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Friday, October 19, 2012

Know Your Foe - Michigan State 2012

After opening their Big Ten season with two convincing thumpings, Michigan will try to do something they haven't done since Lloyd Carr's last season - beat Sparty. Amazingly, State has won four straight in the series and none of the games were much in doubt. If this Michigan season is to be successful, taking home the the Paul Bunyan Trophy this Saturday in Ann Arbor is a must. Michigan's on a roll and looking for a Big Ten title. State has struggled  in conference with their only win a comeback victory over Indiana. Many of us grew up in Michigan and even the out of staters are familiar with our neighbors to the northwest. But you don't know everything, so without further delay, here is this week’s edition of the MZone's KNOW YOUR FOE.

History – Founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan, though there were no classes until 1857 (and not many since). Contrary to popular belief, it was not the first land grant college in the U.S., though it did serve as the model for which all following land grant universities were modeled. The original curriculum eschewed Latin and Greek studies, but did require three hours of daily manual labor. In 1859, this curriculum was deemed too elitist and the college became a two-year vocational school. A couple years later, the school changed its name to State Agricultural College (yes, SAC) and went back to being a four-year school. The school has had six different names including Michigan Agricultural College, Michigan State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Michigan State University of Agriculture and Applied Science, and finally Michigan State University since 1964.

Location – East Lansing, Michigan. The town has a bit of a love-hate relationship with the university. It was  dry until the 1960s, but since then it has been known as a major party town. From huge block parties in the '70s and '80s, to near annual riots after big basketball games, it's almost surprising the flaming couch isn't on the town seal.

The Michigan State campus is huge, but is considered one of the prettiest in the country. The W. J. Beal Botanical Garden is the oldest of its kind in the U.S. The Red Cedar River on campus is a popular spot for students. Though named for the trees along the river's source, the trees are actually junipers, not cedars.

Nickname – Spartans. The teams were known as Aggies until 1925. At that time, a contest was held for a new nickname and - Know Your Foe is not kidding about this - Michigan Staters was selected. The name was deemed too unwieldy for headline writers, so Spartans was then taken as the de facto nickname. The mascot, Sparty, lives on campus in statue form, as well as comical mascot during sporting events. The terra cotta version of Sparty, which depicts the mascot as a Spartan warrior stood outside from 1945 until recently when it was moved indoors to be protected from the weather (not much of a warrior if you ask KYF). A bronze version of the original was erected in the former spot and is guarded during the week before the Michigan game by members of the marching band.

Cartoonish Sparty has shown up at MSU athletic events since 1989. He's won the Mascot of the Year award twice and was nominated to the Mascot Hall of Fame a few years ago (yes, there is such a thing).

Colors/Logo/Fight Song – Green and White. Know Your Foe has always been partial to these colors. They're sharp and not used all that much in college football. The Spartans made an improvement when they moved to a more metallic green in the mid '90s. But they've gone back and forth on so many of their logos that they can't really establish an identity. Of course not winning the conference outright since 1987 might have something to do with that, too. They've used the current Spartan head design on four different occasions. They've had the block "S" for two different stints, including one where they only had it on the right side of the helmet, mimicking the Pittsburgh Steelers. And my goodness, what in the world were they thinking in the mid-'70s?In addition to the Spartan head, the athletic department has used numerous wordmarks, most of them emphasizing the word "State." Talk to people not from Michigan - when they hear someone talking about State, they're bound to laugh. It truly does sound like something that would be said on Leave It To Beaver. "Yes, Mrs. Cleaver, Wallace and I are planning on applying to State..."

The MSU Fight Song is another among the top fight songs in the country. From the opening line of "On the banks of the Red Cedar" to the concluding "Fight! Fight! Rah, team fight!" it's a classic.

On the banks of the Red Cedar,
There's a school that's known to all;
Its specialty is winning,
And those Spartans play good ball;
Spartan teams are never beaten,
All through the game they fight;
Fight for the only colors:
Green and White.
Go right through for MSU,
Watch the points keep growing,
Spartan teams are bound to win,
They're fighting with a vim!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
See their team is weakening,
We're going to win this game,
Fight! Fight! Rah! Team, Fight!
Victory for MSU!

The original lyrics are similar with a few differences that KYF found humorous and telling.

On the banks of the Red Cedar,
There's a school that's known to all;
Its specialty is farming,
And those farmers play football;
Aggie teams are never beaten,
All through the game they'll fight;
Fight for the only colors:
Green and White.
Smash right through that line of blue,
Watch the points keep growing.
Aggie teams are bound to win,
They're fighting with a vim!
Rah! Rah! Rah!
Michigan is weakening,
We're going to win this game.
Fight! Fight! Rah! Team, Fight!
Victory for M.A.C.!

