You can forget about the heartbreaking 23-20 loss to Wisconsin being another nail in Michigan's figurative coffin. True, Michigan has not looked like the Michigan that State fans have come to know and hate, but you can bet that Michigan will circle the wagons and come with tremendous effort in an attempt to knock State off their suddenly lofty perch.
For the Spartans, they could not be facing Michigan at a worse time.
The old saying about not cornering a wounded animal is especially true in Michigan's case. After suffering two early losses (to Notre Dame and now Wisconsin) the Wolverines simply can't afford another.
Embattled UM head coach Lloyd Carr is likely telling his team that they only have one Big Ten loss and that a win over the #11 Spartans would put them right back into conference title contention.
A win over MSU would put UM back into the top-25 whereas a loss to State would for all intents and purposes, finish any chances the Wolverines have off a conference title and a New Year's Day bowl game.
Three-loss teams don't get those kinds of opportunities.
But for the Spartans, this is heady stuff.
Their offense, behind a guy who clearly should be a Heisman Trophy candidate, quarterback Drew Stanton, just piled up an incredible 705 yards breaking the school record. Not even Eddie Smith and Kirk Gibson piled up those kinds of numbers.
Freshman Javon Ringer looked like the second coming of Barry Sanders in rushing for an astounding 194 yards on just 13 carries in Saturday's 61-14 win. Ringer had his way with the Illinois defense and probably could have rushed for 300 with enough carries.
You can bet Michigan State head coach John L. Smith will sound the proper warnings in his weekly press conference about respecting Michigan's program and its players. But there has to be a balance in his message privately to his players.
He wants them to keep the swagger that they've earned in dispatching all comers so far, but not allow themselves to become overconfident.
Personally, Smith must know that the Michigan State program is at a crossroad. The Spartan coach could take his team to a place it couldn't even dream of going to in seasons past - a New Year's Day trip to Pasadena, CA. and the Rose Bowl. MSU hasn't been there since 1988.
He could also accomplish something that neither George Perles nor current Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban was able to do; draw Michigan State to equal footing with crosstown rival Michigan and battle them athlete-for-athlete in the recruiting wars.
You don't think top recruits who were considering Michigan aren't looking at the high powered offense State is running and thinking...hmmm?
But down in Ann Arbor lurk a dangerous bunch of Wolverines ready to scuttle everything. MSU had better be ready for a fierce "Backyard Brawl" on Saturday.