Column: The Michigan game is not as important as it used to be
Every single year I’ve been a student, when MSU’s next opponent reads Michigan, there’s an almost weird tension in the air. I’d describe it as a mix between hype and nervousness, probably because the stakes are so high.
As I head to class, the library, wherever, I can feel that buzz. It envelops campus in only ways college football can.
So gear up, folks. It’s Michigan week. And this year’s no different than the others. Except for the primetime matchup under the lights.
But here’s the thing: U-M vs. MSU doesn’t matter nearly as much as people think it does.
That goes both ways. The Wolverines have Ohio State to worry about. Everyone knows that’s “The Game.”
Nearly everyone also hates U-M. The team has so many rivals between the Spartans, Buckeyes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, it’s hard to keep track. Nationally, seeing its blue blood status, it’s easy to see why fans of other schools in other conferences aren’t fond of the maize and blue.
There's only so much hate to go around, honestly.
But don’t get me wrong. Some Wolverine fans like to claim MSU isn’t a rival, which is stupid beyond words. That’s just a petty lie that this rivalry thrives on.
Spartan fans like to poke fun at Jim Harbaugh’s antics — which I think are hilarious — and his lack of accomplishments at U-M. Which is fair, I guess, if you ignore his stint at Stanford and his casual appearance in the Super Bowl.
As for MSU, a win over the Wolverines used to be a measuring stick. But that’s no longer the case; not for awhile at least.
U-M hasn’t consistently defeated MSU in a decade. Mike Hart’s “little brother” comment was 10 years ago.
Those 10 years might not sink in very well — let me help you with that.
I’m not going to lie to you and act like I remember Hart’s quip like it was yesterday. I was a bratty 10-year-old in 5th grade. If I have any memory of it, it’s a fading one.
For most of my formative years growing up, quite bluntly, Sparty was the big man on the block. Half of my life has come and gone since U-M beat up MSU with any normalcy. It's why this game doesn't mean as much to the Spartans as back in the day.
I vividly remember Denard Robinson throwing an interception returned for a touchdown in 2011 to seal an MSU victory.
I don’t really remember U-M hitting four field goals to win an ugly 12-10 slugfest in 2012, probably because of how boring it was.
MSU has won big under Mark Dantonio. A Rose Bowl, two Big Ten titles, a College Football Playoff berth all came within a three-year span, that’s nothing to scoff at.
So let me rephrase this. The Michigan game matters, it’s important to fans of both sides. Bragging rights — and the Paul Bunyan trophy — within the state for an entire year is at the line here.
If that doesn’t matter to you, then you don’t like fun. College football is incredible because of the storylines and the personal connection fans feel to their university. Between MSU and U-M, it's no different.
But it only feels significant in the moment.
The Spartans have proven a win over the Wolverines is merely a footnote in an otherwise spectacular, Rose Bowl-esque season.
Not every game is created equal, Dantonio said that himself at his press conference Tuesday. Even Notre Dame vs. MSU, a similar rivalry showdown, doesn’t stand on the same tier of hate as this one does.
An MSU win would do dividends to jumpstart a struggling program, one that desperately needs some good vibes. The Spartans are young, and a confidence-boosting victory here can push them into another renaissance.
Spartan fans shouldn’t ignore what truly matters, which is the actual season. It’s certainly not the Wolverines, no matter the outcome.