Michigan football team 'not worried' about playing Michigan State, more focused on overall improvement
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
During the first session of the Big Ten media days in Chicago on Thursday, coach Brady Hoke and his three player representatives were given multiple opportunities to express their thoughts on whether or not the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry has hit an all-time high in terms of intensity.
And virtually every time, the Wolverine contingent brushed it off.
"Right now, I'm thinking about winning summer camp, being the best I can be for this team right now," Michigan senior quarterback Denard Robinson said. "I'm not thinking about Michigan State. I'm thinking about being the best quarterback (I can be).
"I'm not worried about playing Michigan State."
The Spartans won 11 games last season, played in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game and are led by coach Mark Dantonio -- who has gone out of his way more than once this offseason to stoke the already intense flame that is the UM-MSU rivalry.
The two schools are also the main favorites this season in the Big Ten Legends Division, and the Oct. 20 game in Ann Arbor is currently seen by many as one that will go a long way in determining the division crown -- if not the league crown.
But is the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry at an all-time high?
Hoke's not sure.
"I don't know," he said. "It's always been intense to me. You don't want (the losing streak). No one likes that. But I don't feel (it's more intense than it was in the past).
"It's intense because it's a great rivalry."
Last season, the Spartans more or less controlled the football game in a 28-14 victory, dominating the line of scrimmage and injuring Robinson in a penalty-laden contest.
Asked what went wrong last year, Robinson said it was a simple circumstance of his squad not being ready to play.
"I don't think we came out to play football, we didn't play Michigan football," he said. "We didn't come out ready. They came out ready and they were the better team that day."
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan -- who was punched in the helmet by MSU defensive end William Gholston during the game -- echoed Robinson's calm response.
"We didn't come out to play that game," he said. "In the (past) four years of playing the way we have, that's not up to our standards."
Hoke continually talks about the Ohio State game as the most important date on the schedule. He also gives a great deal of respect to the Michigan State game, and often refers to it as the most physical game of the season.
But as of right now?
The Spartans aren't really on the minds of Michigan.
At least no more than normal.
"For us, that's always a big game because it's an in-state rival game," Hoke said. "They've been kicking our butts pretty good lately. That's something we don't like. That game, and obviously the Ohio game, are the biggest games on the schedule."