EAST LANSING - When your head football coach embraces the severity of the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry the way Mark Dantonio has since his arrival, it can make his weekly radio show all the more interesting.
That was the case on Thursday, during Dantonio's radio show stint that also featured an appearance by MSU's band.
"I think you've got to embrace your rivalries,'' Dantonio said. "We've always done that wherever I've been coaching, regardless of who the head coach was or if I was the guy. It's something that's going to come around once a year and it's an opportunity to play at a high level. There are things at stake for this particular game, especially in this state, I've said it so many times, you either grow up green or you grow up blue. It's just sort of the way it is. We didn't create this monster, it just happens.''
With senior captains Max Bullough and Blake Treadwell as Thursday's student-athlete guests leading into the Spartans' 3:30 p.m. game on Saturday against the Wolverines, this week's radio show seemed to give Spartans fans just what they needed as they got themselves prepared for a visit from their downstate rivals.
Plus, the Spartans will face U-M as a ranked team for the first time this season. MSU is No. 24 in both polls. Michigan is also ranked at No. 23/21.
"I thought practices were very good this week. Coming off the Illinois win we sort of catapulted into this week a little,'' Dantonio added. "Things have been good, things have been exciting. A lot of conversation about the game and I think our guys are getting ready to play. I think it's important that we peak on Saturday and not Thursday.''
Later, when Dantonio was asked by a caller what his favorite play was from past Michigan State-Michigan games, he replied, "Favorite play in the Michigan game? I'd probably say the last one in 2008, '09, '10 and '11. And that pretty much sums it up.''
Although later in the show, Dantonio offered some insight on the Spartans' position at the top of the Legends Division.
"It's always a crazy ride down the stretch but the stakes get higher the farther we go and right now as we sit here 4-0. We're in the driver's seat, so we need to continue to stay there.''
Host Will Tieman read from the release that listed Max Bullough, a second-team Academic All-America honoree last season and a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection, as having been named to the 2013 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Class. Based upon his selection, Bullough also becomes one of 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which recognizes an individual as the best scholar-athlete in the nation. Each Campbell Trophy finalist will be presented an $18,000 post-graduate scholarship at the 56th annual NFF Awards Dinner, scheduled for Dec. 10 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
"Not bad,'' Dantonio said. "That's a tremendous honor and event, and I see Hank (Bullough) out there (in the audience), so congratulations Hank, I know you passed all of that knowledge down but that's an outstanding event. Kirk Cousins was at that event a couple of years ago. Percy Snow will also be inducted in the College Football Hall of Fame that night so it will be a special night for Spartans.''
Snow will also be honored on Saturday at Spartan Stadium by being added to MSU's Ring of Fame.
"Great honor, great honor for him,'' Dantonio said. "When you look at that you understand the tradition and the people who have played here and all the time passed. To have your name go up in that as so many have is an outstanding honor.''
When Bullough made his appearance on Thursday's show, Dantonio reminded him that he would need to upgrade his wardrobe for his trip to New York in December.
"You'll have to put on a tux for that,'' Dantonio said.
"I know, I heard. I'll rent one,'' Bullough said.
Upon further review
Some numbers were brought into the show concerning the Spartans and Wolverines.
The fact that defense and running the ball have become important factors in determining the outcome of the game.
In Michigan's last two games, the Wolverines have scored 103 points and in MSU's last two games, the defense has surrendered just three points.
''Well, the rubber's going to hit the road somewhere there, isn't it,'' Tieman said.
"Yeah, we're playing well on both sides of the ball and we need to continue to do that, and build on the success that we've had,'' Dantonio said. "Michigan's defense is very, very good as well. They give up 90 yards rushing. The ability to run the football is so critical in any football game and you've got to be able to try and make people one dimensional a little bit. But it all starts up front. We've always said that it does and it's for real up there. It's not sugar-coated so that's where it will start. I thought we ran the ball effectively last week and really all three of our tailbacks ran very effectively.''
It was also noted that MSU is giving up 55.5 rushing yards a game in Big Ten play.
"We'll be challenged again this week (with) (Devin) Gardner running the football and some of the designated runs - when he drops back to pass, some of the scrambles, it's going to be important to keep him in check and then we've got to shut down the run period, the called runs. Our focus is on always making a team one dimensional.''
A little fun but still serious
Before Bullough took his turn to speak to Thursday's audience, he had a little fun with teammate Blake Treadwell, who, as an offensive lineman doesn't always get the attention he deserves for his work on the field.
"Well, first of all, Tready, he's the one always talking about not getting recognition. Aren't you sitting up here on a a radio show in front of all of these people? So I wouldn't be complaining too much,'' Bullough joked. "The rest of your five buddies (on the offensive line) aren't doing that right now. They're at home eating pizza.''
But getting back to business, Max Bullough, a third generation Spartan, talked about what the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry has meant to him - even at an early age.
"In terms of the Michigan game, this a game that we've always looked forward to, myself, and as a family since I was a little kid. I'd watch every game and hang on every minute of the game and every play I'd be watching and it would ruin my whole month or make my whole month if we won that. I was a kid (then) and it still does (affect me that way) to be honest with you.'
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