Apr 18, 2012

Michigan State has won four in a row over Michigan, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio asks where's the threat?

Photo: Associated Press -- Michigan State Spartans football coach Mark Dantonio doesn't seem the least bit intimidated by the Michigan Wolverines.

By Adam Biggers

The 2012 NCAA football season's kickoff is months away. The Michigan State Spartans haven't even played their Spring Game, and the Michigan Wolverines played theirs this past weekend.

But all of that aside lies one gleaming, beyond-interesting fact about the two programs: Michigan State has won four in a row. Michigan, except in a 26-20 overtime loss in 2009, hasn't even been all that competitive during its losing trend.

Now, there is no denying Michigan's historical domination (67-32-5) over Michigan State, which hasn't rattled off such a winning streak since 1959-62. But, the here and now suggests that the Spartans, who are reloading after losing several key components to graduation and the NFL Draft, are by in large the state's top college football team.

Sugar Bowl or not, the Spartans have yet to bow to Michigan since 2007. And that might not change any time soon, according to Spartans coach Mark Dantonio.

"We're laying in the weeds," Dantonio told ESPN. "We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?"

Golden. Absolutely golden. There is nothing better than a dagger-like comment months prior to the football season to get things rolling. And for those keeping track, the Spartans and Wolverines play Oct. 20 at The Big House in Ann Arbor.

It's almost unfair for Dantonio to drop such a gem so early. His quote will be ingrained in the minds of Michigan coach Brady Hoke until that storied Saturday rolls around.

Some may take Dantonio's comment as being overconfident. He's never been one to hold back while talking about Michigan. We all remember his rebuttal to former Michigan star Mike Hart's "Little Brother" comment, in which Dantonio remarked about Hart's height, implying that he was "little."

It gets nasty, but in a spirited, fan-friendly, we-don't-like-you sort of way. The comments are great for the rivalry, which is rapidly coming to a head. Both basketball programs are Big Ten Conference title contenders, and the same goes for the football teams.

Michigan State Spartans basketball coach Tom Izzo said it best: "A rivalry is a rivalry if both teams are real good or both teams are real bad. It's been kind of a roller coaster for both teams in some ways."

The football rivalry is more important, at least lately. For years, the Wolverines owned the Spartans on the field, posting several lopsided victories. But during its last winning streak of six, Michigan was challenged -- at least in four of those games. From 2002-2007, Michigan won by a touchdown -- touchdown plus conversion (45-37 in 2004) -- or less in all but two games: 2002's 49-3 win and 2006's 31-13 victory.

Michigan isn't the same Michigan it was under Rich Rodriguez. One can sense the urgency -- Hoke's desire to restore the traditional roar of the Wolverines. But Michigan State is no longer a doormat in the Big Ten, it's not Michigan's "Little Brother" and it's not settling for four wins in a row.

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