For UM-MSU, meet our celebrity pickers and their hot takes (plus one hot tune)

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Opinions are like ... well, you know. Everyone's got one.

From Petoskey to Paw Paw, Flint to Fruitport, Mackinac Island to Monroe, most in our great state are all too willing to share theirs during Michigan-Michigan State week — and especially this week, with the storied rivals meeting at noon Saturday in East Lansing, both 7-0 and ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

This week, The Detroit News reached out to a variety of dignitaries, mostly local, from the worlds of sports, media, politics, business, food, Hollywood and beyond to get their hot takes, and let us tell ya, ESPN's "College GameDay" has nothing on us. We sought out Michigan and Michigan State alums, of course, but plenty of others with no official allegiance, too. (We needed a few surprises, right!?!)

For Rivalry Week, The Detroit News went out and found our own guest pickers.

While a few folks politely declined to publicly take a side (chickens!), including a few high-profile politicians who probably needed to consult with their internal pollsters first — ain't nobody got time for that! — most everyone else eagerly participated.

Here are those predictions, some edited slightly for clarity and brevity:

Jim Abbott, Flint native, 10-year MLB veteran, UM baseball alum: "I’m picking UM, 30-21. Jake Moody comes up big with three field goals and three extra points. MSU's speed at WR does some damage but UM’s running backs control the ball and the game. Hopefully no shenanigans from Sparty’s timekeeper :)"

Robert Patrick, movie and TV actor, starred as T-1000 in "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," grew up in Farmington: "UM, 31-24. I'm taking Michigan by a touchdown. I have a lot of faith in their running game."

Jay Bilas, ESPN college basketball analyst: "Sparty, 28-21! Mel Tucker put together a nice roster with 40 new players. Sparty makes big plays, especially at wide receiver. If the OL holds up and keeps the QB upright, I like Michigan State."

Joe Tate, Michigan state representative, D-Detroit, who backed NIL legislation, former MSU football captain and Marine Corps veteran: "24-21, MSU wins. Both teams have demonstrated success up to this point, but I believe MSU has the edge."

Dr. Justin Skrzynski, internal medicine, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak: “I think Michigan will win (of course), 27-24. Close game but Michigan will carry it on their running game."

Jon Hein, works for "The Howard Stern Show," created the website, UM alum: "UM, 24-20. The strong running games will cancel each other out, but Michigan’s secondary learned its hard lesson from last year. Mr. Bunyan will head back to Ann Arbor as Coach Harbaugh makes it three in a row in East Lansing."

The Sklar Brothers (Randy and Jason), comedians and UM alums: "Make no mistake, this will be a nasty brawl. Like two rednecks fighting over the last clean spoon in the trailer, there will be no mercy shown by either side on Saturday. It will not be fun to watch at all. Everyone in both fan bases will be balls of nerves all game and will question the existence of God repeatedly like Bill Maher on a Sunday morning. The game will be tied 20-20 late into the fourth quarter when Jacub Panasiuk will get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for climbing into the stands and trying to clothesline Aidan Hutchinson’s parents. The 15-yard penalty will just put the Wolverines into field goal range and Jake Moody will curve one through the uprights to give Michigan a narrow 23-20 win. (Or something like that)."

Comics Jason Sklar, left, and Randy Sklar, are big Michigan fans.

Carol Duvall, longtime Michigan TV personality who had shows on HGTV and the DIY Network, Traverse City resident, MSU alum: “Michigan State without any hesitation, 14-7. Loyalty. I’m partial to Michigan State no matter what. No logical reason.”

Mat Ishbia, CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage Holdings Corp., MSU basketball alum: "MSU, 31-21. I think Michigan State’s run defense vs. Michigan’s run offense will be a great battle, but I think the Spartans will win that battle in the trenches. With Michigan State’s explosive offensive, I think it will prove to be too much for Michigan to keep up with. Go Green!”

Fredi Bello, owner and chef at Melvindale’s famous pizzeria, Fredi the PizzaMan: "MSU, 28-19. For me, I look at is as UM has a ton of pressure to win this game after getting trucked last year while Mel Tucker has instilled a lot of confidence in the program and a fanbase in a very short period.” 

