Gameday: Smith-MSU needs to win to be a rival

"Yeah it's big," said Michigan State head coach John L. Smith. "Getting your tail kicked all the time is not much of a rivalry!"

EAST LANSING - Saturday in East Lansing will mark the renewal of a bitter rivalry between #11 Michigan State (4-0, 1-0) and unranked Michigan (2-2, 0-1).

This time the tables have turned, with the Spartans being the favorite while the Wolverines find themselves out of the polls for the first time in 114 weeks.

Big Ten play can be very tough as the Wolverines have found out, losing a heartbreaker at Wisconsin in the closing minutes, 23-20. Michigan State demolished Illinois, 61-14 to notch their first conference win.

These teams square off with several things at stake, besides pride. The Spartans look to seek revenge after a thrilling triple-overtime loss last season to Michigan in Ann Arbor 45-37. They also look to establish themselves as an elite team, if they haven't done so yet, by moving into the AP top ten while also improving their chances at a Rose Bowl appearance.

Michigan seeks to play spoiler to Michigan State's hopes at a Big Ten title and that chance at the Rose Bowl. The Wolverines might be at their most dangerous state as they try to pick up the pieces of their season. They also could jump right back into the top 25 with a win over a ranked opponent.

"It's rivalries that bring out the best in teams," said Quarterback Drew Stanton. "These games come down to one or two plays that decide it."

The Wolverines do feature a solid defense that has given up only 57 points total in four games. The only allow 269 yards per game but have just been unfortunate in losing two close low-scoring games.

"They're going to be fighting mad," said Spartan head coach John L. Smith who said that he expects the Wolverines to be, "mad like a wounded animal."

The key player on the Wolverines is receiver Jason Avant who has 29 catches for 418 yards and four touchdown grabs. If quarterback Chad Henne can connect with Avant on several occasions, it might be a long afternoon. Running back Mike Hart has missed the last two games due to a hamstring injury but might be able to play.

"You always have that thought that they might have a breakout game, but we just have to be ready to play," said Spartan defensive back Eric Smith.

Saturday's game has all the makings of a high-scoring affair with each team having big playmakers. The Spartans' running game can take control of a game with any one of their three solid runners. Javon Ringer, Jason Teague, and Jehuu Caulcrick combine for a rushing offense that is seventh in the nation (272.2 ypg).

The Spartan offense comes into the game third in the nation in yards per game with 600. Drew Stanton is coming off a record-breaking week throwing 5 touchdowns and also was named the Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week. He also leads the nation in passing efficiency at 201.3, just beating out USC quarterback Matt Leinart (200.8). "It's a big game because we have a lot of momentum going," said Stanton. "We know what we need to accomplish."

Michigan does have something to build on; beating Michigan State the last 3 seasons including a heartbreaking triple overtime loss last season in a game that Drew Stanton left due to injury. The Wolverines lead both the all-time series 64-28-5, and in East Lansing 17-10-2.

"Yeah it's big," said John L. Smith. "Getting your tail kicked all the time is not much of a rivalry!"

Drew Stanton said it best during Monday's press conference saying, "We make our own history, it doesn't matter," on the fact that there is no current Spartan player that has experienced a win against Michigan.

It is extremely crucial for Michigan State to not take Michigan lightly. They must prove they can compete with any team in the Big Ten and also justify their national ranking. They can take a huge step towards their goal of a Big Ten Championship by slaying the team that has always given them trouble.

"If we're overconfident, then we're not very smart!" said John L. Smith.

Spartan Nation Top Stories