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Noteworthy comments from Jim Harbaugh’s pre-MSU press conference

The battle for the Paul Bunyan Trophy is here once again.

Penn State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

After a year of waiting, the battle between Michigan and Michigan State is just five days away. To start the week, Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh took questions at his weekly press availability from Schembechler Hall.

While the most buzz came from Harbaugh’s comments on what can with tongue firmly in cheek be called “Tunnelgate”, here’s what else he had to say:

On staying focused during the bye week - “I saw that throughout the week, whether we were practicing, walking through, lifting. I thought Ronnie Bell said it well earlier in the week, ‘just focus on where your feet are at,’ and I thought they did a tremendous job of that throughout the week.”

On what the rivalry means to both schools - “I just think everybody wants it so bad. Everybody wants to win — players, coaches, fanbases — and it’s about as high level as can be.”

On balancing rivalry hype with normal preparation - “In the way you’re expecting to be preparing, 10 out of 10 for every game you play right? If you’re not then what are you doing? But no matter what, if that has somehow decreased over the weeks, then you’re back up to where you have no doubt where it’s at, for both sides. The old cliché of ‘throw out the records’ — it’s true, and both sides want it that much.”

On getting players’ attention based on MSU’s struggles - “Our guys really want to win this — I’m not gonna lie to you, I really want to win. I have no doubt that if you pulsed every player and every coach on both sides, they’d tell you the exact same thing.”

On the defensive’s improvements week over week - “Keeps getting better and better, love the way we’re trending there in pass rush, rushing defense, just getting guys to the ball. Every team has a get-back coach that gets guys back on the sideline; we’ve instituted a get-to coach, let’s get to the ball. Can we get five guys? Can we get six, seven or eight? Probably not gonna get 10 or 11, but pursuit, that’s what takes your defense from being really good to being dominant. That’s where a lot of our turnovers and big plays have come from.”

On not over-analyzing a game plan during the bye week - “I think you do it, you figure more study is more, more is more. But yeah, that’s a good question. When the Saturday rolls around and you got no game to coach, I felt like I was out to sea. Very, very happy to be back into the game week mode.”

Erick All’s status post-surgery - “Won’t be back this year. He had a surgery that he needed, and it was successful. We look forward to rehab for Erick, but he won’t be back this year.”

On how the MSU rivalry has changed over the years - “I really haven’t seen that much of a change. It’s always been a red letter game, was then, is now. It was for the state championship, has conference championship implications every year, it’s the same now. We’ve told you how we feel about it, it’s one of our four major goals.”