They can try, dare I say it, to hype the Michigan and Michigan State rivalry as a ruthless feud of college football. But there are better rivalries on football Saturdays -- even though the Michigan and Michigan State clash is a rebirth for college football, a bitter skirmish to embrace in Big 10 country.
If we grew accustomed to rivalries as fascinating as USC vs. Notre Dame, Alabama vs. Auburn, Florida State vs. Miami, Texas vs. Texas A&M and lastly Michigan vs. Ohio state, now we can finally deeply involve ourselves in the newborn antagonism between two interstate football programs.
It's annually a hated rivalry few others care about, sensing an irrelevant game when Michigan and MSU are scheduled to meet, but the merciless competition is the equivalent of two men stealing each other's women or even a few men fighting at bars for the hottest bimbo.
As one of the fiercest rivalries in the state, they don't even like each other and probably the animosity is what sets Michigan and MSU apart. It may have been the most ballyhooed event in college football. But then again, as one of the heavenly inter-conference battles, it's now meaningful if Michigan and State meets on a collision course as they did on Saturday, and then released anger with their powerful, hard-hitting defenses to turn it into a game of sloppy ball.
The public is familiar with the Spartans' fight song that includes a line of "smash through that line of blue." Again, like last season, the Spartans smashed through that line of blue, literally thrashing the enemies of the state and still owning bragging rights until next season. The folks in East Lansing are familiar with the line from the fight song that includes "Michigan is weakening."
Some would call this motivation, while some would call this a sense of passion and commitment in having a successful season by beating the Wolverines. It ended with the Spartans having the last word engaged in an unbelievable battle against Michigan and it would so happen that Michigan State beats the interstate rivals each season. It all ended so nicely when the Spartans PREPARED FOR BATTLE on a sequence that safety Isaiah Lewis returned an interception 39 yards for a touchdown to give Michigan State a 28-14 lead with less than six minutes to play.
It was the one errant throw by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson that could have dictated the Wolverines fate in qualifying for a bowl game, a dreadful ending to silence all debates and politics about Michigan's storybook season. The painful loss was as if the Wolverines had been beaten in the title game and it felt like January for Michigan, leaving the field limping so badly with bruised arms, fatigued legs and debilitated bodies.
It's not the end of the world, but the Spartans have won four straight against Michigan for the first time since 1959-62, matching Michigan State's longest streak in the series. Given all that, and then even greater, another win against the hated rivals, Jerel Worthy was the first Spartan to charge across the field, gesturing four fingers skyward while celebrating the nicest victory. "A clean sweep!" Worthy yelled.
Mark Dantonio, although his job security was squarely called into question at one point after the Spartans failed and had avoidable losses, is saving his job each season because he knows he can prepare his team to beat the Wolverines.
He's not intimidated, standing on the sideline directing his Spartans enough that MSU is overly dominating Michigan each season, readily prepared to beat the far more salient athletic program in the state. He wore a green sweatshirt, emblazoned with the Spartan logo on it, and he wore the headphones over his ears. In four years now, there is a big brother and a little brother on Michigan's family tree -- a MSU program competitively a bit more deeper and determined to defeat their instate foes.
It was a meaningful game for Michigan, but losing to the Spartans wasn't helpful or good for a well-known school in pursuit of national spotlight. On the gorgeous afternoon of a nice day for an epic clash on the field in East Lansing, Jared McGaha and Joel Foreman hoisted the Paul Bunyan trophy after the Spartans came away victorious in Ann Arbor, leaving a hostile territory with widened smiles and confidence.
If Michigan is merely competent with much parity and cohesion under new head coach Brady Hoke, who has revitalized the program and given the brand name university back its identity, then it's pertinent to assume that the Spartans were the stronger ones to survive on a bloody, fierce Saturday afternoon.
"For the rest of our life, we can walk the streets of Michigan," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
It's hard to walk the streets of Michigan as an MSU athlete when a school is not highly regarded, simply because Michigan is the relevant program, if not one of the schools in conversation for a major BCS bowl game. We can really grasp a sense on Cousin's perspective, a fifth-year senior who has become the first Michigan State starting quarterback to win three straight over Michigan.
He is, however, slightly cocky but profoundly is relaxed and doesn't mind walking in the public's view, beating the Wolverines enough times in his collegiate career. The Wolverines, virtually losing optimism and faith quicker than Robinson's agility to storm into the end zone for a touchdown, had their first real test. This was the type of grueling match up Michigan couldn't handle, unable to past the stiffest test of the season on the road.
Because of the Wolverines' failures to dart past the stingiest, hard-hitting Michigan State defense, the Spartans stifled and harassed the Wolverines and an elusive Robinson. If not for Hoke, a head coach who has given the Michigan faithful every reason to believe in the improbable after a 6-0 start, the Wolverines wouldn't have established a new culture of hopefulness and prosperity.
That's not nearly good enough for a program outplayed and bullied by Michigan State's stout defenders. The most dazzling highlights of this game were in the third quarter when Keshawn Martin, an all-purpose wide receiver, practically showcasing his speed and quickness, bustled to the end zone twice.
"I think our defense played tremendous,” Dantonio said.
So then let's credit the Spartans defense, particularly when the Wolverines had a chance to tie it, but Robinson was hurried, sacked and stopped on fourth-and-1 from the MSU 9-yard line with under less than six minutes left. For much of the night, he had been held tightly and walked to the sideline like a lost child denied of his youth, the only difference he was deprived of his abilities to race through the defense and speed quickly to the end zone.
After an afternoon of being pounded hard to the turf, being abused badly and being limited to 42 yards rushing on 18 carries with one touchdown and 123 yards passing, he watched from the sideline significantly banged up. This all happened when he was slammed so hard in the backfield and had to leave the game. This all happened when he misfired over the middle picked off for a game-deciding score.
In all, the Spartans are more dominant than most people think -- a very good team with a powerful and monstrous defense. It was Edwin Baker, Michigan State star running back, best game of his season, rushing for 148 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. In this game alone, the Spartans were true warriors and fighters playing with attitude, perseverance and heart -- and on the top of things -- they taunted and brought down the Michigan Men. Most of the time, Cousins threw touchdowns emotionally fired up to face his rivals.
Remember when no one expected the Spartans to hold Ohio State to one late touchdown? If you can't recall, you certainly understand it now when the MSU just defeated the unbeaten rivals from Michigan.