ANN ARBOR -- With Michigan's 2014 campaign trending downwards with each passing week, it knows that with a victory over in-state rivals Michigan State, and possibly ruining its chances of getting into the four-team playoff at the end of the season, it could do miraculous things to direction the season is headed.
Getting the Wolverines (3-4, 1-2) to admit that fact is another story.
The answers from coaches and players alike were short and lacking substance during the weekly Monday press conference, just the way Michigan coach Brady Hoke likes it. There was no need for bulletin-board material from the Wolverines, this game means enough already to find outside motivation.
Coming off a sound 29-6 beating last year by the Spartans, the Wolverines are in a position to play spoilers if it can come away success in a return trip to East Lansing on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ABC.)
Don't tell senior quarterback Devin Gardner that, however.
"It's not about us ruining their season," Gardner said. "It's about us."
No matter who the upcoming game is about, it is a rivalry that is not void of passion. Even if Michigan State has won five out of the last six meetings and held Michigan to minus-48 yards rushing a season ago.
"The passion on both sides, either green and white or maize and blue, that passion you see, you hear and you feel," Hoke said. "We are playing the defending Big Ten champs who deserve that. They play very good football during the year on both sides of the ball."
Passion aside, the current players, as well as the staff, will not forget the embarrassment it suffered a year ago in East Lansing. At least for Hoke, he believes that both teams are at different points in terms of its mental make-up.
But it still doesn't take the sting away from failing to get the job done from a player-perspective.
"We're a different team mindset-wise, they're probably a different team mindset-wise," Hoke said. "It would bother me if I played in the game, if you're asking me personally.
"If I didn't do my job, it would bother the hell out of me."