Looking Back At Every Michigan-Michigan State Football Game This Decade

How will the decade's final chapter unfold on Saturday?

97.1 The Ticket
November 14, 2019 - 8:48 pm

© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

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By Kyle Beery | 97.1 The Ticket

Though the fire is still there, Saturday’s Michigan-Michigan State game seems to lack the same amount of hype the rivalry has received over the years, especially the last decade.

That’s largely in part to the lack of postseason implications. While the Spartans are still playing to become bowl-eligible, and the Wolverines are still technically alive for a berth in the Big Ten title game -- they’d need a ton of outside help to achieve that -- the stakes of Saturday’s game just aren’t what they were for most of the 2010s, save a year or two.

Here’s a look back at every Wolverines-Spartans showdown from this decade.

Oct. 9, 2010 -- No. 17 Michigan State 34, No. 18 Michigan 17

The new decade began with the Spartans having won two in a row in the series for the first time since the late 1960s, with Mark Dantonio’s tenure just three years old.

His fourth game against the Wolverines was a meeting between undefeated teams for only the second time in series history and the first since 1999.

The Spartans came away with a road win behind Edwin Baker's 147 yards -- including a 61-yard touchdown that gave the Spartans the lead early in the second quarter.

Larry Caper’s late third-quarter touchdown run extended the MSU lead to 31-10 and all but solidified the fact the MSU was for real under Dantonio.

Oct. 15, 2011 – No. 23 Michigan State 28, No. 12 Michigan 14

The Wolverines went into Spartan Stadium riding high at 6-0 with junior quarterback Denard Robinson lighting up defenses through the air and on the ground, having been the Wolverines’ leading rusher in four of their six games.

But the Spartans’ defense, which came to be known as the “No Fly Zone” in the coming years, contained Robinson and the Wolverines, holding them to a season-low 14 points.

Trailing 21-14 with under 5:00 to play, the Wolverines were able to force a punt and get the ball back with a chance to tie things up, only for Robinson to throw a pick-6 to Isaiah Lewis on the very next play.

The Spartans retained the Paul Bunyan Trophy for the fourth straight year, the first time doing so since 1959-1962.

Oct. 20, 2012 – No. 23 Michigan 12, Michigan State 10

Coming off a 45-0 rout of Illinois the week prior, Robinson and the high-powered Wolverines offense welcomed a scuffling 4-3 MSU team.

While points were plenty this season for Michigan, they were hard to come by in this affair, as the Spartans kept them from reaching the end zone all day.

But a 38-yard field goal by Brendan Gibbons helped the Wolverines snap the four-game skid against MSU, becoming the first team in college football history to 900 wins.

Nov. 2, 2013 – No. 24 Michigan State 29, No. 23 Michigan 6

For a second straight year, MSU kept the Wolverines out of the end zone. Only this time, Michigan’s defense wasn’t up to the task.

Connor Cook’s 252 passing yards and Jeremy Langford’s 120 yards on the ground moved the Spartans to 8-1 on the season and helped them jump way up in the polls. MSU would go on to win the Big Ten Legends Division at a perfect 8-0 in conference play, with a lone loss to Notre Dame holding them out of the final BCS National Championship Game, though they won their first Rose Bowl since the 1987 season.

Oct. 25, 2014 – No. 8 Michigan State 35, Michigan 11

While the Spartans were barreling through the season with aspirations of reaching the first ever College Football Playoff, the Wolverines were headed for a third losing season in seven years – a stretch of futility not seen since the 1960s.

Cook threw for 227 yards and Langford racked up 177 yards on the ground and three scores. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, meanwhile, managed just 125 passing yards, while throwing two interceptions – one of which was returned 29 yards for a touchdown by RJ Williamson, as MSU pushed its lead to 21-3.

The Spartans’ next offensive drive began with a 70-yard strike from Cook to Tony Lippett that sent Spartan Stadium into a frenzy. The game was played in East Lansing for a second straight year, as the Big Ten realigned its divisions from Legends and Leaders to East and West, calling for a switch to scheduling.

A 5-7 season would ultimately end Brady Hoke’s four-year tenure in Ann Arbor, ushering in the Jim Harbaugh era.

Oct. 17, 2015 – No. 7 Michigan State 27, No. 12 Michigan 23

Despite a season-opening loss at Utah, Michigan fans were riding high after five straight wins set up one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of the series.

