EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio started to refocus his team immediately after last weekend's lopsided loss to Ohio State.
That shouldn't be too difficult, given that the Spartans tangle with archrival Michigan on Saturday in Ann Arbor.
The Spartans (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) and Wolverines (2-5, 1-2) have a war of off-the-field words going that Dantonio didn't do much to encourage at his Tuesday press conference. He didn't discourage the off-the-field banter, either, acknowledging it's part of every big rivalry.
Dantonio helped fuel the off-the-field drama with comments he made a few days after last season's 28-24 Michigan victory. Then in his first season as Michigan State's coach, Dantonio wasn't happy with how the Wolverines conducted themselves after their come-from-behind win. He was particularly irked by Michigan running back Mike Hart, who likened Michigan State to a "little brother" who the big brother lets get ahead in a game before beating him.
The Spartans led by 10 points in the fourth quarter last season before the Wolverines rallied to win their sixth straight in the series. Michigan has a 67-28-5 record in the rivalry.
Hart is gone, moved on to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, where he is sidelined by injury. But his words live on in Michigan State's lockerroom.
Dantonio was asked Tuesday if he'll remind his players of Hart's "little brother" comment.
"Of course I will," Dantonio said. "We'll use what we've got."
The Spartans are coming off a 45-7 loss to Ohio State, a crushing defeat that knocked them out of The Associated Press rankings.
Michigan State plans to start quarterback Brian Hoyer against the Wolverines, saying he'll be fine despite being knocked out of the Ohio State game with hand and head injuries. The Spartans are 4-point favorites Saturday at the Big House, even though they haven't won there since 1990.
The struggling Wolverines and first-year coach Rich Rodriguez are underdogs against the Spartans at home for the first time since 1968, according to World Features Syndicate. The Wolverines won that game 28-24.
Dantonio last year warned the Wolverines about their post-game behavior, saying: "They need to check themselves sometimes. ... Just remember, pride comes before the fall."
On Tuesday, Dantonio said he doesn't regret his emotional comments.
"No, I do not regret talking like that," Dantonio said. "You know ... big brother's watching, so I don't know."
Dantonio, typically regarded as a strait-laced coach, displayed his underappreciated sense of humor often Tuesday. When a reporter prefaced a question by rattling off the names of teams that recently have gone into Ann Arbor and beaten the Wolverines -- mentioning Oregon, Utah, Toledo and Appalachian State -- Dantonio interrupted and asked him to repeat it.
The Wolverines also have said enough to keep the pre-game rhetoric heated.
"We are not going to lose to State," Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham told reporters Saturday following a 46-17 loss at Penn State.
Dantonio said the statement was "pretty soft bulletin board material" and that he took no offense at the comments.
"Words ... I guess they can motivate at times," Dantonio said. "But in the course of a game, the actions begin to motivate. When you start to play the game, what happens in the game takes over."