When Spartans and Wolverines threaten to kick each other's ass, everybody wins | Bleader

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Spartans and Wolverines threaten to kick each other's ass, everybody wins

Posted By on 10.18.12 at 07:35 AM

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This is how Michigan State fans say Were number one! when playing Michigan
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  • This is how Michigan State fans say "We're number one!" when playing Michigan
For Michigan State fans, it's the one must-win game of the season, simply because the world is a better place when smug jagoffs get theirs.

Among Michigan people, it's a matchup that's annoying to even think about losing, since more important business lies ahead, like the Ohio State Buckeyes.

That's the essence of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry, whose latest manifestation is Saturday at the Big House. It's all good, clean fun—except that, not so secretly, both sides find the other guys so pathetically obnoxious that the only thing that might set them straight is a good solid ass-whooping.

"He would rather see Michigan lose than Michigan State win," a lifelong Wolverine recently complained of a Spartan "friend," aghast at such an intellectual and ethical flaw.

"I know a couple Michigan grads who aren't douches," offered a Michigan State person I know well, on a day she felt particularly generous.

Having grown up in Michigan, I love this partisan divide. It's like a presidential debate where the candidates drink a lot of beer and have talking points that keep me awake, only far more pride is on the line, and none of it is mine—I defected and went to college out of state.

I just have to avoid any appearance of neutrality when I'm hanging out with friends on one side or the other. You know, seemingly benign comments like, "It was a great game, but the Wolverines have a really good offense this year" could get me thrown out of a certain Michigan State home I know. And then where would I sleep?

Somewhere in the middle of this, a game will be played. This year's should be an interesting one. Both teams were highly touted coming into the season. Both have laid a couple disappointing stinkers. The Spartans have struggled to complete passes, while the Wolverines have completed too many to their opponents. State's defense has been solid, except when the game was on the line against an Iowa team that hadn't been moving the ball against anybody. Michigan's D has been shaky, except when facing the Fighting Illini, who've helped everybody play like winners.

The Wolverines lead the all-time series 67—32—5. But the Spartans have won the last four.

To my horror, both lost earlier this season to Notre Dame.

I'll say this quietly, so certain people don't hear: I'm going with Michigan on Saturday. They've been playing better ball, and the game's at their place. Sorry, Sparty.

On the upside, the winner of this game gets to claim the Paul Bunyan Trophy. But it's not the only battle to honor the legacy of the great north woods lumberjack—the victor in the Minnesota-Wisconsin contest takes home Paul Bunyan's Axe. Unfortunately for the Gophers, the Badgers have held it since 2003, and for 15 of the last 17 years.

And on to the games.

Thursday night special:

No. 2 Oregon over Arizona State: These Ducks are fast.

Big Ten:

No. 7 Ohio State over Purdue: The Buckeyes may have surrendered 49 to Indiana last week, but they also scored 52. Purdue did not.

Wisconsin over Minnesota: For the ninth time in a row.

Nebraska over Northwestern: Last year the Wildcats went into Lincoln and pulled off a huge upset. Just as the game ended, my cat caught a mouse in my apartment. I'll be giving her a pep talk before kickoff.

No. 23 Michigan over Michigan State: By the way, did you hear what Mitt Romney said about what he said about the auto bailout?

Indiana over Navy: This game will be played on land.

Iowa over Penn State: I see an exchange of punts in your future.

Other games:

No. 5 Notre Dame over BYU: How does God take sides?

No. 6 LSU over No. 20 Texas A&M: That speedy brick wall you've run into is the Tiger D.

No. 3 Florida over No. 9 South Carolina: Florida beat LSU. LSU beat South Carolina. So the answer is three.

No. 17 West Virginia over No. 4 Kansas State: I think they're scoring already.

NIU over Akron: The Huskies will have to contend with the 103rd-best defense in major college football.

U of C over Hiram: If the Maroons beat 0-5 Hiram by less than 17, they'll be the first team to do so this season.

Last week: I went 11-1. That would be good enough for a BCS berth, if only they let the little guys in. Ah well. Season: 70-19.

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