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November 1, 2013In The Week That Was, it's all things Michigan and Michigan State, including some comments that made headlines, and the rivalry even dominated the hard court with the two vote the Big Ten's preseason favorites.
Michigan State is the favorite for Saturday's game
Michigan State opened as a 3.5-point favorite over Michigan, but the betting line is now five points for the Spartans as more and more prognosticators have picked the Green and White to win, and in some cases, to roll the Wolverines.
What They're Saying
In a hilarious, satirical column Friday, The Detroit News Bob Wojnowski explained just how much perception has changed for the two programs entering Saturday's game:
"The strangest thing has happened at Michigan State, a transformation that has given our state an identity crisis. The Spartans have the menacing defense and physical front and - dare I say? - tinge of arrogance. The Wolverines are unsure of themselves, a bit shaky, maybe even a tad - dare I say? - insecure.
"With all the talk of bullies and brothers and beatings and belligerence, it's hard to tell if Michigan State is hosting Michigan Saturday or welcoming Little Boy Blue. The Spartans (7-1) and Wolverines (6-1) have virtually the same record, virtually the same ranking, virtually the same waist sizes (I'm guessing), and yet Michigan State apparently is the overwhelming favorite.
"That's fine, I suppose, if you're into the whole role-reversal fetish. I'm not saying Michigan State is threatening to regain control of the state and all the perks that come with it, including unlimited coneys. I'm just saying if Mark Dantonio were asked whether his program was elite, I'm pretty sure he'd snap, 'This is Michigan State, for God's sakes!'"
ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit is not alone - in fact early estimations are 80 percent of writers/reporters are picking MSU - when he forecasts a Michigan State victory:
"I like Michigan State to get to the Big Ten Championship Game. I think Michigan State, at home, will win. I think it will be a close game.''
"I think it goes back to the `They're our little brother' comment from Mike Hart, and I think Michigan State plays with a great deal of anger and intensity, and it's because of the way over the years Michigan has viewed them. Mark Dantonio has lived that and he makes sure his team understands that. Michigan has to match that intensity.''
My Take: Many Michigan fans were probably hoping that the Wolverines' 2012 win over Michigan State represented a change in this series, tilting the rivalry back in U-M's favor. Instead, the Spartans are garnering all the respect this week while the Maize and Blue are being given little chance to "upset" the Green and White.
That may be hard to stomach, but it also represents the beauty of sports - games are not won or lost in the days preceding a matchup but on that day, between two teams. Michigan can either regain its respect, and truly begin to shift the landscape of this rivalry back in its favor, or it can lend truth to everything folks are saying about Michigan State as the bully and the Wolverines as the No. 2 program in the state.
Don't like being dismissed out of hand by the Spartans? Don't like being talked about like you're not even a threat? Don't like this and that well go do something about it.
Fitz Toussaint references the 'Little Brother' comment when talking to the media Tuesday
In an interview with the Michigan press corps Tuesday, Toussaint said: "We labeled them as a little brother. And, you know, little brother always wants to prove themselves and try to beat up the big brother one day. I think they really take offense to that."
What They're Saying
SBNation.com's Zach Dirlam pointed out how many reacted to Toussaint's comments, with puzzlement:
"There is nothing wrong with a little chatter between a couple of programs that have disdain for one another. In fact, it is part of what makes college football's rivalries so great.
"However, there is no reason why anyone associated with Michigan should be referring to Michigan State as 'little brother.' Over the past six years, the Spartans have all but eliminated the notion the Wolverines are the superior program in the Great Lakes State.
"During this time frame, Michigan State boasts a 4-1 record against the Maize and Blue. The Spartans have won 31 Big Ten Conference games, while the Wolverines can only claim 19 league victories. Mark Dantonio's club won a share of the conference title in 2010. Michigan has not won a Big Ten Championship since 2004.
"Sounds like the only little brother in this rivalry right now dons a winged helmet."
My Take: The comments were unexpected because of who uttered them - Toussaint is one of the more soft-spoken and humble kids on the team - but at the end of the day, are just words. Sure, plenty of writers were quick to point out Toussaint's record against MSU and Michigan's 1-4 mark against the Spartans over the last five years, but what's wrong with a little trash talk during rivalry week? Isn't that what makes it fun?
I'm sure in this case, it just became too much for the Wolverines to take and someone was bound to snap. All they have heard for more than a week now is that State is the better team, and State controls this series, and State is going to dominate U-M. At some point, you want to bark back and that's what he did.
Anyone that worries that his comments will motivate Michigan State to play its best A) gives too much credence to words and B) doesn't understand the Spartans need no motivation. Once the ball is snapped, as Brady Hoke said in a radio interview post-Toussaint comments, talk goes out the window. It's about preparation and execution at that point.
If there is one byproduct of all of this, though, it's that 'Little Brother' needs to be dropped from the Michigan lexicon. State has grown up and is little no more. Besides, when Mike Hart uttered those now infamous words, it wasn't like the Wolverines were blowing the Spartans out of the water, winning twice in overtime during Hart's career and once by four points only after a desperate game-winning TD drive in the final minutes.
Michigan hoops picked second in the Big Ten, seventh nationally
The Big Ten held its Basketball Media Day this week with Michigan State voted the preseason favorite and U-M No. 2 - while the AP Top 25 bestowed a No. 7 national rank - with sophomores Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III named to preseason All-Big Ten.
What They're Saying
MLive.com's Brendan Quinn notes that this year "The Big Ten is again expected to go through the state of Michigan."
My Take: It seemed only fitting that a week in which the football rivals will square off, Michigan and Michigan State were deemed the two best teams in basketball this season and are expected to compete for the conference title.
Tom Izzo once said he wanted to see Michigan-MSU be the Duke-North Carolina of the Midwest, and while many have speculated that's not how he really feels - he much preferrs when he could just kick U-M's butt - it is the reality for these two programs these days, and that's great for fans of this rivalry and fans of college basketball.