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UM-MSU Big House showdown a big-ticket item

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tickets! Who needs tickets?

Yeah, good luck with that.

As upstart Michigan was clobbering Northwestern on Saturday afternoon, a funny thing was happening on ticket-brokering sites across America.

On StubHub, specifically, prices for next Saturday’s Michigan State-Michigan game were steadily rising, from the first quarter through the fourth, when Michigan won, 38-0.

The most-anticipated matchup in the series since 1999, when UM and MSU both entered undefeated, has owners of tickets to the game at Michigan Stadium eager to cash in.

“You’re looking at about a $200 get-in for singles, $250 for two tickets and above, and good stuff between $300 and $325,” said Brian Posey, owner of The Ticket Machine, based in Okemos just outside East Lansing. “It’s gonna be one of the bigger ones in 15-20 years.”

Michigan has been the surprise team this year, and enters the game 5-1 — on the strength of three consecutive shutouts — and ranked No. 12 in the nation. Michigan State has struggled to beat its opponents, but has won all six of its games nonetheless and comes in ranked No. 7.

Saturday will mark just the seventh time in the history of the rivalry that both teams enter the game ranked 12th or better in the Associated Press rankings, and just the second time since 1999, when No. 11 Michigan State, behind a huge game from star wide receiver Plaxico Burress, beat No. 3 Michigan, 34-31.

UM students are asking for big money, including Adam, a freshman who’s selling his ticket; he already has gotten an offer for $175, but is holding out for more.

“This is definitely the most interest I’ve ever seen, or even heard of for that matter,” said Adam, who didn’t want his last name used, given scalping remains illegal in Michigan, despite efforts from Gov. Rick Snyder to eliminate the “outdated” laws. The state House twice in the past two years have passed a bill to remove the scalping ban only to hit a roadblock in the Senate.

“People are going crazy about this game.”

The game will be at the center of attention across the nation, too, as ESPN’s “College GameDay” crew will travel to Ann Arbor to broadcast for several hours for the 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

Posey, of The Ticket Machine, said inventory is low right now, though he expects that to change. He expects Monday to start getting calls from MSU fans looking to sell their tickets, given many MSU fans have lost faith that this is their team’s year, given all the close calls it’s had against mediocre teams this year, including Rutgers on Saturday night.

Michigan Stadium is the biggest college venue in the nation, seating more than 100,000, so theoretically, that means there would be more tickets available — and, thus, lower prices — than if the game was to be played at Spartan Stadium, which seats just 75,000. Posey isn’t seeing it play out like that, though.

The cheapest ticket available on StubHub around 5 p.m. Sunday was $194.68, in the corner, and that was a single ticket. The cheapest per ticket for a pair together was $239.50 each, in the end zone. Prices were well over $300 for anything along the sidelines.

Heck, the lowest parking price on StubHub was $225.

For comparison’s sake, the Nov. 7 Michigan game against Rutgers has tickets for as low as $60, but then they spike back up to $171 and up for the Nov. 28 game against another rival, Ohio State, the top-ranked team in the country.

“The hype will just continue,” said Posey, who’s been in this business for 20 years. “Michigan’s been waiting for this for a long time.”

So have Michigan fans, especially the season-ticket holders who had to keep buying through the recent rotten years, for fear of not being able to buy back in when the team got good again, as it has this year in Jim Harbaugh’s first year as coach.

Many of them just might try to recoup some of their cash this week, when the sellers’ market is booming.

On Craigslist, you’re not finding any deals either. The first three entries around 5 p.m. Sunday had tickets going for $650, $900 and $600 apiece.

Posey said some will ask for unrealistic prices early in the week, before they bring them closer to what he saw Sunday: $200 and up.

For students like Adam, meanwhile, these big games are a chance to pay for his entire season ticket. He paid $175 for his season student ticket, plus a $10 fee, so if he takes his $175 offer, combined with the $20 he got for his Oregon State ticket earlier this season, he’ll have paid nothing for all other games.

“In fact,” said Adam, “I know students who banked on Michigan being great again this year, so they bought season tickets just to make a profit when Michigan made its way up through the rankings.”

This week, their gamble finally pays off.

And, potentially, in a big, big way.