It’s been a long time since Michigan State were the ranked team while Michigan were going into this game just hoping not to get humiliated. Like everything for this program under Brady Hoke over the last two or three years, they failed to even walk away respectably, losing 35-11 as the Spartans kept coming at them in the fourth quarter, feeling like they were teaching the Wolverines a lesson.
All because of a stake the Michigan players put on the field when they were entering the game. Mark Dantonio later said that going for more points in the fourth quarter wasn’t about running up the score or adding style points, but mostly about retaliating for what happened before the game, and driving a stake through Michigan’s worn out and beat up defense. The feeling of being disrespected by Michigan never sits well with the Spartans, the better team between the two for quite some time.
It was the 13th consecutive conference win for Michigan State, who might have a chance to move up a spot in the rankings, entering the game as the #8 team in the nation, their highest ranking in a state rivalry game since being #1 in 1966. Those were the days Michigan State were a powerhouse program, often in the top 5. It’s not so different now, beating Michigan for the second year in a row and a sixth time in seven games.
For Michigan, there’s nothing surprising about this. The Brady Hoke tenure is close to a sad and unhappy ending. Many speculated it’ll be less about his record and more about Michigan’s ability to compete and beat Michigan State and Ohio State. But they’re not good enough to win in these games, not even to make it a close one. They were held to just 186 yards of offense, scoring their only touchdown in the fourth quarter of the game. It was their first touchdown against Michigan State since 2011. They’ve failed to reach 21 points against Michigan State since 2008.
Devin Gardner was once again exposed as being a player who might be useful in certain ways, but quarterback isn’t one of them. He was held to 13-of-28 for 121 yards and he was intercepted twice, including one that was returned for a touchdown, making it 21-3 in the middle of the third quarter. They got only 65 yards on the ground, falling to 3-11 over the last two seasons when they’re held to less than 160 yards of rushing.
This was Michigan State’s biggest win over their rivals in 47 years (34-0 in 1967). It’s been that long since they’ve been so dominant against a team that continuously disrespects them, referring to them as their little brother. When Michigan were dominating and mostly focusing on beating Ohio State, maybe it made some sense, but these days, all the championships and allure of being a great program in the past doesn’t fly, getting beat home and away by the Spartans time after time.
Michigan State have tougher tests to worry about down the road: At home against #13 Ohio State in the division’s big game and at Penn State at the end of the season isn’t easy either. If that works out well, it comes down to beating whoever comes from the East in the conference championship game. Things might change outside the conference by then, but a one loss Michigan State team should be respected enough to make the playoffs. The problems Michigan are having? That’s just another thing to enjoy.