Rivalry renewed: U-M, MSU fans prep for Saturday showdown

Marsha Chanel, who works at Season Pass along Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville, hangs up a “house divided” flag in the window Tuesday in anticipation of the Michigan-Michigan State college football game Saturday. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

Marsha Chanel, who works at Season Pass along Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville, hangs up a “house divided” flag in the window Tuesday in anticipation of the Michigan-Michigan State college football game Saturday. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — Elvie Walsh will be among the other 109,901 cheering fans this Saturday when she travels to The Big House for the first time.

The St. Joseph resident has never been to a University of Michigan football game before, but is already prepping herself for tailgating with her husband and son ‒ a U-M freshman. Because she owns Mimi’s Cupcakes in downtown St. Joseph, Walsh plans on making some of her Blue Cookie Dough M&Ms cupcakes for tailgaters.

Walsh said her son has been “losing his mind” with how crazy the Wolverines recent resurgence has been. Walsh has been a U-M fan since the couple moved from the south side of Chicago five years ago. She said she’s never been as excited about Michigan football as this year.

“My husband and other son went to a game a few weeks ago,” she said. “They told me ‘you’re not going to believe it, there’s no comparison to it. It’s amazing when you step foot into the stadium.’ I’ve driven past it, but it’s not the same.”

As the No. 7-ranked Michigan State Spartans and No. 12-ranked Wolverines have been inching closer together in the AP Top 25 poll, fans for both teams are up in arms over who is best in the state.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has surprised many fans by the quick turnaround the team has posted in comparison to last season’s 5-7 finish. Those who don the green and white each Saturday couldn’t be happier with the unblemished record MSU coach Mark Dantonio has accumulated halfway through the season.

ESPN has selected the 3:30 p.m. kickoff as this week’s College Gameday selection to watch and even Las Vegas has made things interesting. Despite being a lower-ranked team, the Wolverines are now favored by 8.5 points.

A split in the family

While Fred and Nancy Boyer might not be watching the game quite like Walsh, they’ll still be cheering for the Spartans the same way they always do. From the comfort of their house.

The Coloma couple has been cheering for MSU for more than 40 years because Nancy bleeds green and white.

Growing up near MSU’s campus, Nancy’s father graduated from the School of Agriculture and went on to be a teacher there for three decades. This has helped her choose an allegiance that is not unanimous in the family.

“When I was growing up, my great aunt was a Michigan fan and we were always on the telephone back and forth whenever one of our teams scored,” Nancy said. “That went on for probably 25 years. She’ll be watching it this Saturday, only now she’s 90. She’ll be rooting for blue and we’ll be rooting for green. It’s been a friendly rivalry for us.”

Fred said he was pleased to see U-M hired Harbaugh because that hiring alone helped the Big Ten Conference’s visibility.

Michigan’s recent success has done well to revive the rivalry, Fred says, as MSU has dominated its in-state nemesis the last few years. Of course, Fred thinks Dantonio wears better khakis than Harbaugh.

“I think (the rivalry) is on the upswing, mainly because Michigan has been having a decent season and they both have great followings,” he said. “MSU’s team this year stacks up well, but sometimes I wish they could play a little tougher schedule. Since the Big Ten brings in other schools like Rutgers, they don’t get to play those football powerhouses that would help them in the rankings.”

St. Joseph resident Mark Groenendal said he cheers for U-M because he always has.

He said he likes what Harbaugh has done with the team so far and plans on watching Saturday.

“You can have all the best guys in the world, but if they don’t play like a team, you are not going to go anywhere,” he said. “If all the employees show up (for work on Saturday), we’re going to try to go over to our mom’s house to watch the game.”

Ironically, Groenendal’s mom holds an allegiance toward University of Notre Dame. His family is a mix between the Irish, Spartans and Wolverines.

Despite this, they all share the same feelings for Ohio State, last year’s national champion.

“We try to keep those out of the house,” Groenendal said in reference to Buckeye fans.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Oct. 16, 2015)

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