Michigan State shed the “little brother” moniker for good last year with Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships. In fact, as the 2014 battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy approaches one could argue that the roles are reversed in the relationship between the two schools.
As the Spartans talk College Football Playoff, all the chatter in Ann Arbor is about what is wrong with its program and just how long head coach Brady Hoke has left at the helm of the football program.
However, it’s unlikely you’re going to be hearing much in the way of bluster or bulletin board material coming out of either camp this season.
Given the chance to fan the flames of this very big rivalry, all the major players decided to take the high road and not give the other teams
On Hoke’s part its obvious why he isn’t talking, after all he is just 1-2 overall against the Spartans and he is in the middle of fighting for his job. Poking the Spartan bear and setting himself up for even more failure isn’t exactly a good idea given the circumstances he faces.
However, Hoke has gone out of his way to actually praise his opposition number according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
“We’re all successful when we have a team and a team atmosphere and you have good players. That helps all of us,” Hoke said on today’s Big Ten coaches teleconference, via Snyder. “You’ve got to give Mark a lot of credit with what they’ve done as a staff in their recruiting. I just think it’s one of those games; when you play a rivalry, you’ve got to play your best.”
At least Hoke acknowledges this game as a rivalry, something that wasn’t always the case with his players and the Michigan fanbase. Some in said fanbase still refuse to admit that, choosing to stick to hating “Ohio” only.
Despite the flattery, the Wolverines and Hoke aren’t forgetting the fact that they have failed to score more than 14 points in any contest and were smoked 29-6 last season.
“Obviously, we know what the results were from a year ago, how we played,” Hoke said. “These are college kids, and there’s no question that you talk about and you look at how they tried to attack you from a defensive standpoint and what they did offensively. From that standpoint, you always refer (back). We do that with every opponent.”
His counterpart, Mark Dantonio didn’t shy away from the importance of this game and how much the rivalry means to him.
“It was 1995 when I came here, and that’s when I first got a taste of it,” Dantonio added, via CBS Detroit. “It was embraced at that time because of the past. I’ve said all along here, I didn’t make these rules. I’m just playing by them … It gets in your blood … There are just things that happen, things happen over the course of time that just begin to set you on edge, I guess.”
Not exactly fanning the flames of the rivalry, but it puts what this game means to the Spartans in perspective. It also explains the 2-1 edge in the game so far against Hoke. For Michigan State this game means everything, while the Wolverines seem to be indifferent to the whole situation these days.
“I mean, it’s a rivalry week, but we take it as just another week on the schedule,” said Funchess to The Michigan Daily.
Talk about ambivalent to the situation the team and his head coach is facing. Would you ever hear a Michigan player talk about OSU week as “just another week on the schedule?” Hell-to-the-no.
About the biggest talk we’ve seen all week has come from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, and even that was of the trash talk variety. Instead, the Spartans quarterback chose to talk about the game being “a bloodbath.”
“We respect Michigan — we know they’re a great team,” Cook said, via Mlive.com. “Obviously, they’re not having the season they want to have this year, but we know they’re going to come in here and give it their all and they’re going to try to punch us in the mouth and try to out-tough us.
“That just means we’ve got to come in a little more angry than them with more intensity, more energy, and try to take them out.”
Oh, the trash-talking horror…
Let’s just say it’s a far cry from Dantonio’s response to Mike Hart calling Sparty “little brother” shall we?
While the two teams and coaching staffs appear to be tamping down the rhetoric, that hasn’t stopped the fans and students from doing just that.
In fact, MSU students had a bit of fun with the “block M” on the Ann Arbor campus already this week:
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) October 22, 2014
Whatever the fans think, say or do this week…don’t expect the teams to take things up a notch in public.
On the field, well that’s a different story. In fact, expect this to possibly be the most biter game between the two since Hoke arrived on campus in 2011.
Dantonio, Harbaugh jab at each other after bowl game selections
Rivalries have no offseason, and that certainly is the case for Michigan State when it comes to in-state rival Michigan. That’s especially the case when bowl season rolled around in 2017.
That’s because Michigan is headed to Tampa Bay to play in the Outback Bowl, while Michigan State is off the…gasp…horrific site of San Diego for its bowl game.
No. 16 Michigan State is slated to play No. 18 Washington State in easily the best non-New Years Six bowl game the Big Ten has, while Michigan gets South Carolina. Despite the disparity in location and quality of opponent, some felt the Spartans were slighted.
Dantonio was asked if the program felt slighted by not playing on New Year’s Day, and this was his response:
"I don't worry about that. I am just focused on the @HolidayBowlGame. I'll just continue to focus on beating Michigan and let things sort out." – Mark Dantonio when asked if he felt slighted because Michigan in playing Tampa. pic.twitter.com/6sjRzVZE6U
— Rico Beard (@RicoBeard) December 3, 2017
It was a clear dig at the Wolverines, whom the Spartans have owned since Dantonio took over as head coach at Michigan State.
