Ann Arbor – Michigan coach Brady Hoke has mastered the non-answer answer.
When asked if his players by design have not said much this week regarding Michigan State, their opponent on Saturday, he offered a circuitous response about how the Wolverines use their news conference platform to discuss the team and Michigan.
Apparently he is listening to his own advice.
Michigan plays in-state rival Michigan State, ranked No. 8 and the winner of five of the last six in-state meetings, but the Wolverines have scaled back to essentially nothing while discussing this game. They have praised Michigan State, the defending Big Ten champs and Rose Bowl winners, and have said for this 3-4 team, it's simply their next game.
When it was pointed out to Hoke that the players have made an expressed point to not say much, he smiled slightly.
"They're pretty educated guys," Hoke said Wednesday at his mid-week news conference.
Hoke, however, will not mask that this is an important game, and it is on many levels.
It is a rivalry game, and like the Ohio State game, Michigan's football building walls carry countdown clocks for Michigan State, as well. And for a team that is facing an uphill, five-game road to reaching a bowl game, this is a game that could, as cornerback Jourdan Lewis said this week, "catapult" the Wolverines.
Michigan is a 17-point underdog against 6-1 Michigan State.
"You can talk about underdogs and those things, (but) when you start talking about rivalry games, things change a little bit to some degree," Hoke said. "Everybody talks about how this week is different. Well, you want consistency (in) how you prepare. Is there an added dimension to it with the intensity and those things? Yeah. And the good thing is, it comes from the players; it doesn't have to come from a coach."
Hoke was on Lloyd Carr's staff at Michigan for eight years. He remembers how this week felt then and said the approach is similar now.
"I can go back to when I was an assistant for eight years -- you just knew it was Michigan State week," Hoke said. "Guys may miss a class here or there to prepare a little more. I'm just being honest with you, to see more film or whatever in their preparation.
"From that standpoint, who wouldn't want to play a game like this? Who wouldn't want to get ready to prepare to go play your best football? As you know, we've been evolving as a team and that's what we need to do every week. So when you say it's the next game, yeah, it is, but it's a daggone important game because it's a great rivalry game."