No, Michigan State Is Not Our New Rival

Written January 9th, 2014 by Jeff

“Michigan State is Ohio State’s new rival.”  This theme began around 11:30pm Tuesday night.

To be fair, rumblings of this new theme began long before the Spartans defeated the Buckeyes in overtime at the Breslin Center, but they began to emerge heavily after the scarlet and gray’s 72-68 defeat.

I reject this thought immediately. Michigan State is NOT our new rival. Ohio State has one rival, and only one rival.

Tradition dictates that the Michigan Wolverines are the lone rival to my alma mater, and their misfortunes of late do not knock them from the ranks of rivalry. (By “misfortunes of late”, I mean their football team being a steaming heap of dung throughout the entire 21st century. Boom, roasted.)

Michigan State is atop the Big Ten, and they earned it by knocking the Buckeyes from the ranks of the unbeaten twice in five weeks. I can accept that they are the champions in football and the current leaders in basketball. They’re a damn good team in both sports, and while I am not happy about it, there’s no denying it.

But I cannot and will not allow history and tradition to be rewritten over an excellent stretch of athletic competition.

To me, a rivalry requires more than wins and losses on a stat sheet. It takes decades of hatred, frustration, glory, and respect. Michigan State will never evoke those emotions the way Michigan does.

The Spartans are our chief competitors for the title. They are our most difficult opponents. They are our toughest struggle. But they are NOT our rival.

So what’s the difference between MSU and UM?

  • If I’m watching a pro sport and I see a player has played for MSU, it’s no big deal. “Oh, I remember Mateen Cleaves. He was great.” But if there’s a former Wolverine on the team, I’m immediately pulling for the other team (or a minor injury of some sort).
  • In 1998, Michigan State gave us our only loss and ruined a championship season. I can’t name more than one or two players from that Spartan team off the top of my head. But I can tell you exactly where I was when Michigan’s John Kolesar caught a game-winning pass against us in 1987, that traitorous sonofabitch.
  • If a Buckeye assistant coach were to take a job as Michigan’s head coach, we’d curse him until the day he died (Ex – Bo Schembechler). Meanwhile, Mark Dantonio roams the MSU sidelines without a harsh word from our fan base.
  • There isn’t a punk band in Columbus called the Dead Heathcotes.
  • Nobody knows how many days until we play MSU again. Maybe Jack Park knows, but the rest of us don’t. But I can tell you that it’s 324 days until “The Game” renews in Columbus.
  • Here’s a list of the “Ten Greatest Michigan State Spartans”. Hell, I forgot half the names on this list. You don’t do that with a team that is actually your rival.

There are several teams that want to claim us as their rival. That’s fine with me – they do it because beating us would make their season. We’re the kings. But just because Penn State or Indiana wants to declare us their rival doesn’t mean we should reciprocate. Let it go. Take the games seriously, but there simply is no massive rivalry aside from the maize and blue. You’ll never compare to our greatest rival.

If that’s not enough to convince you, perhaps a history lesson is in order.

Towards the end of the John Cooper era at Ohio State, there were similar rumblings coming from Ann Arbor. Michigan had handled us so many times recently, and their fans were losing the flavor for The Game. They were declaring Michigan State to be their biggest rival. Perhaps they were doing it to get under our skin, because that’s what Ohio State and Michigan does to one another – constant contempt and mockery.

It worked. It got under our skin. Michigan began to take us for granted, and after they knocked us off 38-26 in 2000, we’d had enough. We went and hired Jim Tressel. Since that day, the Wolverines have paid the price for disrespecting The Rivalry. They’ve only tasted victory twice in the 13 years since.

Buckeye fans, I urge you – do not declare MSU to be our new rival. They simply aren’t.

Keep your eyes on the ball. Those bastards to the north are our rivals, and they always will be.


  1. KenNo Gravatar
    January 9th, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Jeff, what; no Dead Daughertys?

    For me, it’s visceral. When MSU beats us, it’s “Well, they got the better of us this time.” When the other team beats us, there is gnashing of teeth, the blood pressure rises and my mood darkens quite a bit. By a lot.


    JeffNo Gravatar
    January 9th, 2014 at 11:01 am

    It was either the Dead Heathcotes or the Dead L. Smiths. Either one would have been a winner


  2. Mark N.No Gravatar
    January 9th, 2014 at 10:28 am

    As a Michigan State alum and fan, I can say that I don’t consider Ohio State a rival either. I view the Buckeyes as a damned good program in most sports, and it’s a benchmark victory if MSU can beat OSU in any sport–but particularly football or basketball. A win over OSU is certainly a win to be appreciated and valued, but doesn’t deliver the same emotional impact as a win over our main rival, the University of Michigan. I don’t think that MSU and OSU can ever be heated rivals for the simple fact that we have at least one thing in common: we both loathe the University of Michigan.


  3. Brian FNo Gravatar
    January 9th, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    I disagree I think MSU is one of our rivals in Basketball. I think our MAIN rivals in Basketball have always been 1 Indiana 2 Michigan 2b MSU. Mainly UM has stunk minus the period they had the Fab Cheating Five. BUT I LOVE to beat those punks in every sport. BUT In Fairness UM was NEVER as big a win as Indiana with Bobby Knight NO WAY! Bobby brought something to THAT game and we battled them HARD over the years. MSU is excellent and were really good under Judd Heathcote too but UM is UM I know. Indiana was always the BIG basketball rival though THEM UM then MSU and maybe UM and MSU are equals since we compete every year with MSU to win the title now. If IZZO leaves then we shall see how they hold up.


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