The New Team Up North

By Kyle Rowland on January 8, 2014 at 9:15a
Michigan State players celebrate a win over Ohio State.

Mention the state of Michigan inside Ohio’s borders and you’re sure to get stares, odd glances and the occasional rude comment. The Wolverines are not a welcome subject in the Buckeye State. But what about Michigan State? For years the Spartans were just another Big Ten team. That is changing by the day, though.

Suddenly, Ohio State really doesn’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan.

One month ago, Michigan State spoiled the Buckeyes’ national championship hopes in the Big Ten football championship, the third such time the Spartans have done so dating to 1974. The two teams will now face each other every season in the redesigned Big Ten, which features East and West divisions.

A Rose Bowl victory combined with Ohio State’s defeat in the Orange Bowl could signal a changing of the guard atop the Big Ten. Next season’s November matchup in East Lansing will be the conference’s most anticipated game of 2014. The outcome could result in a shift away from the Buckeyes’ decade-long stranglehold on the Big Ten.

In the final football coaches poll, Michigan State claimed the No. 3 position with Ohio State finishing 10th. In the current basketball coaches poll, it’s the Buckeyes who are No. 3, while the Spartans are one spot back at fourth.

“They’re the other school that’s trying to do the same thing that we’re trying to do – have greatness in both,” Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo said of Ohio State. Oklahoma State is the only other program ranked in the top 10 in football and basketball.

Dating to Izzo’s ascension to the top job at Michigan State, the Spartans have won seven Big Ten championships, advanced to six Final Fours and won a national championship. The Buckeyes have won seven conference titles and advanced to three Final Fours during the same 18-season span. A majority of that success is thanks to Thad Matta, who’s said he used the Michigan State model to lift Ohio State’s national status.

“Rivalries are built on two good teams that are playing for something, and us and Ohio State have played for a lot of Big Ten championships,” Izzo said. “This better not become just another game.”

Said Matta: “I would say that they’re up there. The funny thing, what I’ve found in 10 years in the Big Ten is everybody’s a rival.”

The Buckeyes and Spartans have won or shared six of the past nine Big Ten titles and split the series 10-10 during the Matta era. It’s now the biggest game in the best basketball conference. The latest chapter was an overtime classic Tuesday night. 

“There’s been some great games, most of them have gone right down to the wire,” Izzo said. “I think it’s been a good, clean hard-fought rivalry.”

It appears that same competitiveness will spill over to the football field. Michigan State football coach Mark Dantonio won a national championship as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator in 2002 and has taken the same Tressel-like approach to football in East Lansing. Michigan State has two 11-win seasons under Dantonio and just finished 13-1 with a Rose Bowl championship.

Prior to the Big Ten title game, Dantonio said the Spartans were still in the process of the climb. Now, it’s reached the apex. The only thing left to accomplish is winning a national title. For the foreseeable future, the biggest roadblock on that trail is the Buckeyes and vice-versa.

“I think a rivalry can start,” Ohio State defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “I think a rivalry is built on teams giving each other a hard time year in and year out. I know we give them a hard time and they give us a hard time.”

An offshoot of the budding rivalry is Michigan State’s poaching of Ohio’s rich talent. The football team featured 27 Ohioans, seven of which were starters. The most significant was quarterback Connor Cook, the ringleader in the takedown in Indianapolis. The basketball roster contains three Ohioans, including Adreian Payne. Dantonio and Izzo both know the value Ohio carries and recruit the state heavily.  

“Being an Ohio kid and not being accepted by Ohio State, it was kind of tough because that’s where all my family wanted me to go,” said Michigan State linebacker Denicos Allen, who stopped Braxton Miller on 4th-and-2 in the Big Ten Championship Game. “My friends, everybody I grew up with wanted me to go to Ohio State. To tell them they didn’t want me kind of hurt them, kind of upset them, so it’s personal to me. It’s always been personal ever since 2010.”

