Best Moments in Michigan vs. Michigan State College Football Rivalry

The Big Ten Conference has plenty of trophy games to go around, with the Paul Bunyan Trophy going to the winner of one of the most heated rivalries in not just the Midwest but all of college football, when the Michigan Wolverines take on the Michigan State Spartans for Mitten State supremacy.

The rivalry has had moments on and off the field, especially since 2007. It’s a series that began in 1898, but the Paul Bunyan trophy was not introduced until 1953 to mark  MSU’s acceptance into the Big Ten.

This year the Paul Bunyan game will take place in Ann Arbor at Michigan Stadium on October 29th.  

Here’s a look at one of the Big Ten’s best rivalries:

All-time record: Michigan leads 71-38-5 (38-29-2 for the Paul Bunyan Trophy)

Record in the last ten meetings: Michigan State leads 6-4

Longest Win Streak: Michigan 14-straight (1916-1929)

Current Streak: Michigan State 2

BEST GAME: Michigan 45, Michigan State 37, 3 OT(2004)

The best game in the series was in 2004, when an underperforming Spartans team faced the 11th-ranked Wolverines. Michigan State held a 27-10 lead with 8:43 left in regulation when Michigan began its comeback. A Garrett Rivas field goal and two Braylon Edwards touchdown catch in less than six minutes of game time sent it to overtime. The Spartans and Wolverines traded field goals, and touchdowns in the first two overtimes before Michigan finally won, thanks to another Edwards TD, which he scored on a 24-yard pass. After the two-point conversion, the Wolverines stopped the Spartans from holding on to Paul Bunyan.

BIGGEST UPSET: Michigan State 24, No. 5 Michigan 15 (1978)

The 1978 edition of the Paul Bunyan game featured a hero that most people will know from his time in Major League Baseball, Kirk Gibson. The Wolverines entered the game ranked fifth in the nation, while the Spartans were 1-3.

Michigan State would go on to shock the Wolverines 24-15 behind 496 yards of offense, including Gibson’s five catches for 82 yards. The Spartans took home Paul Bunyan, for the first time in eight tries, as the victory catapulted them to a seven-game winning streak and a share of the Big Ten title with Michigan.

TOP PERFORMER: RB Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State 2021

It was tough to pick between Kenneth Walker III’s 197-yard, five-touchdown performance in 2021 and Braylon Edward’s 11-catch, 189-yard, three-touchdown heroics in the Michigan comeback in 2004. Walker III’s performance is slightly more impressive given that the Wake Forest transfer did that to the eventual Big Ten champions and a defense that was one of the best in the country.