Amid three-year drought, Michigan still reserves a place for the Paul Bunyan Trophy

In the museum area of the Michigan football complex, next to the "Little Brown Jug" display (the award given to the winner of the Michigan-Minnesota game) is a piece of paper that fills the void where the "Paul Bunyan-Governor of Michigan Trophy" sat for the better part of this century.

It reads: "The Paul Bunyan Trophy is temporarily located in East Lansing but will return next year."

Of course, next year has turned to the year after that and the year after that as Michigan has failed to beat Michigan State since 2007. But the Wolverines, back in the top ten in the mainstream polls for the first time since that 2007 season, are in a much better position this year to replace that piece of paper with the actual trophy.

"I don't think I have to remind our guys what the outcome has been," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said this week regarding the Wolverines three-game losing streak in the series. "These are college students, and they're in classes and stuff like that. I would hope that they're smart enough to understand that we haven't played Michigan football the way we need to."

The Wolverines have only lost four consecutive games to the Spartans once in the history of the series, from 1959-62. But history isn't exactly on Hoke's side, either. The last Michigan coach to defeat the Spartans in his first season in Ann Arbor was Bennie Oosterbaan, who notched a 13-7 win in 1948. That means Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr all lost their first games against the Spartans before Rich Rodriguez in 2008. In fact, Oosterbaan lost the first Paul Bunyan Trophy game in 1953, meaning a win would make Hoke the first coach to win the Paul Bunyan Trophy in his first season.{YSP:MORE}

For his part, Hoke knows this rivalry all too well. During the infamous "Clockgate" game in 2001, when Spartan quarterback Jeff Smoker floated the game-winning touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett as time (finally) expired, Hoke was the Wolverines defensive line coach.

"Somebody was in charge of substitutions on defense, and we had a penalty that helped them get down the field — and that was me," Hoke said. "We had too many guys on the field. So, I remember.

"It's a tremendous rivalry in college football. You can say on a local, state, regional standpoint but also a national standpoint. It's Michigan-Michigan State."

- - -
Curtsy (the female version of a hat tip) to Tom VanHaaren.
Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

What to Read Next