If you asked Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, this week is just like any other for the Wolverines.
"I’m sure there are going to be attempts to build the game up and etcetera," Harbaugh said during his Monday press conference. "We’re just working and not worrying."
Ask anyone else in the state of Michigan, and they’ll give you a different answer. No. 12 Michigan takes on No. 7 Michigan State this Saturday in Ann Arbor, and the Wolverines will be looking for their first win since 2013.
According to Harbaugh, the team is preparing like it does every other week.
"It’s a trophy game," Harbaugh said. "We want to get the best grades, we want to win the most awards, we want to excel at sports and this is a game that has a trophy associated with it, so it’s an award.
"Winning the next game is the goal. That’s the most important thing, there’s nothing more important than that."
Fifth-year senior linebacker Desmond Morgan agrees with Harbaugh’s sentiment of taking things week-by-week, but Morgan grew up with the rivalry and is constantly reminded of its importance.
"Both of us (Morgan and fullback Joe Kerridge) are from the state of Michigan, so it’s a real personal thing. There’s no question about it. I know, growing up on the west side of Michigan, I have a lot of former high school classmates, guys I played high school football with, who now attend Michigan State as students. Whatever way this game ends up going, I usually hear quite a bit about it."
When Harbaugh was asked about the current state of the in-state rivalry, he pulled out a movie reference.
In the past seven years, Michigan State has won six times.
"Think about The Lion King," Harbaugh said. "Simba gets hit over the head and (Rafiki) tells him, "Yeah, the past can hurt. You can either run from it or embrace it and learn from it. Those seem like very wise words."
Harbaugh didn’t shy away from listing off Michigan States’ assets, including a formidable offense that includes quarterback Connor Cook and athletic receivers.
"Outstanding quarterback," Harbaugh said. "(Connor Cook’s) record speaks for itself, 29-3. It says it all."
Luckily for the Wolverines, Michigan State’s offense will have its hands full this week with Michigan’s cornerbacks. Jourdan Lewis—who was just named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following his pick-six—will be back, and Channing Stribling, who was out last week against Northwestern due to injury, will play against Michigan State.
Overall, the Wolverines are leaning on their preparation and confidence in one another to get the job done on Saturday.
"We’re playing together and we’re playing for each other in a lot of ways," Morgan said. "I’ve noticed a lot of guys kind of rallying around some other guys. You know, Mario Ojemudia took a big hit against Maryland and went down. That’s something I know a lot of guys took personally.
"It’s something I think that kinda describes this team, playing for one another more than themselves and I think that’s something that has just continued to grow and strengthen as the season has gone on."