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The MSU vs Michigan football game hasn’t been played this late in the season in 91 years

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 20 Michigan at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is the content you crave.

Meaningless. Useless. Mildly interesting but not really.

A friend of mine mentioned to me the other day that the Michigan State vs Michigan football game is as late as it’s ever been this season. So I thought I’d check it out.

Turns out he was mostly correct.

This season’s Michigan vs Michigan State game is scheduled for November 16, 2019. It hasn’t been played that late in the season since 1928 when it was played on November 17.

The only other time the MSU/UM game has been played later than it will be played this upcoming season was in 1918 when it kicked off on November 23.

After figuring out the answer to that question, it got me to wondering – when have Michigan State and Michigan historically played their annual game?

After pouring over the data, the first part of the answer is clear: definitely not in September and definitely not in November.

Out of the 111 times that MSU and Michigan have played football against each other, the two teams have met in November only 14 times and September only nine times.

In the late 40s and early 50s, the date of choice was the last Saturday in September (and then again in 1998 as a one-off):

  • 9/27/1941
  • 9/29/1945
  • 9/27/1947
  • 9/25/1948
  • 9/24/1949
  • 9/30/1950
  • 9/29/1951
  • 9/27/1952
  • 9/26/1998

The November dates were randomly distributed throughout the first half of the 20th century with only one or two games per decade falling in November. But then 40 straight years went by before the game was played in November again. In fact, half of the November dates have happened since 1995 (all of which were the first Saturday in November):

  • 11/23/1918
  • 11/4/1922
  • 11/17/1928
  • 11/14/1931
  • 11/9/1946
  • 11/14/1953
  • 11/13/1954
  • 11/4/1995
  • 11/2/1996
  • 11/3/2001
  • 11/2/2002
  • 11/1/2003
  • 11/3/2007
  • 11/2/2013

So, obviously, the vast majority of the MSU/Michigan games – 88 – have occurred in October. But when in October? I’m glad you asked:

  • The first Saturday in October: 24 times (21.6%)
  • The second Saturday in October: 42 times (37.8%)
  • The third Saturday in October: 15 times (13.5%)
  • The fourth/fifth Saturday in October: 7 times (6.3%)

Here’s a seventh-grade graph depicting that data:

The distribution of MSU/UM football games by date. Pretty useless information, really.
David Harns

Another interesting tidbit ... here are the dates on which the most Michigan vs MSU games have been played over the last 121 years:

  • October 12 – nine times
  • October 9 – eight times
  • October 8 – seven times

What’s coming up? Pretty much more of the same. The next six years will see these two teams play one time on the first/third/fourth Saturday in October, twice on the second Saturday in October, and once on the first Saturday in November:

  • 2020 — at MSU on October 10
  • 2021 — at Michigan on October 16
  • 2022 — at MSU on October 22
  • 2023 — at Michigan on October 7
  • 2024 — at MSU on November 2
  • 2025 — at Michigan on October 11

USELESS FACT I DISCOVERED WHILE LOOKING INTO THIS: While the vast majority of the games – 81 – have been played on the first three Saturdays in October (October 1-21), the two teams have never met on October 19. The next time October 19 falls on a Saturday is in 2030. If it doesn’t happen then, the next chance will be in 2041.

IMPORTANT FACT: While it has nothing to do with the main point of this article, it should be noted that – of the two teams – Michigan has never played a conference game in December while Michigan State has played three of them. The Spartans are 2-1 in December, having lost in 2011 to Wisconsin, but with victories in 2013 (over Ohio State) and 2015 (over Iowa). Michigan might play a conference game in December some day.