Let the insults begin.

Paul Wong
Michigan linebacker Larry Foote (17) and his Wolverine defense are getting geared up for this weekend”s game against rival Michigan State.<br><br>MARJORIE MARSHALL/Daily

Now that Michigan has had time to savor Saturday”s heart-stopping 32-26 win at Iowa, the Wolverines (and their fans) can turn their attention to the annual intrastate grudge match against Michigan State.

What used to be a relatively one-sided rivalry has evened out a bit in recent years. Michigan has lost three of its last four games in East Lansing. The latest setback was a 34-31 loss two years ago when in the span of three hours the Wolverines” defense made Plaxico Burress into a first-round NFL draft pick.

This year”s edition of the Spartans has similar big-play ability. Sophomore receiver Charles Rogers has game-breaking speed (as evidenced by his 22.4 yards-per-catch average) and junior tailback T.J. Duckett is one of the conference”s top runners. These two have Michigan coach Lloyd Carr concerned, to say the least.

“There”s been a lot of talk about that Michigan defense, and the truth is, we”re going to find out this week what that defense is all about,” Carr said at yesterday”s media luncheon. “I think we”re going to play the most talented, explosive offensive football team we”ve seen this year.”

Whose side are you on?: Anyone who has grown up in Michigan knows how intense the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is.

Unlike some of college football”s other storied rivalries (e.g. Miami-Florida State, Alabama-Auburn) the feud between the Wolverines and the Spartans extends beyond the football field.

Michigan and Michigan State compete at anything and everything, which makes this one of the most all-encompassing rivalries in the nation.

Defensive tackle Dave Pearson, a Brighton native, has been immersed in the tussle between the Wolverines and Spartans since childhood. It would be an understatement to say that he is eagerly anticipating Saturday”s contest.

“We get really excited to play this game,” Pearson said. “I”m looking forward to playing in it. I got a chance to play in it a little bit last year, and it was a great experience. Hopefully, I”ll get to contribute a little more this year.”

BCS? What BCS?: Proponents of the Bowl Championship Series claim that all of the controversy it creates is proof that it works.

In fairness, college football fans around the country do get quite intrigued by the weekly BCS poll. Numerous websites offer projections which are updated weekly on which teams will be playing in the four BCS bowls.

Michigan is ranked fourth in the latest BCS poll, behind Nebraska, Oklahoma and Miami (Fla.). While this might be cause for some Michigan fans to start dreaming of Pasadena, the Wolverines themselves claim to be paying no attention at all to the BCS.

“Now, at this time of year, it doesn”t really matter where you are,” defensive end Shantee Orr said. “The only thing that matters is in the end. We have to just focus on one game at a time, and the results will just take care of themselves.”

Magnanimous Mr. Foote: Senior linebacker Larry Foote was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his 15-tackle, three-sack performance against Iowa.

Following the game, in typically humble fashion, Foote deflected praise toward the front four. Foote acknowledged that without the tremendous pressure exerted by the linemen, he wouldn”t have had so many opportunities to make plays against the Hawkeyes.

This unselfish gesture didn”t go unnoticed by the defensive line.

“We get excited for anybody that has a great day like Larry Foote had,” Pearson said. “For him to give the defensive line some credit, that”s a great thing.”

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