The second installment of the Michigan-Michigan State series takes us to 2008. For the preceding 39 seasons, Michigan had been coached by descendants of the Bo Schembechler coaching tree, and those coaches produced fairly consistent success, including one perfect season, one national championship, 20 seasons in which Michigan won or tied for the Big Ten championship, and last but not least, pretty consistent success against Michigan State, with the Wolverines winning 30 of the previous 39 games. This produced an expectation of success against the Spartans.
All of that changed in 2008. Having been befuddled on several occasions by coaches who ran the spread offense, Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez, a spread guru, as its new head coach. Both sides will debate the reasons, but the Rodriguez regime didn’t produce the results that Michigan fans and alumni were anticipating. Conversely, Michigan State chose the opposite path, and had hired Mark Dantonio as its head coach the year before. Dantonio brought a basic I-formation offense back to Michigan State, and his focus on the power running game probably should have concerned Michigan from the outset. In 2007, Michigan defeated Michigan State with a classic comeback victory, prompting an exchange of comments in the media between Michigan running back Mike Hart and Dantonio. The rivalry probably would have experienced a shift at that point anyway, but Hart’s comments probably didn’t help matters.
Once the game started, it featured an interesting call, which is consistent with many of the games in this series. Running back Brandon Minor caught a pass and got his foot on a pylon, but it was initially ruled incomplete. After a review, the play was ruled a touchdown, which the network broadcast later said was incorrect. Ultimately, it didn’t matter much. Michigan State seized control the game in the final quarter, and came away with a 35-21 win, signaling the beginning of a Spartan green trend in the series.
Sadly, Rich Rodriguez never did figure out how to win in this series.