Is MSU Replacing Michigan as “That Team Up North”?


Slowly but surely, the Michigan State Spartans seem to be replacing the Michigan Wolverines.

For as long as anyone can remember, 1897 to be exact, the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines have been a part of what is widely considered the greatest, most intense rivalry in all of sports.

The storied rivalry has been an absolute treat for fans across the country. Both teams have together created countless instant classics, from the infamous “Snow Bowl”, to the top ranked 2006 showdown that became known as the “Game of the Century.” The No. 1 v. No. 2 contest would end in a national championship berth for the Buckeyes.

In recent years, Ohio State has owned Michigan, winning 12 of the previous 14 meetings. Though many of the games have come down to the wire, the Buckeyes have dominated the rivalry nonetheless.

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As any sports fan will attest, a rivalry is like the tango: it’s only as good as the two sides make it. The Wolverines’ grip on things is undoubtedly slipping, and another team seems to be sliding into their place.

A program that has been on the rise for some time now, the Michigan State Spartans have caught and subsequently surpassed their biggest nemesis.

The surging Spartans have joined the Buckeyes in their ownership of the Wolverines, as they’ve been victorious in six of their last seven matchups.

They’re churning out more and more pro prospects and stars each year, and Michigan State’s recruiting classes are nothing to be scoffed at. The Spartans put together the 18th-best recruiting class in the country in 2015, according to, and are currently following that great group up with the nation’s fourth ranked class.

Clearly, they are no longer “ittle brother” to the Wolverines. Even head coach Jim Harbaugh couldn’t deny Michigan State, calling them “the biggest guy on the block”, per

With Michigan taking a backseat, have the Spartans finally replaced their in-state foes as “That Team Up North”?

Oct 25, 2014; East Lansing, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio walks the sideline during the 2nd half of a game at Spartan Stadium. MSU won 35-11. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The head-to-head matchups between Michigan State and Ohio State seem to suggest so. If nothing else, they’ve been more meaningful, if not more entertaining.

In what was Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach for the Buckeyes in 2012, his initial meeting with Sparty was a nail-biter, resulting in a huge 17-16 road victory.

The very next season, the two teams would take the same field yet again, this time in the Big Ten Championship game. A classic duel by all accounts, Michigan State ended up edging then-undefeated Ohio State, crushing the Buckeyes’ national championship aspirations.

Fast forward almost a year and the highly anticipated rematch was on in East Lansing. Some early fireworks were quickly put out by Ohio State as they overpowered the Spartans 49-37, making a statement in front of a national audience in the process.

Michigan has been a non-factor in terms of their on-the-field product. Besides a thrilling 42-41 shootout that took place a few years ago, their end of the season contests with Ohio State have meant little to nothing at all roughly since 2008.

The future certainly looks brighter than ever for the Spartans and their inadvertent quest to replace the Wolverines as “That Team Up North.”

If that wasn’t a harsh enough reality for the Wolverines, they come up short again to the Spartans in recruiting battles.

Again, via, in 2014 and 2015 Michigan State topped their hated adversaries with better recruiting classes. Thus far for 2016, it’s been more of the same as well.

In head coach Mark Dantonio’s own green and white words: checkmate.

The future certainly looks brighter than ever for the Spartans and their inadvertent quest to replace the Wolverines as “That Team Up North.” They’ll still have to win in the unfriendly confines of Ann Arbor this coming season in order to continue their dominance, which is no easy task for Dantonio and Co.

On the other end of the spectrum, a coach of Harbaugh’s caliber should help stabilize the Wolverines, but there’s no overlooking the lack of overall talent on the roster.

Understandably so, Michigan State may not yet be thought of in the same light as Michigan by Ohio State fans. Though, with the continued dominance of the Wolverines on and off of the field, it’s simply hard to deny the Spartans of that vaunted title of “That Team Up North.”

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