Some call Michigan vs. Michigan State a rivalry game. Geography plays a part in that. Just 60 miles separate the two campuses, but I remind you that just a few feet of stone separated East and West Berlin. And that's how different these two institutions are.
To the Northwest, smothered in Green and White, lies Michigan State University. A land grant college (the first in fact), by definition it's an A&M...as in Michigan A&M. It was founded in 1855, but wouldn't become a University until 1955. In 1950, Michigan (yes, we were in charge) reluctantly allowed Michigan Agricultural College to join the Big Ten as a replacement for The University of Chicago, who left the conference in 1946. The University of Chicago stopped playing D1 football in 1939, but its seven Big Ten Football titles is still one more than Michigan State has managed to win since. No, seriously, Michigan State has six Big Ten Football championships. Six.
This is where the inferiority complex comes into play. It's a pretty serious one. Your typical Michigan State fan was shunned by the University of Michigan coming out of high school. (See The Thin Letter). Occasionally, you'll run into a Sparty that will tell you they chose Michigan State over Michigan. And occasionally, monkeys fly out of my ass. But you have to feel for them. You get shunned academically, then you stand by and watch as your school gets dominated on basically every possible field of play for your career there. And while there is dominance in the Big Ten athletic arena by Michigan over Michigan State, that isn't necessarily the problem. The problem is Michigan State's complete and utter ineptitude overall in sports.
Michigan State has 76 total Big Ten Championships all-time in all sports. Michigan has 337. As a reference for MSU's crappiness, Penn State has 41...they joined the conference in 1991. Purdue with 65 and Northwestern with 66, are the only two that are worse than the Spartans. However, Purdue and Northwestern are highly ranked academic institutions. Also of note are Michigan State's 10 Big Ten Championships in the sport they so patiently wait to commence each fall after football falters...basketball. 10 however, is two less than Michigan's 12. Interesting.
The comparisons become tiresome. I find myself pointing out the failings of Michigan State University every year prior to this "Backyard Brawl." Why you ask? Why am I wasting my time with this Big Ten also ran? It's them. They beat us sometimes. 28 times in fact. With this being the 100th meeting between us, the lopsidedness of the matchup speaks for itself. What is truly amazing is that the 28 losses is the second most handed to us by any team. And each one of those losses gives Sparty the notion, if only for a day, that they are as good as Michigan. That no matter what happened in the past...academically, athletically, socially...that day, everything is ok, and their worthless lives suddenly have meaning and purpose. So what do they do when that happens?
And the cycle continues. No doubt that on paper Michigan should beat Michigan State once again this year. What is slightly scary about that prospect is that a win this year will make six in a row. A seven game winning streak is difficult to maintain in any series...and paper, well, we all know what paper means. If there is anything that college football has shown us this year it is that on any given Saturday, anything can happen. That adage applies to no one better than it applies to Michigan. So, Michigan State can certainly find a way to beat Michigan, even if they shouldn't. And that sucks. Because just as every other year, and in every possible way...we're better than they are.