Can Jonathan Smith bring the juice back to Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry?

The Michigan State-Michigan Rivalry has always been fierce, on both sides, but in the last couple of years, it has gone a bit stale. Both programs have been trending in opposite directions. With new football coaches at both schools, a new era for the rivalry feels destined.
Michigan State v Michigan
Michigan State v Michigan / Rey Del Rio/GettyImages

The Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry is arguably one of the most heated rivalries in sports, despite how some in the Wolverine fan base treat it.

Call me crazy, but in my humble opinion, Spartans truly care more about this rivalry than Wolverines.

Over the last several years, hatred from both fanbases and in some cases the head coach of that other school, has made this rivalry into a joke.

For the ugliness that played out under Mel Tucker in his final two seasons in East Lansing, he bought into the rivalry his first two seasons which ended in wins in both 2020 and 2021.

The Wolverine faithful can say Spartans made the rivalry toxic, but that is far from the truth, all they did was continue the tradition of beating Michigan which Mark Dantonio started.

Things turned sour in 2022 when the teams met in Ann Arbor, and the infamous tunnel incident occurred. Were the Spartan players in the wrong for swinging a helmet, and ganging up on Michigan players? Sure, but they weren't the only ones at fault.

As for the real toxicity in the rivalry the one to blame for that should be the now-former Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. What he had to say about the Spartan players in the tunnel and the team as a whole and calling for players to be thrown in jail only caused more problems.

Yes, the Spartans have had it rough the past two seasons, and last year's 49-0 loss summed that up. Still, the 2023 Michigan State team never really had a chance given all of the off-field issues surrounding Tucker.

With new head coaches on both sides, Sherrone Moore at Michigan and Jonathan Smith for the Spartans, things feel a lot different surrounding the rivalry. Their recent favorite line is to throw "49-0" around, and by all means, do it. But don't forget where your overconfidence got you last time

As Dantonio famously said, "Pride comes before the fall."

I can't preface it enough, I've seen this same story all my life, Michigan players and fans will run their mouths, and they have every right to do so, but deep down we all know what happens when you count out the Spartans.

Smith has already started dabbling in recruiting battles against his new top rival and that's a huge step in the right direction. He is buying into the rivalry, and he's exactly the right guy to juice it up like Dantonio did.