In anticipation of Saturday’s interstate rivalry game with Michigan, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio toed the line at his Tuesday news conference, expressing equal amounts of respect for UM coach Brady Hoke and competitiveness toward the Wolverines.
“I will say this, so you guys can print all this: Just because you like somebody in the family doesn’t mean you like the whole family.” Dantonio said. “I have a great deal of respect for Brady and his coaching abilities.”
Since Dantonio was hired by Michigan State in 2007, the results of the rivalry have swung the Spartans’ way. The Wolverines won 28-24 in Dantonio’s first year before the Spartans reeled off four straight victories from 2008-2011. The Wolverines snapped that streak last season with a 12-10 win in a defensive battle.
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Since Brady Hoke took over for the Wolverines in 2011, he has preached physicality to his players, especially after getting knocked around 28-14 by MSU that year, a game in which the Spartans committed 13 penalties, including several personal fouls.
Dantonio wants his players to match that intensity, but play within the rules.
“My main focus is to get our players playing hard. We always have. We’re going to play tough. We’re going to play within the rules. The refs have to control the football game. I think that’s very important, because it goes on both ends. That’s where I’m at with that,” Dantonio said.
The No. 24 Spartans (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) have a chance to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the Legends Division with a win, while a win for the No. 23 Wolverines (6-1, 2-1 Big Ten) would place them right back in the thick of things in the Legends Division race.
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