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Michigan State, Michigan football teams get involved in game extracurriculars

Michigan State running back Elijah Collins, left, rushes against Illinois last Saturday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

Today: Michigan State at Michigan, noon; TV: Fox-U.P.

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ANN ARBOR — When Michigan faces Michigan State, the actual 60 minutes of football are only part of the show.

Pay close attention to what’s done pregame and said postgame. The participants tend to remember.

Consider last year’s matchup in East Lansing: Well before kickoff, Michigan State players walked across the field with linked arms, making contact with Michigan players who were there. Wolverines linebacker Devin Bush was so incensed he used his cleats to scuff up the Spartans’ midfield logo.

The Big Ten fined Michigan State after that, so perhaps both teams will be on their best behavior before they meet again today in Ann Arbor.

“That’s been addressed pretty thoroughly,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “If there are any pregame traditions, those take place before the two-hour mark — when both teams, at two hours, are allowed to be on the field and share the field.”

After the game last year — a 21-7 Michigan win — Harbaugh was more pointed, calling the pregame incident “bush league” and drawing a reprimand from the league for his comments. That was just another chapter in a heated in-state rivalry in which each school keeps a close eye on what the other does — and says.

It was a postgame comment in 2007 by Michigan’s Mike Hart — calling Michigan State a little brother — that set Dantonio off. The Spartans won eight of the next 10 games in the series. Along the way, Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi — now the coach at Pittsburgh — got himself in a bit of trouble for saying the Spartans tried to play “60 minutes of unnecessary roughness” after a flag-filled win over the Wolverines in 2011.

Before the 2014 meeting, the Wolverines planted a tent stake in the field at Spartan Stadium, a gesture that annoyed Dantonio so much he had Michigan State keep driving for a touchdown in the final minute of a 35-11 victory.

Before last year’s matchup, Dantonio pointed out that the previous few games against Michigan had been characterized by good sportsmanship and respect. Then the pregame brouhaha unfolded. Both coaches have acted this week like that’s in the past. Just a routine dispute. Can’t have a rivalry without them.

“If you don’t like confrontation, best stay home,” Dantonio said.