ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Just one year ago, Michigan beat Michigan State 29-7 in the annual rivalry game, but the Wolverines weren’t remembered by that victory. Rather, it was what happened after the game.
A postgame fight broke out in the tunnel leading to the locker rooms, and criminal charges were filed against seven Michigan State players. Many of those charges were later dropped.
As the Wolverines get ready to face their rivals again, they say it’s all about keeping their emotions in check.
“We can’t let our emotions get the best of us. Obviously, it’s a big game,” said Michigan edge rusher Jaylen Harrell.
“Obviously we’re not going to hold a grudge on what happened last year, but we always keep it in the back of the mind,” said Michigan running back Blake Corum. “We’re not going in there being like ‘Oh, we’re going to rough them up’ or anything like that. We’re not going to fight or anything like that. That’s part of the past. We’re going to go in there, handle business and come out victorious.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh was less vocal about addressing the elephant in the room and wants to leave it all in the past and just focus on the gameplan.
“That seems like a long time ago. I like what JJ [McCarthy] said last week: ‘It’s a goldfish mentality.’ So, it’s onward.”
But this year’s rivalry doesn’t have the same fuel as it has in years past. The Wolverines are 25-point favorites, enter with an undefeated record, and are potential national championship contenders. Michigan State, on the other hand, is on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Spartans haven’t won a game since week two of the season, and are dealing with their own off-the-field issues. Despite what this game looks like on paper, the Wolverines are still treating it like a “State Championship game.”
“When you talk about rivalries, you talk about Ohio State-Michigan, Michigan State versus us, and they’re kinda like — which one is more of a rivalry? It’s hard to say,” said Corum. “Sometimes I think the in-state one … that’s the bragging rights, that’s the state that you live in, go to school in, we’re going to leave it all out there in East Lansing on Saturday.”
After the Wolverines take on MSU, they’ll have a bye-week then play the remaining four games on their schedule which include two ranked opponents in Penn State and Ohio State. Jim Harbaugh knows a win could help set the tone for November, which he calls “championship season.”
“When all the leaves are brown and the skies are grey, that’s when the championships get decided, but November is here for us. It’s here for us now,” said Harbaugh. “Playing in this big game, this big rivalry game, this in-state game. The time is now.”
Saturday will be the Wolverines’ first trip back to East Lansing since their loss to the Spartans in 2021. That was also the last time they lost a Big Ten game, but they have every intention of keeping the Paul Bunyan trophy on the east side of the state.
Kick-off is at 7:30 p.m. in East Lansing.