This is a difficult post to write without feeling it'll upset some Spartan fans, but, so be it. I think this is something that needs to be said. This all began for me with a simple question. Is there a way to empirically prove that the MSU fanbase is no longer little brother?
See, it's not the team I worry about with the little brother thing.
The team is coming off of three straight victories against a terrible, bad and so-so Michigan team respective to 2008, 2009 and 2010. Despite Jerel Worthy's choices in arm decoration, the focus of this team is to win the Big Ten again. Not beat Michigan above all other things. Michigan is an important stop en route, but this isn't 2007 with the most over-hyped countdown clock in the history of time, nor is it 2009 where we kept 2/3rds of our defensive playbook scuttled away while going 2-2 including a loss to Central so Tater could show up in EL and be completely lost. This game will be approached by our coaching staff with a little extra verve, but this is not Michigan State Football's Super Bowl anymore.
So I posted a twitter poll and a poll on spartanmag with the question, would you as an MSU fan rather Beat Michigan or Go to a Bowl Game? Results can be found on MLive here through twitter responder Patrick Walters or on the Underground Bunker here. So, I woke up in the morning and decided I asked the wrong question. The value of a bowl is variable, i.e. the Pizza Pizza Bowl != Rose Bowl. So I decided to re-ask the question as "Would you rather Beat Michigan or Play in the B1G Title Game?". This fixes the value of the game and provides a choice for the top agenda item of the team. As of the time of this writing it's currently 45 percent for Beating Michigan, 43 percent for playing for the Big Ten title and 8 percent voting for Perot. On MLive, it's 65% for Beat Michigan and 35 for win a bowl game. On SpartanMag it's 83 percent for Beat Michigan and 11 percent for Win a Bowl Game, with the remainder doing the Tenacious D "Can't Decide, Brain Aneurysm".
Even this question and sampling are a bit flawed. For starter's the two outcomes of the question are not mutually exclusive, rather a victory over Michigan likely will put the Winner in the catbird's seat to play in the B1G Title Game in 2011. Second, frankly this blog draws a lot less water than either MLive or Spartanmag.com. So our sample size is pretty small. However, I don't think that either of these points is enough to rob the question of it's validity. The question is: Is beating Michigan the number one priority of Michigan State football fans?
Rivalries are not about what happens on the field, they're about what happens with the fanbases, media and season outcomes off the field. Go back and look at the infamous MGoBlog Juggalo Post. The real complaining is about fans, not our team. Think about every Ohio State fan you've ever met. Every single one. They're all dickheads and probably wife beaters. My wife spent a few years in the marching band and they stopped going to Columbus because they kept getting hit with batteries. Michigan-OSU rose to prominence because the coaches hated each other and the winner won the Big 10 every year. None of that has to do with the actual game outside of the fact it provides the fodder on which the rivalry is based.
Beating Michigan is a critical piece of the puzzle particularly if Brady Hoke brings Michigan back. We'll be competing with them for the right to go to the Big Ten title game, but if we ever want to empirically prove we're no longer "Little Brother" as fans, the idea of putting ourselves in a position to win the Big Ten has to be the foremost goal of the program and the measuring stick of success for the fans each year.
If we lose Saturday, we're not again relegated to the role of little brother as fans or as a team for that matter. The team has a chance to still accomplish it's goal of winning the Big Ten. Bielema is a meathead and I think he'll lose in EL next weekend (I'm not backing down on this one for reasons I'll go into next week). The Huskers just lost Jared Crick for the season and are looking beatable. While MSU's schedule isn't favorable, it isn't impossible either. The fans get relegated to the role of little brother if we go to the Citrus Bowl, win and come home all Sad Panda about how we suck because we didn't beat Michigan.
This weekend, I hope we stomp all over Michigan, but it's mostly because I want us to be playing for the right to go to the Rose Bowl in December. That's my Super Bowl now. The MSU football team is no longer Little Brother. They've won three years in a row and have set their sights on the Rose Bowl and Michigan is a slightly larger than normal piece of that. After the results of several polls have come in to measure this question, can it be said that MSU fans have moved past little Brother status? I think not, but I didn't say it, you guys did.