recent success.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:46 PM ^

Were just on the wrong side of it and people need to realize that msu is legit. We don't have the talent or skill to compete with them. Unfortunately, I obectively don't see how we can reasonably expect a W against staee as long as Dantonio is there.


October 21st, 2014 at 4:20 PM ^

If we get Harbaugh's or another proven coach in here and if we let him pick his own assistants. Otherwise the beatings will continue. I have so little confidence in Hoke and co. I am preparing myself to find the silver lining in a 63 point loss.

Mr Miggle

October 21st, 2014 at 2:18 PM ^

This program mostly makes polite comments about OSU in the week leading up to that game too. The same with Notre Dame until they decided to end the series. The same they do with everyone else.

Does it make sense that our approach is losing games to them now, when it worked so often in the past? We're losing to most every opponent as strong as MSU.

As far as the fans go, the level of hatred for MSU is not much below that for OSU. I don't know how you think it isn't there. It seems quite appropriate for our 2nd or 3rd biggest rival. It's just not felt as intensely by all of our fans from out of state. It'll never match MSU's level. Their being a team with no other rivals and very few out of state fans.


Sac Fly

October 21st, 2014 at 2:22 PM ^

The same question has been surrounding the hockey programs for the past few years as well.

Some really bad Spartan teams have steamrolled good Michigan teams because they leave everything on the ice and we come out like it's just another game.


October 21st, 2014 at 2:22 PM ^

there was a time when UM/OSU was the more relevant game nationally and in the confernce, but no more.  The State game has been the biggest game on our schedule the last few years and remains so this year.