No. 23 Michigan has lost 4 straight to Michigan St

No. 23 Michigan has lost 4 straight to Michigan St

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) It's been five years since Michigan State's Mark Dantonio lost as head coach against Michigan.

Back then, Wolverines running back Mike Hart referred to the Spartans as a little brother after beating them in 2007. Dantonio responded sternly, saying ``they need to check themselves,'' and ``pride comes before the fall.''

``Of course, there's always thing you wish you didn't say,'' Dantonio said this week. ``But sometimes, I get emotional and let my feelings and competitive spirit run away with the words I say.''

Still, his team has backed him up.

Michigan State (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten) has won four straight in the rivalry and if the Spartans can pull off an upset at No. 23 Michigan (4-2, 2-0) on Saturday, they will have a school-record, five-game winning streak in the series.

``We've had success in this rivalry, but I also understand it's all about what have you done lately,'' Dantonio said. ``Things can change very quickly.''

The Spartans have found that out the hard way, starting the season with high expectations and getting ranked as high as No. 10 before a humbling, flaw-exposing loss to Notre Dame that was the first of three losses in a five-game stretch.

``No excuses,'' Dantonio said.

The Wolverines have even more to lose than the dubious distinction of being on the field for a fifth straight loss to a rival that has won just 32 games in the series from 1898 to 2011. Michigan, co-leaders in the Big Ten's Legends Division, can't afford to have a setback in a quest to win a conference championship for the first time since 2004.

Coach Brady Hoke acknowledged the division race ratchets up the rivalry, in which the home team has won 14 of the last 20 meetings.

``That helps,'' he said.

While Hoke in in just his second year, he has many more memories against Michigan State from his seven seasons as a Wolverines assistant. His most vivid was in 2001.

With a disputed second left on the clock, Jeff Smoker lobbed a 2-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Duckett as time expired in that game. The Wolverines were flagged twice during the game-losing drive, including an infraction for having 12 players on the field that helped the Spartans score.

Hoke still blames himself for the penalty, saying he was in charge of making substitutions then for coach Lloyd Carr, and jokes that he still kept his job.

``Barely,'' he said.

After narrowly beating Michigan by two points in what is known locally as ``The Clock Game,'' in 2001 and winning other games in the series in controversial fashion, the Spartans have won three of the last four matchups decisively by 14-plus points.

To pull off another victory, Michigan State will have to shut down electric quarterback Denard Robinson for the third straight year. Robinson has avoided throwing an interception in his last two games after throwing a career-high four in a loss at Notre Dame.

The Spartans have successfully forced Robinson to pass and have contained him on the ground. He was knocked out of last year's game after getting roughed up, including having his face mask twisted after he was already tackled. In two starts against Michigan State, Robinson has run for an average of 64 yards, completed less than half of his passes with a total of two TD passes and four interceptions.

``We've tackled him well in place, have applied pressure and kept him in the pocket,'' Dantonio said. ``But he's dangerous because he can make a bad play a good one for Michigan in a split second.''

Hoke, with the help of an improving defense and a Robinson-led offense, has turned around a proud-again program quickly enough that Michigan is in a position to become college football's first team with 900 wins.

``I think it's a great accomplishment,'' Robinson said. ``But what we're looking at is getting our fifth win and trying to win the Big Ten.''


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NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

USA Today Sports

NHL Power Rankings: The home stretch

We are down to the home stretch. Only 10 games remain in the Capitals' regular season. Those 10 games will ultimately decide if the Caps finish in first place in the Metropolitan Division and who they will play in the first round of the playoffs.

Washington currently sits in first place in the division, two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and four points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers. Of those 10 remaining games, only three come against teams currently in playoff position. The most critical of these comes on April 1 when the Caps travel to Pittsburgh in a game that could ultimately decide the division.

The Caps still hold a narrow lead in the standings, but where do they stand in the rankings? See this week's updated NHL Power Rankings here.

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Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Associated Press

Need to Know: Looking at the Redskins' offensive depth chart after early phase of free agency

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 19, 38 days before the NFL draft.  

Free agency notes and nuggets

Looking at the 2018 depth chart—offense

The Redskins are likely to make a few more free agent acquisitions and there is the draft, but the depth chart is beginning to settle in. Let’s take a look at where the offensive side of the ball stands now. The defense is up tomorrow

Quarterback: Alex Smith
Backups: Colt McCoy

The only question here is if the Redskins will draft a late-round project quarterback to develop as the backup. McCoy is in the last year of his contract and he may not be back in 2019.

Running back: Samaje Perine
Backups: Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, draft pick

This is an area to watch. Thompson could end up being the only carryover if they get a draft pick who can start and decide to keep 2017 late-season addition Kapri Bibbs or if they find another veteran. They also could go with only three running backs.

Wide receivers: Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder
Backups: Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Brian Quick

They may not carry six, so Harris, Davis, and Quick might battle it out for two spots. It’s possible that they will put a draft pick into the mix as well.

MORE REDSKINS: The Redskins week that was

Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

As of right now, this appears to be one of the few position groups you can write in with a Sharpie. If the Redskins are going to be better in 2018, a lot of the improvement will have to come from improvement of 2017 draft picks like Sprinkle. If he can develop into a solid blocker and a moderate receiving threat he will be an asset.

Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Arie Kouandjio, C Chase Roullier RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: T Ty Nsekhe, G/T Tyler Catalina, G Kyle Kalis, T T.J. Clemmings

Kouandjio is a placeholder at left guard for the moment. He was solid pass blocking but struggled in run blocking in six starts in injury fill-in duty. I think that if they bring in another interior O-lineman in free agency or in the draft, Roullier will remain at center. I think Jay Gruden likes the way he is developing there and wants to continue.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 28
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 130
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 174

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