Starting from upper left corner and working generally around:
- The Michigan State fan. Loud. Grumpy. Aggrieved. Might have long hair long after it was considered fashionable or advisable, but does not recognize any accepted definition of either. Feeds on disrespect and meats. Classified: Is secretly also just the Michigan fan, but pre-Ann Arbor indoctrination.
- The Road. Eating each other for no benefit but survival in gruesome, grey circumstances devoid of life is a mood, and that mood is Michigan/Michigan State. As in the book, Michigan/Michigan State did feature the eating of a baby at one point. That baby’s name? Denard Robinson.
- Stalingrad. Cold, mean, bitter, hand-to-hand, pointless, and between two sides who would never respect each other. A World War Two reference, which Michigan grads would appreciate; Involves one side who used alcohol in place of food, which Michigan State fans would relate to deeply.
- “Little Brother.” The main dynamic for the current state of the Michigan State/Michigan rivalry started with the seed planted by Michigan running back Mike Hart in 2007. After a 28-24 Wolverines win, Hart referred to Michigan State as being like Michigan’s “little brother”. Michigan State took that seed and farmed up a bumper crop of motivational disrespect, carefully nurtured by Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State fanbase who — already deeply sensitive about the Spartans existing in the shadow of Michigan — took it and ran hard with it. Since then, Michigan has gone 2-8 in the series, and never, ever give Mark Dantonio so much as a single match to light his Disrespect-scented Yankee Candle. ITS FRAGRANCE DRIVES THE TEAM WILD.
- Throwing bricks. It’s metaphorical, and yet also very literal. The game will be a low-scoring affair settled with blunt-force trauma and bad kicks, and also your mom will get arrested for throwing a brick at someone at the tailgate.
- The Paul Bunyan trophy. Really that’s just here to a.) remind everyone there is actually a trophy, and b.) Damn Paul looks like a whole entire snack in this trophy, man. Look at those thighs. He’s smiling because he just had life-altering sex with your mom, or your dad, or both of them. The Paul Bunyan Trophy redefined what sexual satisfaction could mean for your parents, and they’re grateful.
- Two rams butting heads.
- Three skulls. Because if this were a casino slot machine, this is what would come up when you pull the lever on Michigan/Michigan State. This casino is in the back room of a dingy gas station in Ypsilanti. The proprietor is The Devil.
- A Michigan player getting hammered in the backfield by a Michigan State player. Self-explanatory. This entire rivalry is built around a celebration of nullities and nullifications. The Connect-Four of games, if you will, because both sides will struggle to string together four good events in a row on offense.
- Jim Harbaugh looking angry and confused. 1-2 against Sparty, including one of the worst full-speed running start nutkicks I have ever seen in a college football game: The 2015 game that ended on a botched Michigan punt returned for a game-winning Michigan State touchdown after the Wolverines led for the entire game to that point.
- Shock and horror. This is the face of a Michigan fan watching the end of that 2015 game. Like I said: A punt to the balls so hard you’d swear you saw their heels come off the ground a little on impact.
- Vandalism. A sign of the savagery this game elicits: Even Michigan fans, stripped of all civilization by hatred, gleefully embrace defacing property. Yes, property, the cornerstone of all basic legal theory! It’s enough to make one drop an NPR tote bag in shock.
- Burning shit. Mostly a Michigan State thing, but they’ve won eight out of the last ten so it happens a lot, and they’re also good enough at it to satisfy two teams’ allotment of incinerated furniture.