Saturday, November 1, 2003

Michigan rivalry could have winner smelling roses

The Associated Press

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Again, No. 11 Michigan seems to have more talent than No. 9 Michigan State.

That factor has helped the Wolverines win six straight games in the rivalry at home. But their talent hasn't made a difference at Spartan Stadium where they have lost two straight and four of five.

"We want to win at their place. It has been a while since we have done that," Michigan's John Navarre said.

Unlike many previous meetings, more than bragging rights will be at stake today in East Lansing.

The Spartans (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) are alone atop the conference standings and are playing Michigan as the higher-ranked team for the first time since 1968. A win would set them up with a chance to play in the Rose Bowl for the first time in 17 years.

With a win, the Wolverines (7-2, 4-1) would have the Big Ten lead alone and would be the favorites to end the season in Pasadena, Calif.

A few months ago, Michigan State's first-year coach John L. Smith was given a Michigan State Rose Bowl shirt from its last game there. It is now in a frame on the wall of Smith's office with "Rose Bowl or Bust" above it.

"Playing in the Rose Bowl is our goal and we're not afraid to say that," Smith said. "I don't see any reason why we can't play there this year."

Smith said the appeal of a Bowl Championship Series game is a reason he left Louisville in December.

"It's a different ceiling here," he said. "At Louisville, we kept banging our head in the ceiling because we couldn't go any higher. Here, it's different. There's nothing we can't do at Michigan State."

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Michigan rivalry could have winner smelling roses
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