Michigan comes off their bye this week to face a dear old foe in Michigan State. Sparty is Michigan long time in state rival that dates back to 1898. Being an out of stater this rivalry always feels the most distant to me but as I have grown to get to know many a Sparty living in Chicago I have come to enjoy the hate that comes with it.
This week’s Michigan top 5 relives the best wins over Sparty in my lifetime that doesn’t include last year’s 12-10 field goal fest. I suspect this year’s version of the game will be something similar with the key being which offense turns the ball over.
Either way as Mark Dantonio once said on the winner and loser of this game, “you either get to walk in the streets or sit alone by yourself eating Hot N’ Readys in a dark ally.” Or something like that.
Lets look back at some wins that let Michigan walk the streets for a year…
5) 2005: Michigan 34 MSU 31 OT
Lowdown: MSU actually came into this game unbeaten and favored led by QB Drew Stanton. They had upset ND on their home turf and were hoping to move to 5-0 and set the pace in the B1G. Michigan, on the other hand came in struggling at 2-2 with losses to ND and Wisconsin. QB Chad Henne had struggled the first few games and clearly missed WR Braylon Edwards.
Highlights: Michigan jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter before Stanton got the Sparty offense going and it was 24-21 Michigan at half. In the 4th Q with Michigan up 31-24 driving to put away the game but Henne fumbled (I still think it was a forward pass) and Sparty DL Damato Peko returned it for a TD. Garrett Rivas then missed a field goal near the end of regulation that would have won the game but redeemed himself with the game winning kick in OT. Michigan won 34-31
Other Notes: Neither team really had a good season after this. Michigan would lose the next week to Minnesota and finished 7-5. Sparty just fell apart the following week at OSU causing John L Smith to do this and MSU finished the season 5-6. I miss you John L Smith.
4) 2003 Michigan 27 MSU 20 “The Chris Perry Game” (Part 1 here)
Lowdown: MSU was then under first year head coach John L Smith and actually came into the game ranked ahead of Michigan. They were 7-1 and undefeated in the B1G. Michigan came into the year with big expectations and dropped 2 early games to Oregon and Iowa but had since rebounded back into the top 15 in the country.
Highlights: Michigan rode and I mean rode Chris Perry to victory. He had a Michigan record 51 carries and over 200 yards and a TD as Michigan won 27-20. The game was pretty much in hand until a MSU D lineman returned a Navarre fumble for a TD in the 4th Q. (WTF is up with that?) Jeff Smoke got picked in the end zone on a hail mary to end the game.
Other Notes: Michigan would win the rest of their B1G games including beating OSU in the 100th meetings between the teams. This sprung them to the Rose Bowl where they would lose to USC because of course they did. Sparty would go 8-5 and lose to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl.
3) 1997 Michigan 23 MSU 7 “Woodson’s Int” (Part 1 here)
Lowdown: Of course I had to include something from 1997 as Michigan was 6-0 at this point and ranked in the top 5. MSU had just suffered their first defeat the week prior to Northwestern but that didn’t dampen the hype as College Gameday made its way to East Lansing and the whole state of Michigan tuned in for this game.
Highlights: Pretty much the Woodson int is the only thing you need to watch. I still think it is the most insane interception I have ever seen and was one of the many memorable plays that season. The Michigan defense dominated Sparty and intercepted them five other times on the way to winning 23-7.
Other Notes: Michigan would go on to go unbeaten and won the National Title. This were glorious times. Sparty would finish 7-5 and would get 2 more years with Nick Saban as head coach. (Glad he left)
2) 2007: Michigan 28 MSU 24 (Part 1 here) “The Little Brother Game
Lowdown: Michigan started the season rough with losses to App State and Oregon but had since reeled off seven straight wins and was in contention for the B1G title. Sparty was under first year head coach Mark Dantonio who started off well but had dropped 4 of 5 in B1G play. The Michigan senior class entered the game undefeated against MSU.
Highlights: Michigan led 14-3 at halftime before MSU ripped off 21 straight points in the 2nd half to lead 24-14 with 7 mins left in the game. From there a hobbled Chad Henne led 2 straight TD drives that included passes to Greg Mathews and Mario Manningham. Michigan would win the game 28-24 to remain unbeaten in B1G play.
Other Notes: After the game Mike Hart uttered his infamous “Little Brother” remark that to this day is still brought up on both sides of the rivalry. MSU would get their revenge with four straight victories in the series before Michigan’s win last year in Ann Arbor.
1) 2004: Michigan 45 MSU 37 3 OT “Braylonfest”: (Full game here)
Lowdown: Michigan came into the game at 7-1 and ranked in the top 15 and were battling Wisconsin for a Rose Bowl berth. Freshman Chad Henne and Mike Hart had established themselves as starters but the Michigan offense leaned heavily on senior WR Braylon Edwards and would do so again.
Highlights: MSU dominated most of the game and led 27-10 but QB Drew Stanton was knocked out of the game. From there Braylon Edwards took over catching one deep pass to set up a field goal and then two more for TDs as the game was sent to overtime. It took 3 overtimes but Michigan finally won on another Braylon TD catch and a Michigan defensive stop. The final was 45-37.
Other Notes: I was a freshman at the time and this was easily the craziest moment of that season. The game started weird with sunny and 70 degree temperatures and by the end it was cold with howling winds. A lot of students had left when Michigan got down but were unable to get back into the stadium. For those of us that stayed we watched something special and then went out for Halloween and I am pretty sure 80% of people went out dressed as Braylon Edwards.
I highly doubt this Saturday’s game will be nearly as entertaining as that one in the Big House all those years ago but whichever fan-base wins will get some relief for a week and bragging rights in the state for 365 days. The losing fan-base will eat itself alive. Should be a fun time.