Wolverines, Spartans flipping rivalry roles these days, searching for their own statements Saturday

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It’s not a Cragislist ad per se, or a flier advising of a criminal on the loose needing reigned in, but WANTED this week in East Lansing is a big, burly man in flannel yielding an axe.

Michigan and Michigan State play this weekend for a rivalry in odd spots. The top 10 ranked Spartans are coming off of a B1G championship and are favored by nearly 20 points against cross state rival Michigan. Last weekend, with Ohio State looming only two weeks away, Michigan was referred to as a “trap game” for the Spartans, because that’s where we’re at right now, apparently.

Don’t expect Sparty to let off the gas. Hatred for Michigan is either in-born when you are birthed to a MSU family or becomes a prerequisite question on the college application for admittance.

It’s an odd rivalry of sorts, one that has always felt like a guy dating multiple women and one of them frustrated that she can’t get the undivided attention of the guy, so everything gets taken to extremes to get him to notice.

The girl Michigan is normally obsessing over is Ohio State, while Sparty sits in the bedroom playing The Bangles on loop and throwing darts at a smiling photo of the Block M. Or this week, spray painting it green, as happened on campus one would assume by an MSU fan but the way Michigan is going, self mutilation can’t really be totally discounted.

Well, recently, the girl has gotten the guy’s attention and for lack of a better analogy, is meeting up with that Ohio State girl and talking about that Michigan guy isn’t worth the time and they should both lose his number.

No matter, the hate is no less palpable, MSU promising that there is no record, situation, or season where you let off the gas against Michigan while Michigan as per usual gives measured statements that make you want to say, “show some damn fierceness. This is a rivalry, and you’re supposed to lose by 100. Bulletin board material isn’t going to be the reason you win or lose.”

In an odd twist of events, Michigan fans are just sort of in “sigh, let’s just get through it” mode and by Saturday night there will be the all-too-usual wailing and grinding of teeth and then the “I support my school no matter what! #GoBlue” faction.

After last year, could it get much worse for Michigan? If you walked a yard from your bed to the door today when you got up, that’s 49 more yards rushing than the Wolverines had last year. Sparty’s defense isn’t quite as fierce this year, but the offense is much better and capable of carrying the team if need be.

Michigan’s offense is somehow worse. Devin Gardner figures to be harassed for the full summation of the time he’s in there this Saturday.

The rivalry has an odd aura to it this time, Michigan wishing they could just hit the fast forward button to whatever is coming after this season, just so long as it’s not this season again. Michigan State still Michigan State, a team that perhaps better than any other in the nation finds ways to come out playing disrespected even when they might not be.

That’s a hell of a quiver to have in your arrow if you can conjure that up consistently, especially as the tables have turned and Sparty, not the Wolverines, are picked over with a fine-toothed comb every week as they meander around the CFB Playoff talk.

Can Michigan win? Sure. As long as you get off the bus and show up, you’ve got a chance. Is it likely? That’s for you odds makers to define. Either way, the tables have turned. The program used to walking into this game wary of having a statement made against it has become the one desperately looking up at their rivals and hoping with a little good fortune, maybe they can make a program-changing statement of their own.

Or whether they’ll be sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring on Friday night, with neither girl worried about them enough to bother checking in to see what’s up.