Coaches prepare for battle for Paul Bunyan Trophy

Jim Harbaugh, Mark Dantonio
Left: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Oct. 22, 2016. Right: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio on Oct. 15, 2016, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With Michigan undefeated and Michigan State coming off five straight losses, the Wolverines are favored to win this weekend’s in-state rivalry matchup.

But neither Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh nor Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio are looking back as they prepare for the game.

“Things can change very, very quickly in college football. We’ve all seen that happen. We just need to play confidently and play one play at a time and focus on each moment,” Dantonio said.

The unranked Spartans have been outscored 72-23 in the fourth quarter this season, which they had owned in previous years.

“I think it’s as simple as you’ve got to be locked in for the entire game. For some reason, we haven’t been. It’s not acceptable, so our guys know that,” said Michigan State senior linebacker Riley Bullough. “This week is a huge week for us. Hopefully we can play good football for the entire game so we can come out with a victory and turn this season around.”

Meanwhile, the Wolverines are ranked No. 2 by the AP and are a 23-point favorite against the Spartans.

But Harbaugh’s team still remembers last year’s botched punt in the last 10 seconds that lost them the Paul Bunyan Trophy. And Michigan State has won seven of the last eight meetings — the best stretch against Michigan since they went 9-1 between 1956 and 1969. So the Wolverines aren’t counting on anything.

“This is a big game for us. Championship type of ballgame,” Harbaugh said. “Our preparations will need to be at their best. It doesn’t matter what has happened before this week for us or for an opponent — never does. It matters what happens on game day. We know the task in front of us, we know the challenge. It’s up to us to prepare so we have a chance to be successful.”

Kickoff is scheduled for noon Saturday at Spartan Stadium. The game will air on ESPN.