Michigan and the State of Michigan will play their annual football game on Saturday at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. According to tradition, the winner will keep the Paul Bunyan Trophy for a year, but this time there is much more at stake than the custody of America’s favorite lumberjack.
Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined Morning Edition host Doug Tribou for a preview of the game.
Michigan vs. Michigan State 114th football game. Saturday October 30 at noon in East Lansing.
Doug Tribou: For the first time since 1964, the Spartans and Wolverines are both ranked in the domestic top 10 heading into the game. Michigan is # 6 overall, Michigan State # 8. Historically speaking, what else is unusual about this year’s game?
John U. Bacon: Well that’s probably enough since I was born in ’64 and I’m not a kid anymore, so that’s how important it is. This year the game is also two or three weeks later than usual in the season, which makes it much more remarkable that both are unbeaten after seven games apiece. It is a game of enormous national importance.
DT: A few weeks ago you told me that Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker just needed to keep doing what he was doing and avoid a loss to the Indiana. The Spartans have, but Michigan is MSU’s biggest challenge so far this season and vice versa. What the State of Michigan has to do well or better to win [on Saturday]?
John U Bacon: Well, back to my boring quote, they have to keep doing what they’re doing, to begin with, but they’re also going to have to find a way to stop the Big Ten leading offense. Michigan’s Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum could both go a thousand yards this season, and over the past decade it’s been rare for a single Michigan defenseman to do so, so they have one hell of an offense on the way.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan State quarterback Peyton Thorne has had a phenomenal season. He must continue to do what he is doing.
DT: As you mentioned, Michigan’s running game has been his greatest strength on offense. Quarterback Cade McNamara has avoided turnovers, only one interception so far this season, but he threw just 129 yards last week. [against Northwestern] and on average less than five meters per completion. What does U of M coach Jim Harbaugh need for McNamara against the Spartans this weekend?
JUB: You found one of the things: no turnovers. This game is too emotional. Swings like this can count too much and it will probably be a very close game. But he also needs to kick the ball down the field or give his replacement JJ McCarthy more time, who is both a better runner than McNamara and a better passer, but he’s just less reliable.
If it’s just McNamara, and the passing threat isn’t good enough to really unleash the racing game. This makes things too easy for Michigan State, so McNamara will have to have his best game of the year, or JJ McCarthy. [will].
This is the first time the Spartans and Wolverines have entered their rivalry match with a record of 7-0 or better.
DT: It doesn’t matter who wins, there’s a good chance that in a few weeks this team will also have to eliminate Ohio State to make their way to a Big Ten East Division Championship, or a Big Ten Conference Championship. , or even maybe an entry to the college football playoffs. Did Michigan and Michigan State close the talent gap with the Buckeyes this year?
JUB: They didn’t close it, but they shrunk it. I think not bad, and both teams are playing better than they have been in many years, so the two teams should be close enough, I think, to be okay if things go well.
DT: Detroit News reported this week that Tomorrow for Michigan vs Michigan State game tickets in East Lansing on the secondary market were selling for between $ 230 and $ 1,900. A parking pass cost $ 775 so I guess that’s a sign it’s a big game. But beyond all the rankings and high stakes, what do you love about this rivalry as the 114th Spartans and Wolverines meet?
JUB: I like this rivalry, despite the prices. I think this might be the best rivalry in the nation state. I think it is underestimated. They are so close and neither side will admit it. That’s what makes it great.
And I was ready for this one. I knew you were going to see something like this, so if you allow me to quote Sigmund Freud, he called it the “narcissism of minor differences”, which he described as the phenomenon that it is precisely communities with contiguous and interrelated territories as well, which are engaged in constant quarrels and ridicule each other, showing extreme sensitivity to these only details of differentiation.
Good Doctor Freud probably wasn’t talking about Big Ten football when he said this over a hundred years ago, but no one has better explained the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry.
Editor’s Note: The quotes in this story have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview at the top of the page.