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Mel Tucker’s Message To His Team: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

The showdown between Michigan State and Michigan will come down to preparation and execution, according to Spartan coach Mel Tucker

Two in-state rivals, undefeated, ranked inside college football’s Top 10. ESPN’s College GameDay on the scene in East Lansing. Fox Sport’s Big Noon Kickoff show coming to town as well.

This Saturday’s matchup between No. 8 Michigan State and No. 6 Michigan has it all. The hype, the drama, the excitement, the build-up – it’s all there.

And that fact isn’t lost on Spartan head coach Mel Tucker.

“Inherently, this game is going to bring an additional element of intensity, excitement and hype,” Tucker said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “So, we don’t have to add to that, because it’s inherently part of the game. So, let’s keep the main thing, the main thing in our preparation. We have a job to do in here. We have things we have to do every day to prepare. And the less distracted we are, the better.”

That’s the underlining message that Tucker and his staff are reiterating and reinforcing to his team throughout this week – Block out the noise, ignore the distractions, focus on what’s important and prepare, prepare, prepare.

“We all understand the significance of the game. That doesn’t take away from the fact that we need to prepare,” Tucker said. “It’s what we do during the week leading up to the game that’s going to affect the outcome of the game.”

The head coach also noted the importance of staying poised throughout the week. That can be challenging in a game like this, with all the excitement that’s attached to it, but Tucker understands there’s work to be done in the days leading up to this weekend.

“It’s really too early for me to go down the laundry list of everything that this game means. It’s just too early in the week to get there,” he said. “We’re going to prepare, and we’re going to build up to the game. And then we will peak at the right time of the week. [On Saturday] at noon, we’ll be ready to play. But, I know how big the game is. And if I know, my players are going to know, and they do know.”

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This game is always important in the state of Michigan, regardless of the records, regardless of how successful each team has been leading up to the game. However, on paper, these appear to be two of the most evenly-matched teams that have clashed in this series.

The Spartans and Wolverines have played three common opponents – Northwestern, Nebraska and Rutgers. Michigan State’s combined margin of victory against those three opponents is 38 points. Michigan’s combined margin of victory is 36 points.

The margin for error is small in a game like this, for both sides. The game could be won or lost on a handful of plays. Tucker is aware of that.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to preparation, playing with extreme effort and, obviously, the turnover margin is going to be a huge factor,” he said. “Sometimes teams don’t get beat, they lose the game because of lack of discipline, lack of execution, lack of technique, not giving effort, not finishing plays, not knowing what to do.”

Tucker said it’s his job, and the job of his coaching staff, to make sure his guys are staying focused on the right things and putting in the work of preparation, to avoid those costly mistakes.

“Our focus right now is preparing relentlessly for the game, preparing for pressure. Not just being ready, but being prepared, and being prepared for pressure – the pressure of the game,” he said.

“What I saw today, what I saw last week – I saw a very focused football team, a very focused staff. [Monday’s] practice was very sharp. I didn’t see any indication of being distracted – coaches, staff or players. Didn’t see that today. So, we’ll take the next step tomorrow.”

That’s the mindset this week: One day at a time, one practice at a time, focus on what’s important and prepare, prepare, prepare.