Michigan State versus Ohio State doesn’t have the tradition of, say, Michigan versus Ohio State, or even that of Michigan State versus Michigan, but it’s developing into the Big Ten’s marquee matchup and one of college football’s better recent pairings.
Really, the Spartans versus the Buckeyes boils down to a few things:
1. They’re both great teams with great, big-game coaches who know how to win and cultivate talent.
2. Lately, they’ve been the Big Ten’s top two programs. Wisconsin and Nebraska have been good too, don’t get me wrong, but Mark Dantonio and Urban Meyer are setting the tone at a national level.
3. Their game Saturday night in East Lansing (8 ET, ESPN) will likely settle the Big Ten East division–the winner stays afloat in the CFB Playoff race; the loser sinks (No. 8 MSU 7-1, 4-0; No. 16 OSU 7-1, 4-0).
With that said, both coaches recently downplayed the “rivalry,” with each pointing to Michigan as their true hated adversary. That makes sense. There’s no denying the magic of the in-state and Michigan versus “Ohio” games. At one time, Michigan versus Ohio State was the game–that’s why it’s called “The Game”–to watch, regardless of fan orientation.
And up until recently, beating the Wolverines was a make-or-break affair. The rare victory somehow lightened the sting of 5-7, 6-6, and 7-5 seasons.
However, the Spartans have made winning routine, making the Buckeyes the new big fish to fry (while never overlooking the importance of MSU vs. UM, mind you).
In terms of being the biggest road block, yes, Ohio State is a rival. Don’t totally buy into the coach talk. And for as long as Michigan remains on the losing end, the Spartans versus the Buckeyes will only become more important.
But for Dantonio, an Ohioan, it’s about more than football.
“It’s a little bit different, because in that (Ohio State) game you want to measure up,” Dantonio said recently, according to MLive.com’s Mike Griffith. “I think in the other game [UM] we want to measure up as well, but I think in this case, it’s more about your background, where you are from, you know a lot of people back there and you want to measure up.”
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