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Spartan Fan Guide to the College Football Playoff – How do we cheer in this game?

TWO Big Ten teams are in the CFP, neither of them Spartans. Can we handle supporting our rivals?

2022 CFP National Championship - Georgia v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Saturday, December 31st history will be made. Yes, the calendar will click over to a brand new year; apparently CNN’s coverage will be alcohol free; and I will strive to avoid embarrassing myself in my first family focused New Year’s Eve in a….long time. All historic for sure. As a sports fan, and a Big Ten team fan, none of those matter. The achievement that matters is TWO Big Ten teams will play in the College Football National Championship Playoffs.

This may be run of the mill for our SEC colleagues, but for the Big Ten it’s a first. It shows the power of Big Ten football, and the national respect for our programs. Even before we steal/borrow/import part of the Pac-12, the Big Ten is showing its power and depth.

The problem as a Michigan State fan is…. Do we care? And how do we navigate this nightmare where instead of the Spartans playing for the National Championship (or any Bowl Game….but I digress), we are watching our two greatest rivals take that honor.

Let’s start by laying out our options:

A) The Mitten Club: The “all that matters” approach: It may not say State on the banner, but there is a Michigan team in the CFP, and our state Michigan rules all.

B) I love the Big Ten but cannot handle Michigan winning anything: This leaves the fan only the option of supporting Ohio State. Which…. Hurts.

C) Everyone’s Dad’s approach: We support the BIG TEN and hope the National Championship game is an ALL BIG TEN affair.

D) Please dear god anyone but OSU or Michigan: Jumping onto someone else’s bandwagon (admittedly TCU is a FUN story), because we just cannot handle listening to OSU or Michigan fan bases.

E) Wait? College football isn’t over? Yeah…. I’m a Lions superfan now, so I thought that was the only football still going on.

Lets be clear, this is NOT an article about who WILL win the national championship. This is a Spartan’s fan guide to minimizing your pain, watching what will hopefully be some exciting games.

Let’s take each of these options in reverse order (or what I think is my least painful to most panful option).

E) Wait? College football isn’t over

This weekend, Michigan State Football is ….sitting at home. A “disappointing” (I use “disappointing”, as I strive to avoid expletives and/or tears) Spartan college football season left us out of the Bowl Season (in an era with a bowl named for a brand of lawn mowers and literally mayonnaise, it just hurts more). So if college Football Season ended more than a month ago, I respect your denial of reality.

Considering the cross section of Michigan State fans that are more than likely also Lions fans (lapsed? In hiding?), you can’t be blamed if the NFL has overtaken your focus.

If this is your approach, enjoy doing essentially anything other than two “random bowl games that don’t matter”, or treat the games as, “gee those guys in Yellow (or red) look familiar….but whatever, it’s just muzak distracting me from preparing to watch a giant crystal ball fall to the ground.”

This is definitely the most pain free option. Your risk is missing potentially good games. Though the CFP playoff round has featured its fair share of utter blowouts…so maybe you won’t be missing anything?

D) Please dear god anyone but OSU or Michigan

This feels like a popular option. The Sara(h)’s that took over the Only Podcast recently framed this well. They both claimed they are “fueled by hate,” making it impossible to support a rival. It’s a given fact that there are few teams more hate-able for Spartans than Michigan and Ohio State. So this may be a solid option for you.

If this feels good to you, then hate away. Watch each game with joy as our rivals struggle.

Bask in the national recognition that Ohio State is a fraud. Exposed as a team that survived an early season of Game of Thrones level deaths of more deserving programs during conference championship play (seriously USC, you had one job) to squeak into the CFP.

Revel in a Michigan program that will see their head coach implode on the sideline and a defense that will get exposed early.

Or so you can hope. Remember this option comes with supporting an SEC team. Ugh. Perhaps you need to brush up on your bullfrog call.

C) Everyone’s Dad’s approach

I’ll admit I support this approach during basketball season. Particularly in the NCAA tourney, I like seeing other Big Ten teams do well. I believe the Big Ten conference doing well makes Michigan State look better, and sets the stage for a better ranking in the following year.

I’ll also admit… it’s waaaaay harder to adopt this live and let live approach in Football.

Can we really yell go Michigan – while swallowing the word State? Can we really support a school that celebrates nuts?

Are we this pro Big Ten? Are we this nice to our neighbors? Are we going to buy our paraphernalia at Walmart now?

While most likely the “Right” choice when we speak to our parents, this feels fairly panful. Literally, the assignment is to be nice to our rivals. That feels like a lot.

B) I love the Big Ten but cannot handle Michigan winning anything

From little brothers, to Walmart purchased fandom, to stupid podcast comments (I’m looking at you Hunter Dickinson), the potential schadenfreude of supporting Michigan getting absolutely creamed by the little team that could (Bandwagon helpful hint: TCU really are the Bullfrogs), feels like a warm blanket at a November game.

Ohio State may be the most undeserving CFP football participant ever, but at least they are not Michigan.

Plus Ohio State winning embarrasses the SEC. Always a nice bonus.

Ohio State may have gotten absolutely embarrassed at home this year and look susceptible to a major blowout (Georgia may not be last year’s team, but they’re not exactly a poor team), but supporting them means you’re pro Big Ten, magnanimous in your willingness to let a rival win the national championship, and most importantly: THEY ARE NOT MICHIGAN.

This is the “I’m petty, but you know, not THAT petty,” option.

A) The Mitten Club

Living in Michigan brings about a comradery. We may be divided in our fandom and our politics but our great uniting factor is: we despise Ohio State.

We may bleed green and white or maize and blue, but we hope our collective rivals to the south bleed red.

Ok, this may be an overly optimistic view on life. The rivalry between Michigan and Ohio State feels substantially more tangible these days than anything that includes Ohio State.

If you can put all of that behind you. If you can support your fellow Michiganders (and wherever Walmart Michigan fans actually come from). If you can stomach Harbaugh being called a great coach. Then this is the option for you. Swallow the rivalry, support the state, and go all in on your home state rep to win it all.

This may be the most painful option of all (for me at least). Perhaps some of you are better people than me.

So where do you come down on the College Football Playoff? Are you happy seeing the national trophy travel to Michigan – only to stop about 70 miles short? Are you ok with Ohio State repeating as national camps – because at least they’re not Michigan? Will you find temporary fandom in the bullfrogs or bulldogs?

Let everyone know in the comments.