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Michigan State quickly puts Michigan in rear view, with 'physically strong' Iowa on deck

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Almost immediately after Michigan State had finished off its upset of Michigan last weekend, there was a common theme being tossed around from the Spartans.

It’s the 24-hour rule.

Head coach Mel Tucker and Michigan State are moving on from the victory over Michigan.

For one full day, coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans were permitting themselves to celebrate their improbable victory over their archrival. After that, Paul Bunyan was placed in his trophy case in the lobby of the Skandalaris Center and the business of moving on had begun.

“It’s a new week,” junior running back Connor Heyward said. “Coach talks about the 24-hour rule, and after those 24 hours, it's on to the next opponent.”

It’s hardly an approach unique to Michigan State, but the Spartans have done well with it in the past. In the Michigan series alone, Michigan State was 7-1 the week after a victory over the Wolverines under Mark Dantonio. And, it’s also not used only after a big win. The Spartans rebounded after losing the season-opener to Rutgers, bouncing back quickly to win a game in which they were three-touchdown underdogs.

And they’ve been doing it again this week as they prepare to head to Iowa for a noon kickoff on Saturday.

It’s a week that’s been different than most. Michigan State typically would be off on Monday of a game week after spending Sundays watching film and getting treatment. That was shifted this week as all players in the Big Ten were given Tuesday off in order to vote.

The Spartans went through light workouts on Sunday, a day after bringing the Paul Bunyan Trophy back to campus and a day before practicing on Monday, which led into the off day on Tuesday.

“That 50-minute bus ride on the way home is the best 50 minutes of the season,” junior quarterback Rocky Lombardi said. “It was emotional and we’re glad that we got Paul back home in East Lansing. But practice (Sunday) was obviously a little lighter. Guys were a little beat up from the game and we had to give everybody a little rest time. So, it'll be a little different this week, but at the end of the day we’ve just got to make the best of it we can.”

So the schedule has been juggled, but it’s something Michigan State planned for and was all part of how it planned to move on from last week’s emotional victory.

“Our players knew what our schedule would be for this week before we went to Ann Arbor, so they knew what to expect,” Tucker said. “Our process is about turning the page. We talk about then, now and next all the time. Our players know that we’ve got a 24-hour rule and then we move on to what’s next. What we do next is based upon what we did in the game, things that we have to correct and things we need to build upon.

“Working out on Sunday was part of our plan. Our guys did a great job with that, with our stretch and stride, lifting, yoga, and then also corrections and then turn the page towards Iowa. I feel very good about our process.”

That process is leading Michigan State (1-1) into a meeting with Iowa, which is 0-2 for the first time since 2000 after the Hawkeyes opened the season with losses to Purdue and Northwestern. The Spartans have won three in a row in the series; however, the teams haven’t played since 2017 and have faced each other just twice in the last five years.

But that doesn’t mean the Spartans don’t know what they’re facing, and they aren’t brushing off the difficulty of playing in Kinnick Stadium, even without fans.

“Iowa is a very tough place to play,” Tucker said. “I don’t think we have any players on our roster that have played there, but I’ve been there and we have several coaches on our staff that have been there as a player or a coach. We know that it’s a tough place to play, whether they have fans or not.

“They’re a physically strong football team. They have a mentality of Iowa football, which is they’re going to want to try to win the line of scrimmage. They have very good skill players on both sides of the ball, and they play relentless on special teams. It is a tremendous challenge for us, and this week of preparation will have to be even a notch above what we did last week.”

Twitter: @mattcharboneau