Michigan State shed the “little brother” moniker for good last year with Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships. In fact, as the 2014 battle for the Paul Bunyan trophy approaches one could argue that the roles are reversed in the relationship between the two schools.
As the Spartans talk College Football Playoff, all the chatter in Ann Arbor is about what is wrong with its program and just how long head coach Brady Hoke has left at the helm of the football program.
However, it’s unlikely you’re going to be hearing much in the way of bluster or bulletin board material coming out of either camp this season.
Given the chance to fan the flames of this very big rivalry, all the major players decided to take the high road and not give the other teams
On Hoke’s part its obvious why he isn’t talking, after all he is just 1-2 overall against the Spartans and he is in the middle of fighting for his job. Poking the Spartan bear and setting himself up for even more failure isn’t exactly a good idea given the circumstances he faces.
However, Hoke has gone out of his way to actually praise his opposition number according to Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press.
“We’re all successful when we have a team and a team atmosphere and you have good players. That helps all of us,” Hoke said on today’s Big Ten coaches teleconference, via Snyder. “You’ve got to give Mark a lot of credit with what they’ve done as a staff in their recruiting. I just think it’s one of those games; when you play a rivalry, you’ve got to play your best.”
At least Hoke acknowledges this game as a rivalry, something that wasn’t always the case with his players and the Michigan fanbase. Some in said fanbase still refuse to admit that, choosing to stick to hating “Ohio” only.
Despite the flattery, the Wolverines and Hoke aren’t forgetting the fact that they have failed to score more than 14 points in any contest and were smoked 29-6 last season.
“Obviously, we know what the results were from a year ago, how we played,” Hoke said. “These are college kids, and there’s no question that you talk about and you look at how they tried to attack you from a defensive standpoint and what they did offensively. From that standpoint, you always refer (back). We do that with every opponent.”
His counterpart, Mark Dantonio didn’t shy away from the importance of this game and how much the rivalry means to him.
“It was 1995 when I came here, and that’s when I first got a taste of it,” Dantonio added, via CBS Detroit. “It was embraced at that time because of the past. I’ve said all along here, I didn’t make these rules. I’m just playing by them … It gets in your blood … There are just things that happen, things happen over the course of time that just begin to set you on edge, I guess.”
Not exactly fanning the flames of the rivalry, but it puts what this game means to the Spartans in perspective. It also explains the 2-1 edge in the game so far against Hoke. For Michigan State this game means everything, while the Wolverines seem to be indifferent to the whole situation these days.
“I mean, it’s a rivalry week, but we take it as just another week on the schedule,” said Funchess to The Michigan Daily.
Talk about ambivalent to the situation the team and his head coach is facing. Would you ever hear a Michigan player talk about OSU week as “just another week on the schedule?” Hell-to-the-no.
About the biggest talk we’ve seen all week has come from Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, and even that was of the trash talk variety. Instead, the Spartans quarterback chose to talk about the game being “a bloodbath.”
“We respect Michigan — we know they’re a great team,” Cook said, via Mlive.com. “Obviously, they’re not having the season they want to have this year, but we know they’re going to come in here and give it their all and they’re going to try to punch us in the mouth and try to out-tough us.
“That just means we’ve got to come in a little more angry than them with more intensity, more energy, and try to take them out.”
Oh, the trash-talking horror…
Let’s just say it’s a far cry from Dantonio’s response to Mike Hart calling Sparty “little brother” shall we?
While the two teams and coaching staffs appear to be tamping down the rhetoric, that hasn’t stopped the fans and students from doing just that.
In fact, MSU students had a bit of fun with the “block M” on the Ann Arbor campus already this week:
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) October 22, 2014
Whatever the fans think, say or do this week…don’t expect the teams to take things up a notch in public.
On the field, well that’s a different story. In fact, expect this to possibly be the most biter game between the two since Hoke arrived on campus in 2011.