The basketball rivalry is built largely on respect. Matta and Izzo are friendly with one another, never afraid to compliment the other and point out accomplishments. In fact, Matta said one of his favorite activities associated with playing the Spartans is the handshake with Izzo.

“When you go into a game and you’re coaching against a Hall of Fame coach, I enjoy the handshake,” Matta said. “I always get a couple of nuggets of wisdom in terms of this profession and how hard it is.”

The same cheery attitude doesn’t translate to the gridiron. There was video-gate between the two coaching staffs in 2012 after Michigan State accused Ohio State of not including all of its plays in game tapes. Prior to that, Pat Narduzzi accused Meyer of breaking recruiting rules.

But they, as well as both schools’ fan bases, can agree on one thing: they hate the University of Michigan.


Comments Show All Comments

Doc's picture

I don't give a damn for the whole state of michigan!  Izzo acted like a spoiled baby last night.  Any other coach, in amy other arena would hae been "T'ed" up for his shinanigans last night.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W


Going to start referring to Sparty as TOTUN (That Other Team Up North)

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

mshaf's picture

Why did Craft not play football ? That kid is tough.

UFest57's picture

He did up through his JR year in HS. Sat out SR year to focus on bball/prevent injury. He was a stud for Liberty Benton HS in Findlay.

Blackbeards Delight's picture

Man it looked like some contact on the forearm on that last layup attempt in regulation. Got to make that layup. They're not calling anything that will decide the outcome of the game at that point. Well unless someone gets shanked and they might have to review that

"Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23yr, it's what's for breakfast"

- Me


IBleedSandG's picture

I posted the same thing on Bucknuts last night. It could have been called, but at that point in the game, the refs are gonna let them play (kinda like the game @ TTUN last year when Craft was fouled by Hardaway and they didn't call anything) Slam came in for the put-back dunk, but Payne knocked the ball away. So close to going in, So close to a dunk, so close to goaltending. Arrrgggh. I wanted that comeback win. I stood in my living room pacing around from the last 8 minutes of the game (regulation and OT).
Now that I think about it, why didn't Scott just try to dunk it? I don't think I've ever seen him throw on down, but based on his athletic ability, I'd be shocked if he couldn't. It's to bad he couldn't slow up and initiate some contact w/ Appling and try to draw a foul.


BamaBuckeye144's picture

I think he was trying to get the foul rather than the layup. Used the wrong hand (right) and should have been using his left. He gave that MSU player all he needed to block it. Play for the basket, not the foul!!


BucksfanXC's picture

I would love the MSU/OSU rivalry to flare up. It means both teams are doing well and have mutual respect for each other. Those are my two favorite teams. I grew up and continue to be a huge Buckeye fan, but I went to MSU for 7 years and I have a lot of love tied to MSU. Always cheer for both until they play each other, then I'm pure Buckeye. I wore my S&G into Breslin last night and my wife's made sure I was heckled plenty. Great game and many more to come.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

PhillyBuckeye27's picture

I was glad that Thad benched LSJ when he did and allowed Loving the minutes.  Kid is gonna be great - and LSJ, he is what he is.....which is INCREDIBLY inconsistent!

Buckeye1004's picture

Muck Fichigan!  The whole damn state!  TTUN, their little brother.
I liked TOTUN but it doesn't go far enough.  How about:
TTUNLB - that team up north's little brother!
March 9th - Payback time!  I can't wait!
Go Buckeyes!   O   H

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

A Rose Bowl victory combined with Ohio State’s defeat in the Orange Bowl could signal a changing of the guard atop the Big Ten.

MSU is 2-8 against Ohio State in their last 10 meetings. One of those victories came against an Ohio State team that was without JT, Pryor, Posey, and Boom. Lets pump the brakes.

Next season’s November matchup in East Lansing will be the conference’s most anticipated game of 2014.

Nope. That still belongs M*chigan.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Poison nuts's picture

I agree that OSU vs MSU will be the conference's (as well as those outside the conference) most anticipated game next year, while TTUN will always be the most anticipated game for OSU. 

"Do not pass me, just slow down - I can move right through you" Superchunk - Precision Auto.

