This afternoon just blocks away, the hated University of Michigan Wolverines are playing against the hated Michigan State University Spartans. I do not exaggerate:

On Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., ESPN), with a stiff chill in the air, “the hate” is about to start flowing through more than 100,000 people inside Michigan Stadium, and thousands of others who have invaded Ann Arbor for what very well could be the biggest installment of the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry ever.

This isn’t a rivalry built on respect, or fueled by mutual admiration. It’s driven by one thing.

Hate.

Truer words were never spoken. I’ve lived in this town for over seven years, and I have never seen a nastier or more bitter football rivalry anywhere.  That’s because it involves more than football, which mainly provides an excuse for what is a culture war. The problem stems from the fact that MSU students typically are not quite academically good enough to get into UM, and it leads to a lifetime resentment of the latter’s perceived triumphalism. But with football as a proxy, MSU gets a chance every year to show up their “betters” and it is very, very ugly. For many years, MSU has had the better team, and one of the reasons is precisely because they are not as picky academically (either to get in or stay in), so they have a wider recruiting base. This year, though, things might be different under UM’s new coach Jim Harbaugh.

(For anyone who is interested in the long background behind the hatred, here’s a long, one-sided explanation of why MSU so bitterly hates and should hate UM. The article is derided by commenters here as grounded in MSU’s inferiority complex.)

I wish they didn’t have this rivalry, as I think it’s bad for the state. It’s not as if there isn’t a longstanding traditional rivalry; there is, and it is Michigan versus Ohio State — a legendary rivalry arising with roots in an actual war between the two states. But when the Ohio State fans come to town, for the most part they behave as gentlemen. The MSU is more than a football rivalry, as it is personal.

So I’m staying at home to keep a eye out for MSU vandals. They have rampaged on this street before.

You’d almost think this was about politics.

MORE: Drudge linked a story about a fan suffering a heart attack after MSU’s surprise last-minute victory over Michigan. There were also street battles and fires, along with death threats against the Michigan punter who fumbled the ball in the last seconds of the game.

Whether is like politics or not, it certainly seems to be more than a game.