The Rev. Charles Williams II, pastor of Historic King Solomon church in Detroit, chair of the National Action Network Michigan, UM alum: “The Wolverines will stay undefeated-with a hard fight effort and they will pull it off by three points! Ending the green-and-white, other-school streak! Go Blue!”

M. Roy Wilson, president of Wayne State: "21-17, MSU, because MSU is lower ranked, and I always root for the underdog."

James White, Detroit police chief: "MSU, 34-28. That’s despite the fact that my daughter is a UM student, so it won’t be a happy home. I just think Michigan State has a more complex offense, and they’re more versatile than UM. Michigan is one-dimensional; they can run the ball, but the quarterback doesn’t throw downfield. And every time they bring in the backup quarterback, everyone in the building knows they’re going to run the ball, and MSU will shut that down. So, because MSU’s at home, and because Michigan has a very non-complex passing game, I think Michigan State is going to win.”

Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, president of Oakland: "UM, 31-24. Michigan’s offensive line is having a terrific year and UM's speed on defense will smother MSU’s running game! Go Blue!!"

Robert Bowen, CFO and executive vice president of the Detroit Institute of Arts: “Saturday will be a big day for Michigan! The run game and defense will once again lead the way for the Wolverines. Cade McNamara will protect the ball and make big plays when needed and J.J. McCarthy will have a breakout game. In the end, it will come down to the kicking game: UM, 27-24. Go Blue!”

Jeff Daniels, acclaimed actor and Michigan resident: "UM, 33-17. Go Chips."

This is the face Jeff Daniels makes when you ask him about UM-MSU, when the "real" rivalry is CMU-WMU, which plays next week. Daniels attended CMU.

Eric Champnella, comedian, screenwriter and director from Los Angeles by way of Southgate, UM alum: "UM, 27-21: “Even setting aside my biased fandom, I actually believe Michigan will win this game. Why? I love the spirit and grit of this team. I believe that they believe in themselves. We saw that in the way they took over Wisconsin’s 'Jump Around' tradition in a hostile stadium and embraced the atmosphere. We saw that by the team not getting rattled when they fell behind late at Nebraska. And you hear it when the players speak about their unity and purpose inside the locker room. There is something special about this team. On the X's and O's side of things, while neither team has played a murders’ row to get to 7-0, I think Michigan's defense will be the difference and Cade McNamara will hit enough downfield passes to free up the Wolverine running game. Finally, Michigan is just due. It’s their time — and Harbaugh’s time — this season.”

Russ Kavalhuna, president of Henry Ford College: "Both offensive squads face tough defenses and difficult weather, which makes points hard to come by. But with great running games on both sides, both fight songs will be played. The difference in this game comes down to play calls on third down. A nearly equal game is decided by either a trick play or special teams. But, in the end, Sparty notches a historic victory with a final score of 17-14. (Fingers crossed that the time-keeper or references to younger siblings do not cause ongoing controversy.)"

Terry Foster, retired Detroit News sportswriter and radio personality: "MSU, 24-20. The Spartans are coming off a bye and that is the difference in the game. Should the Wolverines lose, they should begin looking at a coaching change."

Dan Petry, Bally Sports Detroit analyst, former Tigers pitcher: "I haven't seen either team play enough to make a prediction, but I'll be rooting STRONGLY FOR MSU."

Cliff Erickson, local musician: "After much thought, this will be a close one. Michigan's run game is solid while State has big-play ability. I look for a low-scoring game with the Wolverines getting revenge for last year's loss. UM, 24-17."

Darren McCarty, Red Wings legend, local media personality: "MSU, 26-23. I married a Spartan. I have one feeling left, and she owns it. That's the story."

Jerry Green, retired Detroit News sportswriter: "With family alums from both schools, I would like to avoid a prediction. Too bad there are no ties anymore in college football. Therefore, Michigan State, 72-66, in 10 overtimes."

Chris Baldwin, UM fan who went viral for his reaction to the 2015 "trouble with the snap" finish: "I'm sticking with Michigan, 24-20. The teams are too even for anything lopsided, but I think Michigan can grind it out in the end."

Michigan fan Chris Baldwin was made famous after being shown on television reacting to the last second win by Michigan State over Michigan in 2015.

Dan Dickerson, Tigers radio broadcaster: "MSU, 24-21. Michigan seems to struggle throwing the ball downfield. Seems like MSU has more offensive weapons — and more ways to score. Spartans win a classic."

