If you grew up in Michigan you know this is a very special week.
It’s the one week of the year that millions of Michiganders – even families – become divided.
That must mean its Michigan versus Michigan State.
It’s also a time, as a Spartan fan, I used to dread.
Michigan leads the series 68-32-5, and I remember plenty of those losses in my 48 years.
From the first time I can remember watching college football it was always Michigan playing Ohio State every season for the Big Ten championship.
Bo versus Woody.
Michigan State was an afterthought in the battle for the conference title and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Yes, Michigan State did beat No. 1 Ohio State in 1974, but it wasn’t like beating Michigan.
That all changed in 1978 when, for the first time that I could remember, the Spartans beat the Wolverines 24-15, behind the heroics of Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson.
I would wait another six years before my Spartans took down the Wolverines again. That was the year Muskegon’s own Bobby Morse returned a punt 87 yards to lead MSU to a 19-7 win.
There was another MSU win in 1987 when U-M quarterback Demetrius Brown threw seven interceptions.
But it was in 1990 that the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry jumped a few levels.
I will never forget Michigan State beating the No. 1 ranked Wolverines 28-27 in a game that was best remembered for Muskegon’s Eddie Brown breaking up Michigan’s attempted game-winning two-point conversion pass to Desmond Howard.
MSU won again in 1993 and 1995, which was Nick Saban’s first year at Michigan State.
The 1999 game reached new levels of hype as both teams came in undefeated and ranked in the top 10 in the nation. With record days by quarterback Bill Burke and receiver Plaxico Burress, Michigan State earned a 34-31 win.
Two years later MSU grabbed a 24-20 win in the game known for the “clockgate” scandal. Jeff Smoker’s one-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett with no time remaining on the clock stoked the rivalry’s embers even more.
It was after six straight Michigan wins, from 2002-2007, that U-M running back Mike Hart brought the rivalry to its most heightened level with his famous quote.
After beating the Spartans 28-24 in 2007, Hart referred to Michigan State as his school’s “little brother.” The Spartans have won of four of five games since then.
That brings us to Saturday’s game.
Michigan comes in ranked No. 23 and Michigan State No. 24. MSU is undefeated in Big Ten play while Michigan has one loss.
Michigan State has the nation’s No. 1 ranked defense, giving up a mere 215 yards a game. But the Spartans have not faced an offense as potent as Michigan’s. The Wolverines amassed 751 total yards and 63 points in their last game against Indiana.
So, what wins out on Saturday?
I think defense does. Devin Gardner can be explosive, but he has not faced a defense like MSU’s.
The key might be if MSU’s offense, which has struggled mightily at times this season, can build on its recent improvement and score enough points to win.
Yes, Michigan has had the upper hand in the overall series, but recently it has trended in Michigan State’s direction.
I see that continuing on Saturday, which would make this Spartan fan very happy.
So I’m calling it, right here and now – Michigan State 24, Michigan 16.
(Editors note: Shawn Liverance’s opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the entire Local Sports Journal staff. Go Blue!)