Michigan vs. MSU preview

Michigan/Michigan State week is upon us.

It will never be confused with Ohio State week as far as excitement goes for Michigan fans, but Michigan State has intensified the rivalry by beating Michigan two straight years.

Michigan players and coaches think differently than their fans.

“This is just as important to me and I would think my players, as it was to them,” Rich Rodriguez said in his weekly press conference.

The rivalry has heated up for Spartan fans since 2007, when Mike Hart called the Spartans “Little Brother,” after Michigan pulled off another comeback against Michigan State that was reminiscent of many other victories against the Spartans.

Last year the Spartans played like a typical Spartan-led team. Michigan State dominated most of the game, but they almost lost it after being up 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Tate Forcier completed a 60-yard pass to Darryl Stonum to take it down to a 7-point lead for the Spartans. Then the struggling Michigan defense made a stop to give Tate Forcier a chance to lead them down the field. Forcier did just that in an epic drive with a pass to Roy Roundtree to tie it up. In overtime, Michigan ran out of gas and failed to score and Michigan State scored a touchdown on the third play of the drive.

In Rich Rod’s first Michigan State game in 2008, it was back and forth, until the Spartans pulled away with about seven minutes in the fourth quarter. After the game Michigan State fans chanted “little sister” because of Mike Hart’s remarks after the game in 2007.

“I’ll go on the record as saying this one counts as more than one,” Dantonio also told the AP after the win in 2008.

“We took a step forward in the eyes of the people in Michigan and toward changing the culture in this state.”

This game almost has as much meaning for Rich Rod in 2010. A win against the Spartans would make the Wolverines bowl eligible for the first time in the Rich Rod era. It is also another much-needed win against one of Michigan’s rivals. The game will also continue to increase the national spotlight on Michigan and show the nation that they are back.

For the Spartans it is much of the same. This win would give Michigan State their sixth win, which would equal the win total they finished with last year.

The Michigan State players will also be motivated because of head coach Mark Dantonio returning. Dantonio did not coach in the last two games because of a heart attack he suffered about an hour after a thrilling win against Notre Dame.

“You can’t keep me down on Michigan week,” Dantonio said.

Most people have Michigan pegged as underdogs, since the Spartans are one spot higher in both the coaches and AP poll, but the odds makers do not. Michigan is the five point favorite, much like last year when most people were picking Michigan and the oddsmakers picked Michigan State at home.

This is the first time since 1999 both teams have been undefeated. MSU won the game in 1999, 34-31. The Spartans lost their next two games, but finished 10-2.

Michigan’s record against Michigan State is more lopsided than most would expect. Three of the last six games have been decided in overtime, but Michigan’s overall record against the Spartans is 67-30-5.

Last 10 years of Michigan vs. Michigan State games

Year U of M MSU
2009 20 26
2008 21 35
2007 28 24
2006 31 13
2005 34 31
2004 45 37
2003 27 20
2002 49 3
2001 24 26
2000 14 0