Christy McDonald, anchor for PBS Detroit, wife of late sports media personality Jamie Samuelsen: "In the '90s when I was at State, there were years of losses to Michigan where all we could do was wrap flannels around our waists and drown our sorrows at Rick's with a good Pearl Jam cover band. But despite the return of low-rise jeans, the '90s ARE NOT BACK. Michigan State brings the swagger this year against a tense 'must-win' Michigan team (I highly recommend the Calm app, my MI friends) and pulls off a come-from-behind win. Look for the stellar MSU defense to stop Michigan's run. Final score: 28-24. I may or may not be able to work next week due to blowing vocal cords while yelling during the last five minutes of the game. GO GREEN!"

Andy Appleby, founder, CEO of Utica's United Shore Professional Baseball League: "UM, 24-21."

Grace Keros, owner of American Coney Island: "MSU, 24-10. Don't have much to elaborate other than I'm a Spartan. Grew up in Okemos, all of us in my family are MSU educated. Go Green!"

Tom Gillis, Champions Tour golfer, Lake Orion native: "UM, 23-17. I'm thinking MSU is gonna have a hard time running against Michigan."

Tom Stanton, local author: "I studied at both and had sons at both, so my loyalties are divided. But with Kenneth Walker III shredding that tough Wolverines' line, the Spartans will prevail in a close one. MSU, 30-29. Of course, the price may be their coach."

Dan Leach, local sports media personality: "UM, 17-10, because the last time these two played both ranked in the top 10 in 1964, the game was in East Lansing, this was the score, so why mess with a beautiful thing."

Art Regner, local sports media personality: "UM, 27-16. The difference will be Michigan's offensive line. They will allow the Wolverines to have a few sustained drives and eat up clock, keeping Michigan's defense fresh."

Ryan Riess, 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Clarkston native, MSU alum: "27-23, Sparty."

Ryan Riess

Vincent Goodwill, NBA reporter for Yahoo! Sports, Detroit News alum: "The Spartans are more explosive and their defense is better than assumed. Michigan is more methodical and perhaps, ready for a slug fest if they can limit State's big plays. Calling an upset of sorts, 31-27 Blue."

Thaddeus McCotter, former U.S. congressman: "I went to the University of Detroit, where we haven't lost a football game since 1964. :)"

Don Gonyea, NPR national political correspondent, MSU alum: "MSU, 20-17, Michigan was expected to be good this year. They are. Meanwhile, the Spartans have been a totally unexpected joy. From where I sit, that puts most of the pressure on the Wolverines. I see State taking an early lead and (barely) hanging on at the end. I also look for some big moments from our Heisman candidate. And I offer a reasonably sincere promise to be gracious enough afterward to maintain my many great friendships with Michigan alumni. And the halftime show is going to ROCK! That’s a lock. Go Green. Go White. Wish I could be there."

Gary Peters, U.S. senator: "MSU, 20-14: I’ll cheer for the University of Michigan — as long as they’re not playing MSU. As an MSU alum, I’m picking the Spartans to continue their undefeated streak. This team has been incredible to watch this year and this rivalry game will be one of the biggest matchups in years. I’m looking forward to an action-packed game that ends with the Paul Bunyan Trophy staying in East Lansing. Go Green!”

Debbie Stabenow, U.S. senator, MSU alum: "MSU, 27-24: It’s going to be close going into the fourth quarter but Payton Thorne is going to connect with Jalen Nailor for a game-winning touchdown."

Mike Davis, Detroit Mercy men's basketball coach: "Michigan State. Big week for a big-time football game."

Ryan Field, former Detroit sports media personality, TV anchor in New York, MSU alum: "MSU, 29-26. A tight, back-and-forth affair throughout. The Spartans break just enough big plays against a very good Michigan defense to spring the upset as Mel Tucker becomes the first MSU coach ever to win his first two games against the Wolverines."

Joe Cada, 2009 World Series of Poker Main Event champion, Shelby Township native: "27-23, UM. Go Blue! Can't wait till Saturday."

Steve Eder, New York Times investigative reporter, MSU alum: "MSU, 38-35. An instant classic."

