ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Records get thrown out the window during rivalry weeks. It’s just matter of your team beating the other team. And sometimes it’s just that simple.
But when both teams are playing for bigger prizes and have conference championship aspirations – then the game goes to whole different level.
That’s exactly the case when No. 23 Michigan [6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) travels to No. 24 Michigan State (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) this Saturday in Legends Division match up.
“It’s always an exciting week,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said in his opening statement to the media today. “Believe me I think on both campuses, on both schools, both programs the opportunity to play in a rivalry game that has a lot at stake, obviously, with us both being in the same division. They’re an awfully good football team.”
U-M won the game last season at Michigan Stadium on a Brendan Gibbons field to top the Spartans 12-10, ending the MSU’s four-game win streak against the Wolverines.
This year, MSU is a 4.5 point favorite and are justifiably so, especially on the defensive side of the football, where the Spartans are ranked the No. 1 total defense and rush defense in the Big Ten. And they have the full attention of Hoke, as he will have his hands full with their double-A gap blitz the Spartans are known for to stop the run and create pressure in the backfield.
“Their defense is as good as any,” Hoke said.”That’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
The last time the Wolverines played in East Lansing, Mich., MSU won 28-14, and big reason behind U-M’s loss was the Spartans ability to be more physical in all aspects of the game. If Michigan is going to have a chance on Saturday and beyond, Hoek said they will have to be more physical to have a chance to win.
“We’ve been inconsistent in that department,” Hoke said. “They all know, the guys who have been here. I think there were 27 of them in East Lansing two years ago Which isn’t a whole lot. But they understand it’s a physical next five weeks. And it starts with the physicalness that Michigan State will play with.”
As far as getting his team ready for the rivalry game, Hoke said this is an easy game to get ready for and has no worries in the “passion” department.
“The passion for this football game for Spartans and Wolverines is something as a coach or as competitor, you understand that. You look forward to it,” Hoke said.”The other part of it, the other piece of the puzzle, It is an important football game when you look at where we want to be, and where they want to be at the end of November.”