Michigan State Spartans football team back to underdog’s role vs. Michigan Wolverines

Michigan State’s Chris Frey, left, recovers a fumble by Iowa’s Brandon Smith, bottom rear, as Spartan teammates, from left, Joe Bachie, Khari Willis, Andrew Dowell and David Dowell react during their game Saturday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

Saturday’s game: Michigan State at Michigan, 7:30 p.m.; TV: WBUP-ABC


AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING — Mark Dantonio is happy to skip the platitudes when it comes to Michigan State’s biggest rivalry.
Other coaches may play it cool before a game of this magnitude, but who are they fooling?
“I think that’s all coach talk, personally. I think coaches know what games are important. They understand,” Dantonio said Tuesday. “They can stand up here and say, ‘Well, this is just another football game,’ but it’s not.”
The Spartans always take their matchup with Michigan seriously, and Saturday night’s game in Ann Arbor will be no different. The seventh-ranked Wolverines are clear favorites, and although Michigan State has won seven of the last nine meetings, the pendulum swung in the other direction last year. Michigan won 32-23, part of a 3-9 season for the Spartans that they’re hoping was an aberration.
Dantonio has been MSU’s coach for the past 10 meetings with Michigan, and he was an assistant for the Spartans earlier in his career. Turning this rivalry in Michigan State’s favor was a significant accomplishment, and he’s been more than willing to call the Wolverines out from time to time. A decade ago, Michigan running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a little brother, and that only added to the chip on the Spartans’ shoulders.
“I am who I am and I just react the way I react sometimes,” Dantonio said. “We get ready to play. They have got a good football team. Have a great amount of respect for what they have accomplished down there.”
But after dominating the rivalry for a little while, Michigan State is in danger of ceding the upper hand. Last year’s game was 30-10 early in the fourth quarter, and another victory this season will have Michigan fans feeling — if they don’t already — like the Wolverines have taken control of this series again.