UM, MSU fans tailgate in anticipation of showdown between unbeaten teams

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Fans enjoy the pregame fun at the Fox "Big Noon Kickoff" compound before the game.

East Lansing — Hearty college football fans were tailgating Saturday morning in East Lansing in anticipation of the noon showdown between the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines and No. 8 Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan fan John Hoss, 46, of the Grand Rapids area said he hasn’t been to a Michigan game in about a decade. He announced his return Saturday with a flashy maize-and-blue sportcoat, visible from long distances.

“You don’t see too much of it around, so it stands out a little bit,” he said.

Hoss didn’t overpay for the ticket because he and friends Jamy Smith and Kim Barricklow bought the tickets months ago, after Barricklow suggested it over Memorial Day. Smith and Barricklow root for the Spartans, and at the time, they thought it’d be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Hoss said at the time there was little reason to think this game would become what it has: a matchup of two top-10, unbeaten teams.

“The three of us decide to get tickets, and it turns out to be the biggest game ever in this rivalry,” Hoss said.

Michigan alumni and ESPN on air personalty Desmond Howard breaks into laughter at the "College GameDay" stage before the game.

Both the Fox "Big Noon Kickoff" and ESPN’s "College GameDay" are in town, even though only Fox will broadcast the game.

Michigan State fan Mike Bramble, 56, of St. John’s says he has been a Spartan season ticket holder and tailgating at every home game for about a decade.

Normally he’s the first in his party of 30 to arrive in Lot 89, and take advantage of the free parking. Normally he stakes out a corner lot and parks right next to it. On Saturday he had to park three lots over.

Former Detroit Lion Calvin Johnson and MSU alumni Julian Peterson meet behind the stage at the Fox "Big Noon Kickoff" before the Michigan and Michigan State game.

Bramble predicted a three-touchdown blowout win for his Spartans. But he also reads the news. He has seen the speculation that MSU Coach Mel Tucker is in the sights of Louisiana State University.

LSU is the same school that poached Nick Saban after a 1999 season when MSU beat both Michigan and Ohio State.

“I do worry about Tucker leaving,” Bramble admitted. “He has had the early success. And money talks.”

Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo walks around the "College GameDay" stage before the game.

Jennie Dumas is a Spartan season-ticket holder looking to pass on a legacy. So far she has succeeded.

Daughter Keira, 13, stood by her side, decked out in matching green and white gear. She hopes someday to enroll at MSU’s honor college.

Dumas is excited for the game. She noticed the roads drove slower Saturday morning. The parking lots were fuller.

“I think green is going to be victorious,” Dumas said as she and her daughter waited for a shuttle to Spartan Stadium.

Fans at the ESPN "College GameDay" stage hold up signs during the show at Spartan Stadium before the University of Michigan takes on Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, on October 30, 2021.

Riders were given an estimated one-hour wait time, between the wait and the drive through gridlocked streets. A parking attendant suggested to multiple people that walking would be quicker.

Demetris Smith, 30, traveled to Miami in September to see MSU play the Miami Hurricanes. His second game of the year is another red-letter occasion, against rival Michigan.

Smith said he thinks the contest will be a “two touchdown game.” He hopes the Spartans will contribute the touchdowns, but can’t be sure.

Sean Murphy, of Hartland, left, and Nick Martell, of Livonia, hang out in the crowd in front of the Fox "Big Noon Kickoff" production before the game.

Smith shook off the LSU speculation, arguing Tucker would be treated better in East Lansing than Baton Rouge.

He noted that LSU fired Coach Ed Orgeron just two years after he won a national championship.

“What good is money, if that’s how they treat people?” Smith said.

A young Michigan State fan screams out with the crowd before the game.

With a full complement of tents and televisions, food and drink, Jon Broker, 58, doesn’t need to leave Lot 89 to see the game. He’ll watch it here, among “175,200 friends."

There were occasional flecks of blue under the tents, but for the most part it was a gang of green. One attendee described the tents as “the best bar in East Lansing.”

Broker, who hails from the Lansing area, said he’s been tailgating in Lot 89 for about 30 years.

“It’s all about the camaraderie,” Broker said, stepping out of the tent briefly for an interview. “I see people here I might only see once or twice during the year.”

Michigan State fans tailgate before the big game.