Published October 14, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan has met Michigan State on the football field more than 100 times since 1898, winning more than two-thirds of the games.
The Spartans, though, have had their way with the Wolverines lately.
"They took it to us four straight years and that's something we're aware of," Michigan linebacker Desmond Morgan said.
And if Michigan State can pull off an upset at the Big House this week, it will have a school-record, five-game winning streak in the rivalry.
"It'll be a challenge, going down there, obviously," Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said Saturday after losing to Iowa. "We can talk about that next week, and everyone will get all riled up about things. It'll be good for the blood."
No. 23 Michigan (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten) is building momentum in Brady Hoke's second season, outscoring Purdue and Illinois 89-13 the past two weeks after leaving Notre Dame last month with a .500 record.
Michigan State, meanwhile, is coming off a 19-16 double-overtime home loss to the Hawkeyes that was its third setback in five games since being ranked No. 10 and getting its flaws exposed by Notre Dame. After playing at Michigan, the Spartans (4-3, 1-2) travel to Wisconsin and host Nebraska.
"It's gut-check time," Dantonio said. "We're in a tough stretch of the schedule, but we'll rise to it. Our guys will play hard next week. You can count on that."
The Wolverines mostly deflected questions about Michigan State after beating Illinois 45-0 on Saturday, saying they just wanted to enjoy the win.
"Right now, I'm not even thinking about it," quarterback Denard Robinson insisted after his four-touchdown performance against the Fighting Illini. "This is a big win for us."
Hoke said he was pleasantly surprised how focused his team was last week, preparing to play Illinois without peeking ahead at a chance to finally beat the Spartans.
"I didn't even talk about it because our guys never even mentioned it," Hoke said.
Hoke wanted his players to enjoy their second straight win since losing to the Fighting Irish, but acknowledged getting another shot to play the Spartans was on his mind.
"I don't know if you ever don't think about rivalry games," Hoke said. "I think that's always part of what makes us special being Michigan."
The Wolverines have three true rivalries with Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame. They snapped a record seven-game losing streak against the Buckeyes last year and had won three straight against the Irish before losing to them this year.
But Michigan hasn't beaten the Spartans since 2007 when former Wolverines running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a little brother.
Dantonio, then in his first year as head coach in East Lansing, lashed out at Hart, saying "they need to check themselves," and "pride comes before the fall."
Michigan State turned a tie game at halftime into a 28-14 win over the Wolverines last season, recording its second straight win in the series by at least two touchdowns and fourth consecutive victory in the rivalry to match a school record last accomplished from 1959-62.
The Spartans want to stand alone in their record books.
"Getting that fifth win in a row over them would mean a lot to this team, especially in the position we're in right now," safety Isaiah Lewis said.
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