After the Wolverines won 29-7 last year, several Spartans attacked their rivals in a stadium tunnel and were suspended for the rest of the season.
“We’re not going to hold a grudge over what happened last year,” Michigan running back Blake Corum said. “You always keep it in the back of your mind, but we’re not going in there to rough them up or anything like that. That’s part of the past. We’re going to get in there, handle business and come out victorious.”
The second-ranked Wolverines (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) are favored to win at Michigan State (2-4, 0-3) Saturday night by more than three touchdowns, taking advantage of their talent against a reeling team that is also trying to forget what happened at Michigan Stadium.
“We’re focused on this year and just playing the game 11 on 11 on the football field,” Spartans interim coach Harlon Barnett said. “That’s all that matters, and that’s where our focus us.”
Michigan State has struggled to focus, and win, since Mel Tucker was suspended and later fired for acknowledging he had consensual phone sex with a school vendor, who is a sexual assault activist and rape survivor.
The Spartans are 0-4 without Tucker, who won two of three games against Michigan.
Michigan State defensive back Dillon Tatum knows few people outside the program are giving his team a chance to pull off the upset, but that hasn’t affected his confidence.
“Y’all can doubt us all you want, but we’re going to come out there and give them our best shot,” said Tatum, who doubled down by posting a video of his comments on social media. “Really this is the game. It’s important. It matters the freaking most. We’re going to go out there and ball, I believe, and I believe we’re going to win this football game.”
Corum leads major college football with 12 rushing touchdowns, earning a spot on The Associated Press midseason All-America team.
“The great ones I’ve noticed can get up to full speed quicker,” coach Jim Harbaugh said. “I would say with Blake it’s either three or four steps to where he’s up to full speed.”
The Wolverines appear to have an advantage at quarterback with J.J. McCarthy emerging as a Heisman Trophy candidate and getting high praise from Harbaugh, who was a star under center for the program in the mid-1980s.
“J.J. has shown to be on path to be the best quarterback in Michigan history,” Harbaugh said.
Michigan State will have Katin Houser starting in his second game against a defense giving up a FBS-low 6.7 points a game.
Houser was 18 of 29 for 133 yards with two passing touchdowns and one score on the ground last week at Rutgers, replacing Noah Kim.
FADING IN THE FOURTH
Michigan State started the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead last week at Rutgers and lost after giving up 21 straight points.
“We kind of did get too high and weren’t used to having that lead and stuff like that,” receiver Montorie Foster said. “We didn’t finish the game, and that was unacceptable.”
It also happened the previous game. The Spartans led Iowa by six points midway through the third quarter and were outscored 13-0 in the fourth quarter of a 26-16 loss two weeks ago.
Since losing at Michigan State nearly two years ago, the Wolverines have won 19 consecutive conference games to match a school record set from 1990 to 1992.