carr, michigan, wolverines
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Will Johnson wants to beat Michigan State for all the usual reasons.
After all, his Michigan Wolverines are still in the hunt for the Big Ten title and the Spartans are one of their biggest rivals.
The defensive tackle has one more reason, though. Beating Michigan State on Saturday will mean the Paul Bunyan Trophy gets put away safely until after his career.
As they started preparing Monday for the game at Spartan Stadium, Johnson's teammates were unanimous that he bears an uncanny resemblance to the Paul Bunyan figure atop the massive trophy.
"It just looks like Will," said senior receiver Adrian Arrington. "We've been saying that since we were freshmen. He doesn't think so, though."
Defensive backs Jamar Adams and Morgan Trent also saw the likeness, but Michigan coach Lloyd Carr wasn't buying it.
"Will doesn't have a beard and Paul Bunyan does," Carr said during his Monday press conference. "Besides, Will's a lot tougher than Paul Bunyan. Smarter, too."
Seconds later, though, Carr had second thoughts about badmouthing the Great Lakes myth.
"I shouldn't be saying all that -- I didn't know Paul Bunyan," he said. "Actually, I don't even know why we play for the Paul Bunyan Trophy. I've never researched it, and I don't think I'll bother."
If he had, he would have discovered that the trophy was first presented in 1953 by then-Gov. G. Mennen Williams, and that the annual Minnesota-Wisconsin game is played for Paul Bunyan's Axe.
Neither trophy is as well-known as the Little Brown Jug, which Michigan retained by beating Minnesota last weekend. But the Wolverines don't feel they need the Paul Bunyan to motivate them against the Spartans.
"It's in the locker room -- it's huge and sort of ugly -- and we want to keep it," said senior offensive tackle Jake Long. "But we're playing for a Big Ten championship, state bragging rights and a ring. If that's not enough to get you fired up, you shouldn't be playing college football."
Adams and Trent both plan to make sure that freshman cornerback Donovan Warren feels the same way about the rivalry.
"Donovan has been playing really well, but I'm not sure he understands what this week is about," Trent said. "I'm going to have a long talk with him."
Adams also hopes to avenge some non-football losses to Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer, saying: "We've played golf a couple times, and he's very competitive. He beats me. I just took up the game, and I'm left-handed playing with right-handed clubs. I'm pretty bad, but he actually taught me a few things."
When the hype ends and the teams take the field Saturday, Long expects Michigan to have its offense closer to full strength, saying he has "no doubt" that injured quarterback Chad Henne and tailback Mike Hart will play.
Carr wouldn't discuss his senior stars' health. "They are getting better every day, but we aren't going to know anything until we get on the practice field, and that's all I'm going to say on the subject."