Mel Tucker is bringing the right attitude to Michigan State about the heated in-state rivalry with Michigan. The new Spartans head coach knows that the annual battle between the two schools is a little different than the other 11 games on the schedule.

Tucker, who was a graduate assistant at Michigan State from 1997-98, got a little sampling of the in-state rivalry 20 years ago. Now, he’ll be responsible for leading Michigan State into the fight, the game that means a little more than the rest in East Lansing.

It’s a game that Tucker is embracing.

“The Michigan game is not just another game. That’s something we embrace,” Tucker said, according to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press. “I don’t believe in down-playing expectations. That’s useless.”

Tucker also said that “Michigan-Michigan State is different.”

Michigan State dominated the series for most of the Mark Dantonio era, going 8-5 against Michigan during his tenure. That included four-straight wins from 2008-11 and another three-game winning streak from 2013-15.

However, Michigan has caught its football recently, winning three of the last four contests, including the last two games (2018 and 2019). Last year, the Wolverines pummeled the Spartans 44-10 in Ann Arbor.

While every game on the football schedule is important, it’s a positive sign that Tucker understands the Michigan game carries a little more weight than the rest.