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Michigan Wolverines football team knows wounded Michigan State Spartans still dangerous

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio gestures on the sidelines during the second half against Illinois on Saturday in East Lansing. (AP photo)

ANN ARBOR — Even a stumbling Michigan State team represents a threat to Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.

That’s something the Wolverines surely understand by now.

“On high alert for everything,” Harbaugh said. “We understand coach (Mark) Dantonio’s a master motivator. There could be trick plays, special teams, punt fakes, field goal fakes. Everything needs to be alerted and prepared and ready for.”

For MSU, this game against its biggest rival represents perhaps the last chance to salvage a season that’s taken one bad turn after another. For No. 14 Michigan, it’s a chance for a second straight victory over an in-state foe that’s been a thorn in the Wolverines’ side for the past decade. Michigan is a double-digit favorite in Saturday’s game but is being careful not to talk like one. Against this opponent, hubris can backfire.

“This game’s kind of an outlier. The record doesn’t really matter,” Michigan offensive lineman Ben Bredeson said. “In these big rivalry games, anything can happen, and you’ve got to be ready for it. We know that they’re going to be juiced up, ready to play. We’re going to be the same way.”

Michigan State has lost four consecutive games, including a colossal collapse Saturday in which the Spartans blew a 21-point lead in the final quarter against Illinois. Michigan has gone through its own difficulties this season, but a lopsided win over Notre Dame last month lifted the spirits of Wolverines fans. Although Harbaugh hasn’t taken Michigan to the very top of the Big Ten, one thing he has done as coach is halt Michigan State’s dominance of this rivalry.