Greg Kampe, Oakland men's basketball coach: "UM, 20-17. Having been part of an intense rivalry, I know for a fact that you can throw out any statistics leading up to the game. This game will be played out like no other these two teams play this year. The history of analytics of this series says the team that has the most rushing yards will win. I think that will be Michigan."

Oakland coach Greg Kampe, right, is looking for his first victory against Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.

Dr. Zafar "Z" Shamoon, emergency center chief, Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn: “MSU, 27-20. 'Spartan will’ helped me and my emergency center staff treat more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients. Spartans will certainly derail the Wolverines. Go State!"

Matthew Schneider, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan: "Michigan, 28-27! This was the score of the 1990 game when MSU unceremoniously robbed Michigan of its victory by tripping Desmond Howard in the end zone. It was an obvious pass interference to everyone in the world and one of the worst blown calls in history. Michigan lost that game and they deserve to win with this margin, finally. If you cannot tell, I am still not over this. My second entry would be Michigan, 17-7. Michigan once lost by that score and I do not know why but I have always remembered it. Probably another injustice."

Brad Keselowski, 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Rochester Hills native: "23-19, Michigan. It will be a tough Big Ten game."

Brad Meltzer, best-selling author and TV host, UM alum: "Michigan wins, 31-28. I love this game — the last one I went to was at Michigan State. We got a victory there too, which meant I won the annual bet that I make with my pal there. Go Blue!"

Dana Jacobson, CBS News correspondent, co-host "CBS Saturday Morning," CBS Sports anchor/reporter, UM alum: "Michigan, Michigan State always feels like a toss up, but to no one's surprise, I'm going Wolverines! Michigan, 27-24, over Sparty. Edge I think to the Michigan defense keeping Sparty in check. And on an emotional note, this feels like the year where Michigan's righting the wrongs of its rivalries."

Mari Manoogian, Michigan state representative, D-Birmingham: "MSU wins, 24-21. I think both teams are good, but MSU is hungry, and we love a team with a chip on its shoulder. Tuck comin'. Go Green!"

Mel Pearson, Michigan hockey coach: "21-17, Michigan. It’ll be wet, cold. Both teams play good defense. I think they play the ball on the ground, but I think we have a better running game."

Lary Sorensen, former Tigers radio broadcaster, UM baseball alum: "UM, 24-1. Same old reasons."

Devin Scillian, Channel 4 anchor/reporter, avid musician (his prediction set to song): "The Spartans and the Wolverines somehow seem the same / Both of them unstoppable and neither's lost a game / But Saturday one of them will have to change their tune / When the cards are on the table, and the sun hits high noon / One dream will die, one will survive / Michigan 30, MSU 25."

James Piot, reigning U.S. Amateur champion, MSU golfer: "MSU, 27-24. I'm a big fan of statistics, and I believe Coach Harbaugh's record against ranked teams on the road is about 1-9. Also, MSU is just a grittier team at the end of the day."

Chris Sabo, three-time MLB All-Star, 1990 Cincinnati Reds World Series champ, current Akron baseball coach, UM alum: "Michigan, 21-14. I'm biased. I went to UM, so I could never not pick them. Hoping (Jim) Harbaugh has a nice finish to the season. Would make my buddy Robby Key from South Lyon happy. Robby didn't go to UM, but the biggest fan I've ever seen."

Mario Impemba, former Tigers TV broadcaster, MSU alum: "MSU, 28-17. Spartans have more balance on offense. MSU will also break a big play on special teams."

Asha Shajahan, MD, MHSA family physician, writer, podcast host: "My two cents, Michigan for the win but I think it will be a super close game. 21-18, UM. While MSU won last year, Michigan’s has been playing well, and steady. Go Blue!”

Dick Vitale, legendary college basketball analyst: "UM, 24-21. Difference is the maize and blue's power running game."

Chris Fetter, Tigers pitching coach, former pitching coach at UM: "27-10, Michigan. The return of Mike Hart and his running backs to put little brother back in their place! I don’t want to get on the bad side of half the state, but can’t go against the alma mater. Go Blue."

Jeremy Moss, Michigan state senator, D-Southfield, MSU alum who is attending the game with UM regent Jordan Acker: "With good defenses and a likely low-scoring game, even if MSU wins by a field goal, I'll be making sure Jordan is reminded about it all year. MSU, 17-14."

