It is no secret that the Michigan State football team has struggled as of late on the field. After winning their first two games, the Spartans have dropped four straight and the road doesn’t get much easier ahead.
MSU competed well in the start of its contest against Rutgers on Saturday. The Spartans looked complete for most of the game, taking a 24-6 lead into the fourth quarter before allowing 21 unanswered points to ultimately fall to the Scarlet Knights 27-24.
With difficulty to finish the whole game, the Spartans are looking for an opportunity to get on the board with a victory that will allow them to string together some positive momentum. This week's task for MSU is the battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, a primetime game against No. 2 ranked Michigan.
Each year, past results are temporarily set aside for rivalry week. No matter the former records, Michigan State is presented with the privilege to host one of the best teams in the country at home under the lights with hopes of knocking the Wolverines out of their championship aspirations. For the players, the mentality is simply that.
“I mean really it’s like, y'all can doubt us all you want,” sophomore defensive back Dillon Tatum said. “But we’re going to come out there and give them our best shot. Really this is the game, the game for real, and how I said earlier it’s important, it matters, and it matters the freaking most. We’re going to go out there and ball I believe. And I believe we’re going to win this football game.”
The Michigan State-Michigan rivalry will always mean more to both schools than other games on the schedule, which is why it is installed into the team’s mind’s before each season, quite literally. Redshirt senior wide receiver Tre Mosley emphasized that players will tell incoming recruits that Spartans do not like the Wolverines.
“So when guys first came here, we tried to instill that in them,” Mosley said. “We very strongly dislike them and they are the same for us, you know. But that’s the beauty of the rivalry.”
There is a typical general consensus that rivalry games mean less when one team is more dominant than the other. On paper, it is clear that Michigan has performed near flawlessly in their 2023 campaign. The Wolverines are 7-0, and have only allowed ten or more points in a game for just one of those contests. It has been more of the opposite for MSU, as they have managed to put up just 22 points per game.
The Spartans are heavy underdogs going into the matchup, as Michigan is favored by 24 and a half points. MSU has dealt with being betted against the entire season, though that doesn’t change the mentality for the team according to redshirt senior offensive lineman J.D. Duplain.
“I mean, every game is like that,” Duplain said. “I mean every game we’re going to play as hard as you can. This one, I mean, it’s a fun game to play in. I played in it four times, now soon my fifth, and it’s hard not to get ready for this game. It’s not hard to get into that mindset to get ready for this game."
It is hard to determine what the result of the game will be, but the energy building up during the week is important to get the team’s mind sharp for the Spartans’ biggest game of the season to date.
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