Champaign, Ill. — All the talk about trap games can end now. All the wondering if Michigan State would look past Illinois can come to a halt, as well.
The Spartans rolled on Saturday, blowing out Illinois 42-3 and, perhaps, in the process, sent a bit of message to anyone in Ann Arbor who might have been watching.
Yes, it is now essentially Michigan week and all the hype can officially begin.
Just don't try to convince too many of the Spartans quite yet.
"We're 4-0, which is where we wanted to be," coach Mark Dantonio said. "We'll worry about that tomorrow. All of our focus is really on the present. Let's have a good time on the bus and the plane ride home, and we'll take care of business tomorrow."
Michigan State is 7-1 overall and the perfect mark in Big Ten play puts it a game ahead of Michigan and Nebraska. And as big of a rivalry as Michigan State-Michigan is, the game now means plenty in the division race.
The winner of next week's showdown at Spartan Stadium will be in firm control in the Legends Division and Michigan State feels like it has put itself in prime position.
"Any time you have a game like this, heading into a game against Michigan — a big-time rivalry," quarterback Connor Cook said, "that's always gonna elevate everyone's confidence."
Michigan was off this week and its loss at Penn State puts it a game behind Michigan State. But both teams are still in the hunt to reach the conference title game in Indianapolis, only heightening the rivalry.
It's exactly the type of atmosphere defensive end Shilique Calhoun loves.
"I look forward to playing in every big game," he said. "I love all the hype, love all the fans getting riled up. I love when their fans are booing us. It gives you a passion to come out and play hard. I'm looking forward to this week and tomorrow we'll get some film in."
Senior offensive lineman Dan France relishes his last game against Michigan, and he's loving the way the offensive line has been playing since Big Ten play began.
"This game was big going into Michigan and kind of gets the ball rolling," France said. "I feel like the whole team is confident now and hopefully we come out and play well next week.
"I can't wait. Michigan is always a good game and something I always look forward to. I'm from the state of Ohio, so I can't wait."
The Spartans insisted they would enjoy the Illinois win before moving on to Michigan. But linebacker Max Bullough said it will be hard to contain the excitement for the next game.
"I don't think get up too much for a game like that," he said. "They're gonna be excited and we are already. I think we set up well for the quote, unquote hard part of our schedule this last part of the year. We've done what we have to do and all we've got to do now is continue that."