- Associated Press - Friday, October 8, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - Rich Rodriguez has coached in just two Michigan-Michigan State games, losing them both, and yet he can sense the next matchup is different.

The 17th-ranked Spartans (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten) and 18th-ranked Wolverines (5-0, 1-0) will play Saturday at the Big House without a loss between them for the first time since 1999 and with both in The Associated Press poll for the first time in seven years.

“It certainly adds interest _ nationally,” Rodriguez said. “The more you win, the more that is at stake.”

When the maize and blue clash with the green and white in football, alumni and fans are always riveted, regardless of the records.

This time, they’ve got company.

People who don’t care who wins can tune in to watch Michigan’s sensational quarterback Denard Robinson or the return of Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio in his first game back after having a mild heart attack last month.

The Spartans have a shot to win three straight against college football’s winningest team for the first time since 1965-67, when they were a national powerhouse and Michigan hadn’t yet hired Bo Schembechler.

Michigan has won three-fourths of the last 40 matchups _ thanks in large part to Schembechler’s dominance in the rivalry _ but it hasn’t won since running back Mike Hart referred to Michigan State as a “little brother” in 2007.

The Spartans have earned the bragging rights since then and Michigan linebacker Obi Ezeh is tired of hearing about it from childhood friends in Grand Rapids.

“I get a lot of grief from those guys when I’m back home,” Ezeh said.

Robinson might be able to help Ezeh and the rest of his teammates restore some pride in the state. After just five games, he is 95 yards away from rushing for 1,000 yards this season and 87 yards shy of the 2,000-yard mark.

If Robinson can keep up the pace he’s set so far, he’ll eclipse those milestones in the first quarter.

Michigan State has other plans.

All-American linebacker Greg Jones will likely have his eyes on Robinson all game, hoping his feet are fast enough to catch “Shoelace” before he gets loose.

When the Spartans have the ball, a trio of running backs will get handoffs that they hope will set up Kirk Cousins for play-action passes against a defense that has either looked confused or overmatched this season.

Story Continues →