Harbaugh just couldn’t let that go, responding back on Twitter on Monday.
Saw Coach D comments on continuing to "focus" on how "he" can beat Michigan. Congrats on turning around a 3-9 team, plagued with off field issues. Good for BIG to have him back.
— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) December 4, 2017
Backhanded compliment much?
It’s clear these two don’t get along much, because usually these things get settled behind closed doors. Instead, Harbaugh took a very public jab at Dantonio and all the off-field issues that took place over the last year and a half.
Who will get the ultimate last word? Well, this season that was certainly Michigan State. Not only did the Spartans beat Michigan, but they finished second in the East division, while Michigan faltered to an 8-4 finish in the regular season.
If anything, this should fuel an offseason of rivalry fun between these two programs.
Michigan, Michigan State embracing importance of in-state rivalry
Michigan and Michigan State at least agree that this rivalry game is an important one.
Michigan and Michigan State couldn’t be more different. It’s in their DNA as universities really. But, that stark difference really hasn’t been seen much on the field.
Off the field, these two teams treat this game in vastly different manors.
Publicly, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has tried to play down the bitterness of this game. He’s of the “this is the game on our schedule this week” camp, but does at least acknowledge the fact that this game does matter.
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio is the second-longest serving head coach in the Big Ten, but his stance on the game with Michigan hasn’t changed. He’s not afraid to call it a rivalry, nor shy away from the importance of this in-state matchup.
“I think coaches know what games are important, they understand,” Dantonio said on Tuesday, via MLive.com. “They can stand up here and say, ‘well, it’s just another football game,’ but it’s not.”
It’s not a surprising stance, given Dantonio is the one who has made this game in to a real rivalry on and off the field.
I mean, there’s the classic, “pride comes before the fall” moment…
…and who can forget his comments on Mike Hart calling Michigan State “little brother?”
Then there’s the fact that Michigan State has taken advantage of Michigan’s downturn on the field. Dantonio backed up any talk so far, owning a 7-3 record against the Wolverines.
Going from after thoughts to College Football Playoff participants speaks volumes, and making the Michigan game in to a true rivalry helped get the Spartans to where they are today.
“I have a great amount of respect for what they’ve accomplished down there – always have had that,” said Dantonio, via MLive.com. “My goal when I came here was to make that a rivalry. I think it’s a rivalry. We’ll leave it at that.”
As for his counterpart…well, Harbaugh is heaping praise on the opponent and downplaying the talk of the bitterness of this game.
If that isn’t the classic rope-a-dope tactic of a head coach, I don’t know what is.
At least one of his players isn’t afraid to talk about the bitterness and importance of this game. Defensive end Maurice Hurst let us know this game’s importance isn’t just on the field, its in the battles for recruiting as well.
“Everything really matters about this one because the recruits care about it, the people in the state care about it a lot and you hear about it for the entire year,” Hurst said. “It is something that brings the best out of people, just because a lot of these guys know each other and a lot of them are from the same area.”
With Michigan again getting all the national attention and Michigan State coming off a brutal 2016 and 2017 offseason, it’s understandable for Dantonio to want to play this game up.
Can his team show that the emphasis on this game can translate back to winning results? Let’s not forget that the Spartans have won three of the last four in this series.
But, this is a vastly different year in the rivalry. There are a lot of young players on both sides of this thing, and that could make for some interesting moments on Saturday night under the Michigan Stadium lights.
It may just be whomever can get the emotional aspect of this game right that will win.
Every Big Ten East Division team’s biggest question after spring football
Spring Football has come to an end, and the East division has stolen all the attention, but did all the questions get answered?
Michigan’s trip to Rome is in the books, which means the Big Ten has finally and officially wrapped up spring football. Hooray!
But, along with the official end of spring football comes a lot of reflection. Programs will turn to meetings to discuss players, positions and coaching ideas going forward, while the fans will look forward to what the fall may hold for their team.
For us here at talking10, it is time to reflect and ask the tough questions after 15 practices and nationally televised spring football games (if you want to call them that). So, what are the big questions being asked across the Big Ten?
Last week we took a look at what is being asked around the Big Ten’s West division. This week it is the Big Ten East division’s turn on the hot seat. Can the division that has won the conference crown every year since the new divisions went directional and not ‘Leaders’ and ‘Legends’ on us maintain its hold on the B1G title?
Let’s look across the B1G East division, shall we?
2017 talking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards Special
The Big Ten may have its awards, but what is the point of watching endless hours of Big Ten basketball without putting our two cents in, right?
Welcome to the 2017 taking10 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Awards special. Our hope is to educate you on the names that dominated our conversations and the hardwood across the Big Ten this season.
So, sit back and enjoy our special for your viewing pleasure.