They were riding even higher after the first 59 minutes and 50 seconds of this game. Two goal-line touchdown runs from Sione Houma and three Kenny Allen field goals had been enough to hold off the Spartans’ offensive attack – led by a Cook touchdown pass to Macgarrette Kings Jr. and a pair of TDs from running back LJ Scott.

Even after being forced to punt one last time, the Wolverines were in good shape and had their eyes on the playoff. But then punter Blake O’Neill infamously had… “trouble with the snap.”

The Spartans would go on to lose at Nebraska three weeks later, but ultimately won the Big Ten and made their way into the CFP.

Oct. 29, 2016 – No. 2 Michigan 32, Michigan State 23

The wounds of last year’s debacle were still fresh for Michigan fans, but the Wolverines were off to 1 7-0 start, solidly in the top 5 all season, and the Spartans were clearly headed for their first season without a trip to a bowl game in a decade.

The expectation was that Michigan would easily notch its first win in East Lansing since the Chad Henne-Mario Manningham comeback of 2007. While it didn’t start that way – LJ Scott gave the Spartans a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession – Michigan scored 30 of the game’s next 33 points and was solidly in control.

MSU threatened to climb back in it late, trimming the lead to 30-17 and driving deep into Michigan territory, only for Jabrill Peppers to sack Brian Lewerke on 4th down and put the idea of a comeback to rest. While the Spartans did score with just one second left in the game, Peppers scooped up a fumbled option on the 2-point conversion and brought it back to the house to put the final stamp on the Wolverines’ 8th win of the year.

The Wolverines’ undefeated season came to a halt two weeks later in Iowa City on a last-second Hawkeyes field goal, and Michigan lost an overtime thriller in the regular season finale at Ohio State, narrowly missing out on a trip to the Big Ten title game, and a possible shot at the playoff.

Oct. 7, 2017 – Michigan State 14, No. 7 Michigan 10

Expectations for this Michigan team were high once again, but an earlier-than-usual litmus test against a resurgent MSU team presented itself at an inopportune time. Michigan had lost starting quarterback Wilton Speight the previous week and was forced to turn to backup John O’Korn.

In a driving rainstorm under the lights at the Big House, O’Korn threw three interceptions, while Michigan running backs fumbled the ball away twice.

The Spartans were able to take better care of the ball, turning it over just once (albeit a fumble on a fourth down). Brian Lewerke shouldered the load for MSU, throwing for 94 yards and a touchdown, while also leading the team with 61 rushing yards and a second-quarter rushing touchdown.

While that would be the Spartans’ final touchdown of the game, their defense came up huge late in the second half to hold on for their fourth win of the season, surpassing the previous year’s win total.

MSU went on to finish the season 10-3, while Michigan went 8-5.

Oct. 20, 2018 – No. 6 Michigan 21, No. 24 Michigan State 7

Michigan was on a “revenge tour” last season, seeking payback on a number of team that beat them in what was supposed to be the year Jim Harbaugh finally got his team over the hump. Among those teams was Michigan State, who had gone to Happy Valley the week prior and knocked off No. 8 Penn State.

Tensions ran high before the noon kick at Spartan Stadium. When the Spartans arrived for their pre-game routine of walking arm-in-arm from one end of the field to the other, several Wolverines refused to leave the field – allegedly because MSU did not stick to its schedule. A small scuffle at mid-field led to Michigan linebacker Devin Bush stomping on the Spartan logo and a whole lot of energy among fans and players as kickoff arrived.

The Wolverines had won six straight after a season-opening loss at Notre Dame and were averaging better than 41 points per game during that stretch. While the offense wasn’t quite as explosive on this day, it was the defense that stole the show. Michigan held MSU to just 94 yards of offense.

Despite the offensive struggles, Lewerke and the Spartans remained within striking distance throughout. The Wolverines took a 14-7 lead late in the 3rd quarter on a 79-yard Donovan Peoples-Jones touchdown catch. Michigan was able to chew up some clock on its next three possessions, controlling the ball for all but 2:30 of the final quarter.

The win pushed the Wolverines into the top 5 of the College Football Playoff Rankings, where they stayed until the final week of the season when they lost at Ohio State 62-39, ending their playoff dreams.

Nov. 16, 2019 -- Michigan State @ No. 15 Michigan, TBD

How will the decade's final chapter of the rivalry play out Saturday in Ann Arbor?