Jim Harbaugh and Michigan football are coming off the program's first Big Ten championship in 17 years, but they haven't forgotten the one blemish on their Big Ten record last season.
On Oct. 30, in Spartan Stadium, Michigan State came back from a 16-point, third quarter deficit to stun the Wolverines, 37-33, in a matchup between the unbeaten, Top 10 rivals in 2021.
Former Spartan tailback Kenneth Walker III cemented his legacy in MSU history that day, rushing for 197 yards and five touchdowns on 23 carries for Michigan State. No Spartan had ever rushed for that many touchdowns in one game against the Wolverines.
Fast forward nine month later, and Michigan is still bitter about the way things went down in East Lansing — and over the fact that the Spartans have won two in a row over the Wolverines.
“Well, yeah, we’re going to want to win that game," Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara said about the Wolverines' mindset looking forward to the 2022 rendition of the Battle for Paul Bunyan.
"There are some games that you think about maybe that week or whatever it is, and then there are some teams that you think about all year – when you’re working out, when you’re conditioning – and Michigan State is one of those teams. And we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we don’t lose that game.”
Michigan tight end Erick All also expressed his frustration over losing back-to-back games to MSU. The senior suggested that Michigan was so focused on beating Ohio State in 2021, that perhaps the Wolverines didn't put as big of an emphasis on the Michigan State game as they should have.
“We’ve got to beat those guys. Like, we’ve got to get after them this year," All said of the Spartans.
"I think us focusing more on Ohio State kind of, you know – I don’t want us to be more worried about Ohio State than we are of Michigan State, because we haven’t beat them guys in two years. We need to get right, get dialed in with them too, and we will. We’ll have a ‘Michigan State’ drill too, I’m pretty sure.”
Harbaugh said that beating Michigan State was one of the Wolverines' four main objectives for the 2022 season.
“That’s our goal: Beat Michigan State and Ohio State in the same year, win the Big Ten championship, win the national championship," Harbaugh said. "We want to accomplish as many of those, or all of those, as we can.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Michigan cornerback DJ Turner and defensive tackle Mazi Smith weighed in on the Spartans as well.
“We just remember that game," Turner said. "We didn’t get it done against Michigan State. So, we just can’t wait for this year, at home. We’re just looking forward to it.”
Smith stared intently before stating: “Yeah man – get it done. We’ve got to go get it done.”
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker is the first football coach in MSU history to win their first two games against the Wolverines. The Spartans bested U-M at the Big House in 2020, 27-24, before last season's 37-33 win in East Lansing.
The Wolverines and Spartans will renew their annual showdown, with the Paul Bunyan Trophy at stake, on Oct. 29 in Ann Arbor.