Is there any doubt that Sparty thoughts - even with a four-game winning streak in the series - are dominated by Michigan?

Academics – MSU is ranked 72nd in the U.S. News rankings, which ties them with Iowa and Virginia Tech. The only Big Ten schools ranked lower are Indiana and Nebraska.  Of course, they pale in virtually every category to Michigan academically which has led to numerous family dinners being ruined. But talk to any Sparty alumnus and they'll be sure to point out how they have a real strong Hotel and Restaurant management program, something Michigan doesn't even offer. Plus, as a disappointed product of public schools in Michigan, Know Your Foe would like to blame Michigan State for producing so many of the teachers in the state.

Athletics – The Spartans became a member of the Big Ten in 1950. They have excelled in basketball (two national titles, eight Final Fours), and hockey (three NCAA titles). But it's football they'd love to be good at. During Michigan's dark years (2008-10), Sparty took advantage, even tying for the Big Ten title in 2010 and losing the Big Ten title game - in typical Sparty fashion - last year. Unfortunately, they've only managed one Rose Bowl appearance in the last 45 years and have a 32-67-5 record against their one and only rival, Michigan despite their recent winning streak.

Famous alums – There’s no excuse for a school as huge as Michigan State to have such a barren list of famous alumni. But they do. Come on, Robert Urich and James Caan? That's as good as they can do from an entertainment standpoint? The stars, respectively, of TV schlockapaloozas Vegas and Las Vegas? Please. As far as politics, all the Sparties can claim are some past governors of Michigan. No Presidents. And they also claim a former Secretary of Energy (Spencer Abraham). But no astronauts. Space, bitches, Space.

The Game – When the season began, most Michigan fans were hoping for a lot of things. Maybe an upset of Alabama, maybe a winning streak against tOSU, maybe a Rose Bowl appearance. Those were hopes. There was one thing Michigan fans demanded to have this season - a win over Sparty. Of all the things that happened while Rich Rodriguez was coach, the most appalling was the ceding of state supremacy to Michigan State for the first time in over 40 years. But since the arrival of Brady Hoke the tide has turned. Michigan has regained dominance on in-state recruiting and Sparty has really struggled on the field this season. A Wolverine victory on Saturday would continue, and accelerate these happy trends.  MICHIGAN 23, MICHIGAN STATE 19.


616goblue said...

The best way to start a football Friday is logging onto the Interwebs and reading Know Your Foe.

So much looking forward to the game tomorrow. Anybody else have Sparty friends who are grasping at straws or just drop four-letter bombs while bantering about the game? The prodigal son, Paul Bunyon, will return to his rightful home and all will be forgiven.


MMQ said...


Here's some words that we always sing during the chorus:

Can't get through the Maize and Blue,
But they still keep trying!
Spartan Teams they always lose,
Never been to a BCS Game!

See State's Defense weakening,
Then hear the Fans exclaim:
"Oh, No! Not Again!
Another Loss for MSU!"



Dennis said...

I don't think it is that close. You have a clear blueprint from ND, Iowa and us. Key on Bell, force Maxwell to beat you and while he will throw some passes, his T-rex like receivers will drop enough of them. You also get them at home which leads me to think something along the lines of 24-9. and I think part of the reason it is that big is you get a defensive score off a pass an MSU reciever tips.

Good luck.

phil said...

Great KYF Benny! I know Wallace Cleaver and Eddie Haskell are dorks but even they wouldn't apply to Michigan State. Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford on the other hand has State written all over him.

Dennis said...

Congrats on the win. Both your game and our game much closer than I thought. Looking at PSU at Iowa, my worry about that game has increased significantly.

I finally can wear the #13 jersey my mother in law got for me for Christmas in 2002.

surrounded in columbus said...

Great game- crowd was ap'd. Final score? Sparta "300" no match for Michigan's "900"!

surrounded in columbus said...

Great game- crowd was ap'd. Final score? Sparta "300" no match for Michigan's "900"!

Every1nosme said...

Hard fought, great defensive effprt by both teams. Glad we came out on top but have to give msu credit for a great effort on both sides of the ball. Really gutsy call with the fake punt on a 4th and 9 from the 23! That either turns out to be a brilliant call or one of the worst decisions ever. It had me screaming at the tv as up to that point it seemed like whoever finally broke a big play would mmost likely win the game. Hate that I turned the osu game off when purdue made that interception late in the 4th. Figured they had that game won but I guess no one told the buckeyes the game was over yet. Hail to the victor! P.s. sparty still wears a skirt

Mikoyan said...

How could you not mention Bubba Smith?

Other than that, pretty good KYF

Yost said...

Man, did we need that. WHEW!

Ramona said...

WOOOHOOO!!!!! WOW!!!!!
YOW!!!!! WHOA!!!! WOW!!!!!

GO BLUE!!!!!!!!!