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Michigan football has to avoid overlooking massive underdog Michigan State

Wolverines favored by more than 3 touchdowns against in-state rival

Kwity Paye #19 of the Michigan Wolverines makes the stop on Elijah Collins #24 of the Michigan State Spartans during the second quarter of the game at Michigan Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Kwity Paye #19 of the Michigan Wolverines makes the stop on Elijah Collins #24 of the Michigan State Spartans during the second quarter of the game at Michigan Stadium on November 16, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (2019 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan football is expected to crush Michigan State this weekend, as the current betting line favors the Wolverines by more than three touchdowns.

The massive spread is warranted after last week’s results. While Michigan dominated a top 25 team in Minnesota, Michigan State turned the ball over seven times in a loss to conference bottom feeder Rutgers.

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It was a difficult start to Mel Tucker’s tenure, but as was the case during the Mark Dantonio era, the Spartans will always be ready for the Michigan game.

“This game against the school down the road is not just another game, so it’s really special to me,” Tucker said. “It’s special to our players. It’s very important to our coaches, to our former players and to our fans, and to the people of the state of Michigan. So it’s a special game and we treat it as such.”

Tucker referred to Michigan as “the school up/down the road” four times during his Tuesday press conference, stoking the flames of an already intense rivalry. That shows just how much the game means to these two in-state rivals.

Michigan’s coaches and players know that no matter what happened last weekend, they have to be ready to take Michigan State’s best shot.

“We can’t underestimate them,” Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson said. “It’s a rivalry game. It doesn’t matter who they lost to or who we beat. It’s about who shows up on Saturday.”

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Spartans quarterback Rocky Lombardi had a solid game against Rutgers, completing 31 of 43 pass attempts for 319 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He doesn’t consider MSU such a huge underdog.

“Twenty-four points seems like a bit of a stretch to me,” Lombardi said, when asked about the spread. “But I don’t even look at that stuff, honestly.”

It’s almost certain the Spartans will look better in Week 2. Tucker said that’s when teams generally show the most improvement, and it’s hard to imagine Michigan State turning the ball over seven times.

Despite the ugly loss, MSU out-gained Rutgers by nearly 100 yards. Michigan can’t afford to just show up and go through the motions, especially in a game that means so much to Michigan State’s players, regardless of their record.

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“We know they’re really, really talented and how physical this game is going to be, mainly because every player that steps onto that field on Saturday is going to be emotionally invested,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Michigan crushed Michigan State 44-10 when the two teams met last season at the Big House. Due to the schedule adjustments made to accommodate a shorter season, the teams will meet in Ann Arbor for a second-straight year, instead of playing in East Lansing.

The Wolverines have won two straight and three of the four meetings with the Spartans after dropping six of seven from 2008-2015.

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