Michigan, Minnesota Covet Little Brown Jug
Sam Ross, Jr., Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Minnesota is 1-7, coming off a humbling 27-21 loss to Division I- AA North Dakota State, and sure to be home for the holidays.
But there is excitement in advance of a Saturday game at Michigan, where the Gophers and Wolverines will play for the Little Brown Jug, which Michigan trumpets as college football's oldest trophy game. More on that later.
Although Michigan has won the prize 34 of the past 37 seasons, Minnesota won the game, and the Jug, in 2005 in Ann Arbor.
"I was actually the first one to touch the jug," said safety Dom Barber. "Being able to do that was a dream come true."
In a miserable season, the Jug provides motivation, as do other trophy/rivalry games throughout the country.
"We're not going to a bowl game," Barber said. "But we've got three trophy games left."
Michigan takes this jug thing seriously. The history has to do with legendary coach Fielding Yost playing at Minnesota in 1903 with both teams unbeaten. Not trusting the home folks to supply good water, Yost dispatched a manager to buy a container. He returned with the clay jug, supposedly at a cost of 30 cents.
When Minnesota scored late to tie the game, 6-6, fans stormed the field and the game was not completed. Michigan hopped a train to Chicago, forgetting the jug.
When Yost wrote a letter asking for it to be returned, Minnesota challenged him to play for it. That didn't happen until 1909, when Michigan did win the jug back. Each season, before the game, the history is retold to the Michigan team.
This week, someone asked coach Lloyd Carr if he feared a player dropping the Jug during the celebrations, and destroying history in the process.
"That's somebody else's problem," Carr said.
Hockey players might drink from the Stanley Cup after winning it, but Carr said of drinking from the jug: "I don't think I would want to do that."
But Carr respects the history.
"It has a great tradition, a great meaning here," he said. "When you lose it, it's a miserable experience. When you win it, you get to keep that jug where it belongs, I mean, we bought that jug."
According to the NCAA record book, the most-played rivalry is Minnesota-Wisconsin, which has been contested 116 times beginning in 1891, with Minnesota on top, 59-49-8.
This game had been played for the "Slab of Bacon," a piece of a wood with the letter "W" or "M" on it, depending on the viewer's perspective, but that trophy was lost. The prize since 1948 has been Paul Bunyan's Axe.
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THIS ISN'T KANSAS, TOTO
Kansas left the borders of its state for the first time this season last weekend, knocking off Colorado, 19-14, in Boulder.
The Jayhawks, who had played five home games and at Kansas State previously, are 7-0 and ranked No. 12, but there are skeptics.
"I'm not going to say whether we're for real or not,'' Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "If you watch the games, you will see if we're for real. This 2007 team is a new ball club. (It) has a different mentality than it did a year ago. …