James Blanchard, former governor of Michigan, MSU alum: "MSU 30, UM 27."

Mike Shirkey, Michigan senate majority leader, R-Clarklake: "Michigan by 9."

Josh Malerman, author of "Bird Box," singer with The High Strung, MSU alum: "Michigan State wins, 31-14, because Michigan's got it coming."

Debbie Dingell, U.S. representative, D-Dearborn, whose district includes UM: "UM, 44-3: “I wish we could be at home in the Big House for the game, but this team is something special and I know we’re going to come out of it still undefeated. We’ve got a reliable offense, a threatening defense, and a great leader in Coach Harbaugh. Plus, our away game stats are in our favor. We got this. Let’s go Blue!”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, left, and U.S. Rep.  Debbie Dingell are good friends, but have different allegiances this week.

Doug Topolski, Mackinac Island chief of police: "UM, 27-10. I watch a lot more soccer than football on the island at Great Turtle Park — usually seasonal Mexican workers vs. the Jamaican team. Then we fire up the grill after. It’s a lot of fun. Looking at the stats, Michigan had 50 players last year who received Academic All-Big Ten honors for a GPA of over 3.0 out of a roster of 127, or 39% of the team. Michigan State had 33 players who made the list, or 29.5% of their 112-man roster. I’m going with the apparently smarter team. If Chief Ron Haddad in Dearborn wants to go with Michigan State, I’ll wager him Mackinac Island Fudge against Dearborn shawarma. Same goes for Mayor Karen Majewski in Hamtramck, but I’ll need some pierogi and kielbasa from Srodek’s.”

Karen Majewski, mayor Hamtramck: "UM, 18-12. I know absolutely zero about college football and, frankly, care even less, but I am a loyal UM alum (though my godson is now a freshman at MSU). What's more, I'm up for any challenge from my old buddy Doug Topolski, who's going to be freezing his dupa off up there on the Island pretty soon. Don't ask me why I picked that score — I had to Google how you score in football to remind myself from my childhood days as a Bears fan in Chicago, many years ago!"

Ron Haddad, Dearborn police chief: "MSU, 21-20. I love Mackinac fudge so much, I will take this bet, even though the green-and-white in my background is Eastern Michigan. Besides, I always want to challenge my mentees, and Doug Topolski was a lieutenant on my staff."

Huel Perkins, Fox 2 anchor reporter: "I believe it's going to be a tight game, a smash-mouth battle in the trenches. MSU running back Kenneth Walker III will be the deciding factor. He can see daylight where other runners see walls. MSU, 30-24. I'll be tailgating on my couch — watching on Fox 2 at noon!"

Barb Byrum, Ingham County clerk, MSU alum: "MSU will win! The final score will be 31-28. Go Green!"

Rick Thorning, manager of Taylor North, the 2021 Little League World Series champions: "UM, 31-28. It will be a fun game to watch. Both teams will run the ball well; however, I think Michigan will have to pass more than expected (or more than they would like to). MSU's pass defense is not that great and Michigan will take advantage of it, even though they don't throw that well. That's my prediction. I'm usually not good at predictions. Lol."

Sean McCann, Michigan state senator, D-Kalamazoo: "I predict that all flammable couches in East Lansing and Kalamazoo will have much to fear when MSU beats UM (28-24) and Western thrashes Central (35-17)."

Ken Kal, Red Wings radio broadcaster: "UM, 23-19. I don't think Harbaugh ever lost as a player or coach in East Lansing (fact check: true). I like both teams, actually. Sad that one team has to lose. At this point, I think Michigan is the better team but not by much. With that said, the Spartans will battle hard."

Derek Stevens, owner of The D Las Vegas and Circa Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Metro Detroit native, UM alum: "From Las Vegas, Michigan, 27-21."

Alex Avila, former Tigers catcher (and huge Alabama fan): "My coin flip says Michigan."

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Detroit News staffers Angelique S. Chengelis, Neal Rubin, Kim Kozlowski, Adam Graham, Melody Baetens, Carol Thompson, George Hunter, Nolan Bianchi, Richard Burr, Melissa Nann Burke, Hayley Harding, Breana Noble, Oralandar Brand-Williams, Elizabeth LeBlanc, Maureen Feighan and Gary Miles contributed.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984