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

I think MSU will have 1 or 2 losses by the time they play Ohio State. I would say 3, but I think ND dropped them from the schedule.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Notre Dame dropped _ichigan from their schedule, not Sparty.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Who knows?  MSU is on ND's schedule for 2016.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

IBleedSandG's picture

This X2


dwcbuckeye's picture

Totally agree with this poster as well.  Sparty in football is an overachiever.  That is a great thing to have.  When we played them and calling out the defense in particular, we are underachievers.  That is not going to stay that way for too long.  Hopefully my next year we will play to potential and soon after that maybe the Bucks can be overachievers as well.  With the talent we have  coming into the pipeline, Sparty will not match up well in the future.  So, not too concerned.  And if we struggle with them, then we deserve it because we are underachieving. 

immort9888's picture

I have always hated Sparty.  They have now stole two chances to play for football National Championships, 1998 and 2013.  Additionally, Nick Saban coached them.  I hate them.  I have always hated them.  I actually almost smiled when I heard the news that Plaxico Burress shot himself.  I've never thought guns were funny at all, but that is how much I hate Sparty and Plaxico.  When John L. Smith went psycho on television at halftime of the 2005 game, I couldn't have been happier.    
With that said, I hate TTUN more. 

SaudiBuckeye's picture

And I remember the controversial end to the '74 game which ruined a perfect season and a #1 ranking.

Thomas's picture

I don't know why, but I absolutely love this team. 

Doc's picture

I agree.  Craft is so fun to watch for obvious reasons.  Then we have Q, who is rounding into form and Lenzelle.  I think Slam has taken his game to another level.  His defense this year is better and so is his rebounding.  He still needs to work on his jumper, but his 3 to tie it last night was pretty.  Loving is going to be a beast, if he sticks around more than one year.  Della Valle is fun to watch as well.  He is buying in on the defensive side of the ball and is opening up his game to be more than a three point specialist.  I'm not sold yet on Amir and Trey.  They need to develop into a presence in the post, but they have potential. This is going to be a fun season to watch.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

Thomas's picture

Yup, to everything. If Slam can get a consistent jump shot, he will be an all around fantastic player. Amir does annoy me sometimes, but overall he has gotten better. Loving is going to be a monster in the future. 

IBleedSandG's picture

Since his freshman year, I've though Slam has had a really nice looking shot. He gets great lift, and it's just smooth. Scott's is pretty nice too. I'd honestly rather have those two take a few more threes than LSJ. Smith jacks up some pretty bad ones from time to time.


Buckeye Scottie's picture

Disagree with Q rounding into form.  Against the best comp to date, he looked like a grade-schooler and lost nearly ALL of his mins to a Frosh.  I thought Q played turrible.  Amir did too in the first half.  1-legged Payne kicked his tail.  Luckily for Amir, he came out in the 2nd half with a 'tude and made up for it.  But I was thoroughly disappointed in Q.

IBleedSandG's picture

I was very proud of the team last night. Sparty made 11 threes (including one from Payne that hit the front of the rim, bounced of the glass, and went in) and we turned it over 21 times and still hung around and had a shot to pull it out.
Q has got to play with more energy on defense. He'll follow his shot and offensive rebound all day, but he won't even try to block a guy out on d.
Amir would have had a couple more dunks if he could just catch the flippin ball. He is so infuriating to watch, at times, because I think he is pretty talented, but his head is sometimes elsewhere.
One theme I have noticed a number of times this year is 3-5 times a game, a Buckeye player will come down and chuck up a 3 when they are 4 seconds into a possession. It's usually LSJ, sometimes Scott and ADV will do it when he gets in there. None of the guys on this team shoot it well enough (sans Q when he is on) to do something like that. Especially when we don't hit the offensive boards very hard.
After seeing the Bucks play a legit top 10 team on the road, I feel pretty good about where they are at this point in the season.


