ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — When it comes to the Michigan-Michigan State game one thing is true: Records go out the window when these two teams take the field.
It’s a sentiment echoed by both Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker.
On paper, Michigan is coming into this game the better team, with a top 10 nationally-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense. But they’re not looking past the Spartans, who are 3-4 this year. The Wolverines remember what the bus ride felt like after losing 37-33 to MSU at Spartan Stadium last season.
“We didn’t close it out, we got up early, and didn’t keep our foot on the gas pedal,” Michigan offensive lineman Ryan Hayes said. “It was pretty disappointing on the way home. I remember that feeling, nobody was really talking to each other, everybody knew that we just let it slip through our fingers.”
“Our guys really want to win this,” Harbaugh said. “I really want to win this, and I have no doubt, if you pulsed every player and every coach on both sides, they’d tell you the exact same thing.”
Last season, the Wolverine defense was run over by now NFL rookie Kenneth Walker III, who scored five touchdowns against Michigan and accounted for half of MSU’s offensive production.
Grand Rapids native and Michigan lineman Mazi Smith is hoping to beat Michigan State for the first time since his freshman year, and bring the Paul Bunyan trophy back to Ann Arbor.
“You look at the history of the teams, you look at the history of the rivalry, you see why players play harder in this game, you see why this game is taken more serious, you see why each team is willing to do whatever it takes to win this game,” Smith said. “It’s a state championship. It’s a championship game we get to play in the regular season. Who doesn’t want that?”
Mel Tucker has now upset the Wolverines twice, handing Michigan its only Big Ten loss last season. Tucker is now 2-0 against Harbaugh.
“It takes intentional focus, it takes toughness, discipline, being selfless,” Tucker said. “It’s bragging’ rights, it’s something you talk about every single day. And when you’re in close proximity like that, it adds to the intensity of it.”
Kickoff on Saturday is at 7:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium.