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Column: Michigan State has come too far to keep fueling ‘Little Brother’ talk

Photo: Andy Shippy

Michigan State doesn’t have to bow to Michigan. Yet for some reason, the Spartans keep on keeping on with “Little Brother” bulletin board material. It’s a tired act. An old hat. Unnecessary, really.

Mark Dantonio has put Michigan State on the national map. Think about it — the national map. The Spartans haven’t enjoyed this much power since the Duffy days of the 1960s. They’ve beaten the Wolverines seven times during the past nine years.

The 2014 Rose Bowl win over Stanford. A 2015 Cotton Bowl comeback versus Baylor. Knocking off Ohio State during a thrilling 17-14 road win Columbus. Three Big Ten championships — the most recent achieved by way of a grinding, 22-play, movie-like title-sealing moment in time over Iowa.

The stuff of dreams, right?

Don’t forget about Jalen Watts-Jackson’s game-winning touchdown in 2015. Dramatic stuff.

But there’s a serious question here: Why does Michigan State continue to discount itself with little-bro-esque behavior? Just when you think that whole bid has died, it returns with something like this:


The Spartans have earned their respect under Dantonio. They should act accordingly.

Instead, they have decided for the opposite approach, remixing Michigan’s “Those Who Stay Will Be Champions” — a phrase coined by Bo Schembechler — into “Those Who Have Stayed Are Already Champions.”

Clever, sure. Worthy of a slight grin? Yeah, why not? Just a couple of weeks ago, Penn State toyed with Bo’s “The Team, The Team, The Team” battle cry. It’s cute–for Penn State, not Michigan State.

Forget UM-MSU history for a second, because the Spartans’ developing rivalry with Ohio State was recently tabbed as the best in the Big Ten, in terms of modern series, per CBS.

Dantonio vs. Urban Meyer has become a glimpse into a conference title and playoff-berth.

Two teams that Michigan can’t stand, both mentioned in higher esteem.

Hey, Michigan State, you’re winning! 

Since 2000, Michigan has won thrice versus the Buckeyes, who have put up 42 points during their past three victories. Traditionally, Michigan vs. Ohio State tops the Spartans and Buckeyes of today; however, the Wolverines vs. the Spartans — while big in terms of in-state fanfare — has been incredibly lopsided since 2008. Just a bump in the road for Dantonio, really.

Yeah, there have been the Larry Caper overtime touchdowns and Watts-Jackson breathtakers versus Michigan. They were game-winners, and part of Spartans lore — but let’s be realistic here: The Big Ten has been all about Ohio State and Michigan State for the better part of the past decade.

Does Michigan State know this?

Meanwhile, Michigan spectates while things happen in East Lansing.

But for some reason, the Spartans — who have outgrown that “Little Brother” shadow — feel the need to “he-he and ha-ha” with witty graphics such as the one shown above.

In case the Spartans weren’t aware, here’s the score.

Michigan hasn’t won a Rose Bowl since its players and recruits were little tikes — we’re talking toddler-aged and younger, here. Babies.

Conversely, Michigan State’s players and recruits have grown up watching a team routinely compete for Big Ten championships and Rose Bowl/major bowl appearances. And they’ve witnessed Michigan State win said bowls.

The Spartans reached the College Football Playoffs before Michigan. That’s something to cherish for Dantonio, right? It should be.

The Spartans have won 87 games since 2007. The Wolverines have won 65. Yeah, yeah, the coaching carousel in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines who weren’t really the Wolverines under Rich Rod and Brady Hoke. Dave Brandon as the athletic director.

All of that’s understood — and this should be, too: Michigan State, without question, has been the more stable program since 2007, the year Dantonio left Cincinnati for East Lansing.

There’s no need for an inferiority complex, or anything remotely close (real or perceived).

Oh, and there was this one… when will it stop?! 

Michigan State talks about “reaching higher,” which, to the every-day guy, sounds like focusing on the future and maintaining momentum. In-state rivalry or not, the Spartans have moved past the days of defending themselves against Big Bad Michigan.

The Spartans fought for supremacy and recognition. They got it. And now they act like they don’t know what to do with it.

Removing the foot from the past would be a logical first step in that whole process.

Follow Adam Biggers of Today’s U on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Column: Michigan State has come too far to keep fueling ‘Little Brother’ talk

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