They are simple words, innocent words. Unless you associate them with the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry. They are words that have ignited an entire football program.
A few years ago, Michigan assistant coach Mike Hart called MSU “little brother” when he played for the Wolverines. MSU coach Mark Dantonio used it as a rallying cry. His players get pissed off every time they hear the words coming from a Wolverines mouth.
Recently, some of our radio talking heads said they don’t believe the words sparked MSU to any wins during this current streak of 10 Spartan victories in the last 14 games. They obviously never talked to former Spartan and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston.
Gholston checks in on his old team now and then. Sometimes he works out with them at the Duffy. Sometimes he texts players. He is far removed from his days at Detroit Southeastern and MSU, but Gholston still gets fired up when he hears Little Brother.
Gholston told me that Spartans are always on edge when they play Michigan. Their intensity skyrockets when they hear Little Brother the week leading up to the game.
“They can keep talking that bull,” Gholston said. “Every time they (the Wolverines) do, they are getting their asses kicked.”
Michigan has the advantage but…
Michigan (7-0 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) does not always take this rivalry seriously. This year it is.
Michigan players told Coach Jim Harbaugh to get ready for State as soon as they walked off the field after beating Penn State. That was music to the coaches’ ears. We have not heard the wicked sounds of little brother this week. That means Michigan is dropping its arrogance and taking the game with MSU seriously.
Michigan State (3-4, 1-3) is poised to get popped. My wife dragged me to the Michigan State-Minnesota game, and I spent the entire time trying to figure out what was worse – MSU’s secondary or the pass rush.
Michigan is obviously the better team this year, and the only way this game ends in an upset is if somebody riles the Spartans to heights, we’ve yet to see this season.
THE BLUE WALL
If you live in the Metro Detroit area, you are behind a giant blue wall. This is Michigan territory.
Here is one of my barometers. I own a Michigan shirt and a Michigan State shirt.
When I wear the Michigan shirt, I get at least a half a dozen folks who yell “Go Blue.”
When I wear the State shirt, I get to see people asking, “Why is Foster wearing that stupid Michigan State shirt.”
THE BETTING EDGE
Michigan is a 22.5-point favorite this season. But that is hardly news. The Wolverines are always expected to beat the Spartans. MSU has won 10 of the last 14 games and has never been favorite to win.