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Who are the state’s biggest college rivals

Michigan-Michigan State is tops, but there are many other good athletic rivals

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Posted: Friday, September 26, 2014 12:45 pm

Rivals. All colleges have them.

 What makes a good rivalry? Answering such a question isn’t a precise science. Most good ones have a few qualities that create the rivalry. First, the distance between the schools can enhance any battle. The closer, the better. Second, the more evenly matched the teams, the better as well. Third, a long history is another nice mixer. Finally, another good ingredient is what the game usually means to both teams. Does the game usually determine a league champion?

 With it being college football season, we thought we’d look at some of the state’s best rivalries among other state schools (sorry Michigan and Ohio State).

A state divided — U of M vs. MSU

 This is easily the state’s biggest rival game. The teams first played in 1898 and have played every year since 1945. For decades, Michigan fans would be quick to mention this wasn’t even their biggest rival during the course of a football season. Let’s be honest, the Wolverines’ fans were probably right. After all, Michigan holds a decisive 68-33-5 record advantage against the Spartans. Recognition of this fact created what has become the most famous term used in this battle over the last decade when past Michigan player Mike Hart called the Spartans Michigan’s “little brother.”

 However, since Hart’s comment, how life has changed. The once dominant Wolverines have become a meek program, while the Spartans are now looked upon as one of the top 10 football programs in America. Michigan State has won five of the last six games, with three of those wins by at least 14 points. The Paul Bunyan Trophy, the hardware given to the winner of the annual contest, has spent a lot of time in East Lansing lately, and Michigan fans are fed up. Now, this game is Michigan’s most important on the schedule.

The Mid-American Conference’s

biggest rivalry — CMU vs. WMU

 Being a Central Michigan University grad, it’s my favorite rivalry, and it’s the unquestioned best rivalry among the Michigan MAC schools. The Chippewas and Broncos have done battle 88 times and have played consecutively since 1974. Western holds a 45-37-2 overall record against the Chippewas, but since the end of World War II, Central has the edge, earning 36 wins to Western’s 28.

The GLIAC match-ups

 With eight Michigan-based teams in the Division 2 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and all of them in the same division, it’s easy to see why every game feels like a rivalry contest. However, some are bigger than others. In our quest to figure out which one is the biggest, we’ll go with the Northern Michigan vs. Michigan Tech game. Why? Both are located in the Upper Peninsula. The rivalry has been around since 1920, with the teams facing 87 times. And guess what? They’ve both won 41 times (five ties). You can’t find a more balanced rivalry.

 Another good one is the battle of the Valleys — Grand Valley State University and Saginaw Valley State. For over a decade, the student bodies have found a way to use the rivalry to compete in a charity fundraising competition, meaning many good causes also benefit from the annual contest.

MIAA’s biggest rivals don’t even play football — Calvin vs. Hope

 The biggest rivalry in the Division III Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) is an easy answer. It’s Calvin-Hope. Yet, Calvin doesn’t even have a football team. How can this be? The Calvin-Hope men’s basketball games routinely draw the largest Division III game attendances of any given season.

 In fact, in 1997 the teams drew 11,447 fans to one game, a Division III record. In 2005, ESPN did a poll to find the largest college basketball rivals, and Calvin-Hope ranked fourth on the list. The schools are located about 30 miles apart and considering one of the two schools have earned at least a co-MIAA title for 34 of the last 35 years, the games always have great league title significance.

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