If there’s two things we like here in Big 10 country, it’s pork and Paul Bunyan. Take a look at the list of Big 10 rivalry trophies and tell me I’m wrong. But for us here at Sports Squared, one obscure trophy will always stand above the rest — the one we wish to reside permanently in the Spartans trophy case, and upon whose shoulders all football glory rests — The Paul Bunyan. Paul is intended to be a symbol of Michigan’s logging and lumber history — he was the greatest lumberjack of all time, after all.
Michigan State Center Jeff Stipek hoists the Paul Bunyan. A glorious site. (Photo annarbor.com)
Rivalry: Michigan State vs. the University of Michigan
Introduced: 1953, when MSU joined the Big 10
All-time record: 34-22-2, in favor of U of M
Current holder: Your Michigan State University Spartans
Status: Has been held by MSU for three years straight, rivalry ongoing as MSU and U-M are both in the new Big 10 “Legends” division.
Despite what Wolverines may tell you, the history of the Paul Bunyan is marked by long periods of dominance by both teams, For example, MSU dominated for nearly two decades from 1950-1969, going 14-4-2. Similarly, U of M holds a 18-game winning streak in the series, from 1916-1933. In more recent times, U of M defeated the Spartans six consecutive years from 2002-2007, and Michigan State is currently on a three-game winning streak. [Note: It has also been more than 1,000 days since the University of Michigan defeated MSU in football or basketball.]
The Paul Bunyan trophy is not to be confused with Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the rivalry trophy for the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota.
Again, despite Wolverine claims to the contrary, the Paul Bunyan Trophy is the prize in one of the most heated rivalries in college football. It’s produced some amazing games, including the Spartans last second comeback win in East Lansing in 2001, the epic 3-overtime game in 2004 in Ann Arbor, and Michigan’s epic comeback or the Spartans horrible collapse in East Lansing in 2007 (depending on who you root for — damn you Manningham!) MSU racked up another overtime win in 2009, the second in its current 3-game win streak. This year, the Spartans managed to tackle Denard Robinson out of his shoes on the way to defeating the Wolverines at home.
In light of yesterday’s events and our 24-hours of schadenfreude at the U of M athletic program (look, we lived through John L. Smith, we get to giggle a little at the RichRod saga), it’s worth noting that U-M’s third consecutive defeat to MSU was probably no small part in RR’s eventual firing. The program also got a shout-out from athletic director Dave Brandon as a “red-letter game,” mentioned in the same breath as The Game vs. Ohio State. There may have been a time when this wasn’t a “rivalry” because U of M just expected to win, but with Paul in East Lansing, it’s clear those times are coming to an end.