State of the Rivalry: Michigan vs. MSU

Updated: October 14, 2011, 11:07 AM ET
By Ryan McGee

On Fridays, Ryan McGee will be previewing one of the weekend's top matchups by digging deep into the teams' rivalry and determining which one is set up for a brighter future going forward. From fan bases to coaching stability to recruiting success, he'll cover the rivalries from every angle.

This week, he's looking at the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans

1. Recent performance

The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is so old it actually outdates the inspiration for the trophy they currently fight over, the Paul Bunyan Trophy. The legend of Paul Bunyan had been told for years in the forests of the United States and Canada, but it wasn't put to paper until Michigan journalist James McGillivray did so in 1906, 24 years after the first Michigan-Michigan State game was played.

However, the Wolverines and Spartans didn't do battle for the Bunyan Trophy until 1953, when Michigan State joined the Big Ten. Since MSU joined the league, Michigan leads the series 34-22-2. Since 1970, the Wolverines have brought the 4-foot wooden artifact back to Ann Arbor 30 out of 41 times and six of the last 10.

That doesn't mean there weren't some delicious moments during that time.

Like 1973, when the athletic directors of the Big Ten voted on which co-champ, Michigan or Ohio State, should go to the Rose Bowl. Michigan State's AD had the deciding vote. Still mad about a revenue dispute the previous year, he voted for the Buckeyes.

Or 2007, when Michigan running back Mike Hart dared to call State "little brother" after earning his fourth and final win in comeback fashion. See it for yourself here and State coach Mark Dantonio's less-than-cheery response here.

But the most recent years have belonged to Sparty. No one outside of Columbus, Ohio, has enjoyed Michigan's current slump more than the Wolverines' green-and-white neighbors up I-96.

Since 1892, the longest losing streak the Wolverines have suffered in the rivalry has been four in a row, and that's happened only three times, the last time way back in 1959-62. Michigan's current losing streak is up to three, capped by last year's 34-17 whipping that essentially erased all the national and Heisman momentum that Denard Robinson's squad had stockpiled during their 5-0 start. Last year the Wolverines led 10-7 late in the first half at the Big House, but surrendered 24 unanswered points and started a 2-6 slide that dropped them from the Top 25. Meanwhile, the Spartans did the complete opposite, finishing on a 6-2 run, 11-2 overall, with a final ranking of 14th.

Advantage: Michigan State

2. Recruiting