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Michigan vs. Michigan State: A Lively Debate Between Wolverine and Sparty


This week leads up to the annual Michigan vs. Michigan State matchup on the gridiron, which not only is for possession of the Paul Bunyan Trophy but also bragging rights in the Great Lakes State. In the prelude, a verbal battle rages between two personae representing the opposing sides.

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In the blue corner, representing the University of Michigan, struts Wolverine. Readers should note that this is not the mutant superhero of comic book and movie fame. He is a furry and fetid creature decked out in the darkest shade of blue just short of black trimmed in highlighter yellow. (Above, right is Michigan's primary logo from 1948-63, according to So perhaps use this as your visual.)

In the green corner, wearing the ancient Greek helmet, white toga and sandals stands Sparty. He is speaking on behalf of Michigan State University. Fortunately for him given his choice of attire, this contest is taking place in mid-October and not late November.

WOLVERINE: How can Michigan State ever even think it is worthy of being considered as Michigan's archrival? The University of Michigan is so much better than you lowly Spartans.

SPARTY: Considering both of our programs are located in the same state and same conference, that is perfectly logical. We have faced each other every football season since 1910 with the exception of two years during the Second World War. On what basis do you consider us as beneath your flea-bitten ilk?

WOLVERINE: Michigan has 13 national championships. Michigan State does not have half that many.

SPARTY: As for national titles recognized by the NCAA, Michigan has only eight. Since the second year of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency, Michigan State has won the same number of national titles recognized by the NCAA as Michigan has: two.

WOLVERINE: Oh yeah, Michigan has 42 Big Ten titles. Michigan State only has eight.

SPARTY: Twenty of Michigan's titles came before Michigan State joined the Big Ten. Did you really expect us to compete for the conference's championship during the 50-plus years that we were not members? By the way, in this century, Michigan has two Big Ten titles, one outright and one shared. Michigan State does as well.

WOLVERINE: Well, Michigan's all-time winning percentage is 72.9 percent. Michigan State's is only 60 percent.

SPARTY: In the current century, Michigan's winning percentage equals 62.5 percent. Michigan State's stands at 60.7 percent. You love gloating over less than two percentage points or just want to live in the past?

WOLVERINE: We lead the all-time series history, 68-34-5!

SPARTY: As for games played in this century, the series is tied seven wins apiece. You certainly seem to be clinging in an unhealthy way to games played in the previous millennium.

WOLVERINE: (Spits and twitches violently) Hey, Michigan's win total and championship numbers would be higher if not for lousy coaches like Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke!

SPARTY: The same could be said of ours if not for Bobby Williams and John L. Smith.  

WOLVERINE: Michigan has played in the Rose Bowl 20 times. What about MSU, only five?

SPARTY: Michigan State has won 80 percent of its appearances. Michigan's winning percentage in the Rose Bowl is only 40 percent. However, you do hold the record for most losses in the Rose Bowl.

WOLVERINE: Everybody knows Michigan's iconic winged helmet. You guys keep changing the logo on your helmet every few years.

SPARTY: Your program did not originate the winged helmet. Fritz Crisler applied that design to helmets while he was coaching at Princeton. He brought that with him to Ann Arbor in 1938 after becoming head coach. By the way, our helmets featured that pattern several years before yours did. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

WOLVERINE: Hey, you guys are just so jealous of us!

SPARTY: What is your connection to the University of Michigan anyway? Did you graduate from the university or at least spend some semesters in Ann Arbor?

WOLVERINE: No, but the former next-door neighbor of my grandfather on my dad's side of the family took some classes there for one semester so, yeah, I do have a connection to the university.

SPARTY: I know of pyramid schemes that are less flimsy than that relationship.

WOLVERINE: We have the largest stadium in the USA!

SPARTY: Well, you have us beat there. (Rolls eyes and feigns applause.) Congratulations!

WOLVERINE: See, I told ya! Michigan is so much better than Michigan State! GO BLUE!

SPARTY: We will see about that on Saturday. GO GREEN!

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.