In Ann Arbor, the Michigan football team is loved. But the Wolverines don’t have to go very far to be at the opposite end of that spectrum.
Travel 60 miles northwest to East Lansing and the Wolverines are hated -- which the players love.
"That’s why you play the game of football -- those road games are just the best," Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan said. "Just stepping in there and getting all the boos, I think it’s sometimes better than cheers."
And there will certainly be plenty of boos for Michigan when it takes the field Saturday in Spartan Stadium.
The Spartans are undefeated at home this year while Michigan has struggled recently on the road.
In their first road game of the year, the Wolverines traveled to Connecticut and, after a slow start and turning the ball over three times, came away with a three-point win.
Michigan’s second road trip of the season was to Penn State, where the Wolverines suffered their only loss of the season in four overtimes at the hands of the Nittany Lions.
Neither of those games showed a true offensive identity. But on Saturday, the Wolverines will need to play their best game of the year as MSU is giving up just 12 points and 55 rushing yards per game.
Defensively, Michigan will also have to put together one of its best showings of the year. The Wolverines' defense wasn’t the biggest problem in either of their road games, but they’ll need to put together a very solid performance to stand up against a Michigan State offense that has found itself of late.
A common trend between those two road games, defensively, was that Michigan suffered from communication issues, rooted in the noise and the discomfort of being in an opponent’s stadium.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said that has been a main focus of this week’s practice.
“You have to over-coach that in a game like this,” Mattison said. “You have to make sure than any check or any adjustment that happens on that field has got to be communicated louder and more emphatically than ever. Games like this go down to communication sometimes. You have to have everybody on the same page when you’re playing in these kinds of games.”
Communication issues -- both offensively and defensively -- were a huge issue the last time the Wolverines traveled to Spartan Stadium. On Monday, offensive tackle Taylor Lewan admitted that Michigan got out-muscled in that game, which resulted in a 28-14 Spartan win.
In 2011, Michigan State accounted for seven sacks, and on the other side of the ball, the Spartans ran over Michigan, rushing for 213 yards.
Senior offensive lineman Michael Schofield said the team often thinks about that game and -- like Michigan State wanting to get rid of the sour taste in its mouth from last season -- the Wolverines want to get rid of the feeling of being outmuscled in front of an opposing crowd by a rival.
“I do like going to away stadiums,” Schofield said. “It gets you more excited because people are booing against you and it’s just kind of fun when you go out there, and especially when you quiet the crowd.”
And that’s exactly what the Wolverines will try to do on Saturday.