PhillyBuckeye27's picture

My favorites are when LSJ runs down the court, chucks a 3 (usually a brick unless it's against mediocre competition) and there is NO ONE under the basket......he is good for one / two of those EVERY GAME.....and he's a senior......sigh
My prediction (for what it's worth) is LSJ's minutes go down as the season goes on and Lovings goes up.....WAY WAY WAY more upside with Marc then with LSJ

Seattle Linga's picture

T'd up for Izzo or more importantly - getting a foul call on the last shot in regulation - either way we win - very disappointing

Barnsey69's picture

This team is special no matter what because Aaron Craft wears that uniform. I can't say enough about how great he is, so I'll just "Mancrush-Up" and enjoy the ride.

Thank the Maker that I was born in Ohio, cradle of coaches, US Presidents, confederate-stomping Generals, and home of The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes- 2014 UNDISPUTED National Champions!

dwcbuckeye's picture

I don't have a problem with Michigan State.  In fact I am actually very proud of what they have been able to accomplish  in both football and basketball.  This elevates the B10.  I was one of the very few in the bar in SF that was cheering for them over Stanford.  I respect what they have been able to do with the talent they have.  They make the most of what they got and do right by their kids.  No animosity from me here.  Pump it if you want, but not going to happen.  Rivalry is fine, but not going to have the animosity that one feels from playing the other team up North, not even close. 

RedStorm45's picture

Why does Izzo get a pass?  He went all Bob Knight last night and grabbed Valentine (or someone else) forcefully by his jersey.  If it was anyone but Izzo the national media would be all over him today.

BoFuquel's picture

Won't you ever get it? It's not the team up north. WE DON"T GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE WHOLE STATE UP NORTH, and everything that pertains there to. Weren't you listening when Woody set us straight on this matter in 1954, and it was to never, no not ever change. It never ceases to amaze me how much reverence and respect is given to these slime balls. They are nothings but the dregs of society, and nothing more.It,s 11:13 AM 1-8-2014 and TSUN still sucks. GO BUCKS!

I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then.

Larryp713's picture

I was very proud of the way the Buckeyes compete. I think this is a great basketball team, and they can definitely be in the mix for the National title if they get hot toward the end of the year.



chowoon97's picture

This season MSU is good enough to play in the final 4.
After this season, Gary Harris, Appling, Payne are gone, and they did not get good recruits. 
(Tom Izzo became a terrible recruiter after missing Jabari Parker)
But we got loaded recruiting class. Next year, the buckeyes will be much better than the Sparty.

RedStorm45's picture

Izzo became a terrible recruiter for missing out on one guy? Huh?

chowoon97's picture

Their senior class and Gary Harris will be gone after this season. So 2014 class is really important to MSU. But they are not even in top 25 recruiting class from every recruiting site. Missing out Jabari Parker hurt the momentum of MSU recruiting.

RedStorm45's picture

Matta missed on Parker and others.  Did he also "become a terrible recruiter?"

chowoon97's picture

No. We doubted Matta's recruiting last two years, but he came back as a great recruiter with Top 3 class. Do you think that Tom Izzo is currently a good recruiter? He missed out Cliff Alexander, Tyler Ulis, Michigan guy James Young, and so on. No doubt on his coaching, but poor recruiting will hurt them. 

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

I might not be in popular territory here...but I believe that the loss last night was a good thing. We need to understand that we can't just not show up for a half and expect our talents to be able to turn any game around. It's a full 40 minute game and I hope they get that after losing last night.

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

Crumb's picture

We don't give a dang for the WHOLE state of *ichigan. WE'RE from O-HI-O! While I detest Sparty for these two latest losses, they still don't hold a candle to the wolverats. I'd rather be 12-2 with Gold Pants then 13-1 without em.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Ebvine96's picture

Hated this team the first 3/4 of the game but the last 1/4 showed me something.  I hate "moral victories" but this game hopefully goes a long way to building towards a strong finish in March.  Is their a more underrated coach in CBB than Matta.  Love this guy.  Absolutely has no problem benching Smith or Ross for Loving.  Does not play favorites.