Michigan is the better team, but Michigan State has every reason to believe it could play a spoiler.
Michigan must defeat Michigan State to win the Paul Bunyan Cup, but what if Tack comes along?
No. 4 Michigan 7-0 and is on a collision course with Ohio State for who can represent the Big Ten East in Indianapolis. Despite the phenomenal season a year ago, things didn’t go smoothly with Mel Tucker’s Spartans. Sparty is 3-4 years old per season and running out of opportunities to make it to the bowl game. Fortunately, his team got hold of Jim Harbaugh’s number recently.
It might be a night game at the Big House, but the brave Spartans could lose Michigan.
Tuck Coming?: Why Michigan Shouldn’t Overlook Michigan State on Saturday Night
So far, Michigan may be the all-time leader in the rivalry series 71-38-5. However, the Spartans have declared the Paul Bunyan Cup for themselves the past two seasons. Keep in mind that this was the Wolverines’ only regular season defeat before the eventual Big Ten champions fell to eventual champion Georgia in the Orange Bowl. Wait, there’s more to be discovered…
Since Rich Rodriguez left Morgantown for Ann Arbor, the Spartans already had a Wolverines number. From 2008 to 2021, the Spartans went 10-4 against Big Brother. A lot of this might have to do with the fact that Mark D’Antonio had a great run in East Lansing, but keep in mind Jim Harpo has been back at his alma mater since 2015. He’s 4-3 in this game and 0-2 against Tuck.
No, it wasn’t just Ohio that trumpeted Harpo in Ann Arbor. With this year being another year of great promise for the Wolverines, now would be a terrible time to overlook the desperate Spartans. If Tucker wins third place over the Wolverines, it would be a miracle to save a disastrous season at East Lansing and possibly satisfy Al Gemayel towards next season.
What makes this game more interesting is all the pressure on Wolverines to win it. They have a better team, they are riding a seven-game winning streak and they have every reason to believe they can play in a national championship. Of course, this is not the nature of competition games like this one. Just when you least expect it, sometimes the loser will align and win big.
In the end, how this happens in the Big House will have dire consequences in the Big Ten. A Wolverines win will give them more confidence en route to a road date versus Ohio State, as well as fuel for the fire to beat the trap game versus Illinois Brewing the week before that. The loss of the Spartans would evaporate all the momentum that year two Tucker seized on the helm.
However, if this rivalry game goes the last two way, boy… the Wolverines will be seen as a formidable underdog for Ohio State in The Horseshoe. Heck, they might lose a game to Illinois at home before that. As for the Spartans, that puts them up to .500 with a real chance of pot eligibility. They can also use this victory as a confidence-building factor to upset Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving.
If the victors lose to Sparti for the third time in a row, Ann Arbor will flood Harbaugh with spoiled milk.
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