East Lansing, MI – Mel Tucker was a graduate assistant with Michigan State under Nick Saban from 1997-98 when he got his first glimpse of the rivalry between MSU and the Wolverines.
He worked alongside former Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio and then again once he took a job at Ohio State.
Tucker spent three seasons with the Buckeyes coaching defensive backs (2001-03) and then one year as the co-defensive coordinator (2004).
So, Michigan State's 25th head football coach knows a thing or two about being rivals with the Wolverines.
"I do remember vividly how we embraced that game. I've had some pretty good mentors that I've worked with that embraced rivalry games. And obviously, at that time with coach Saban, it was made to be a special game. There was emphasis put on it," said Tucker. "And I can remember the intensity going into that game and the preparation. When you have these rivalry games, it's just different; there's just no way around it."
Everyone in the state of Michigan cares about this rivalry, and Tucker knows that.
"It's a special game, and we treat it as such," the first-year Spartan head coach said.
And whether it was intentional or not, he wouldn't say it, continuously avoiding the word "Michigan," referring to his rival as "the school down the road."
"I don't think there's any question for me who we're playing this week ... I think we all know who that is," said Tucker. "I just think that's pretty obvious."
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