Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Matt Charboneau look ahead to Saturday's showdown between the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Detroit News


There’s one significant reason Michigan and Michigan State had never before played a football game in prime time.

Heated rivals + all-day drinking = you do the math.

Well, that all changes Saturday, when the teams play at 7:30 at Michigan Stadium, in a game broadcast on ABC. And officials from both schools are holding their collective breaths, hoping things don’t get out of control on campus.

On Thursday, athletic directors from both schools seemed to admit as much in an open, co-signed letter to students and fans from both schools. Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis issued the letter late Thursday morning, saying, in part:

“With the kick-off in prime time, both schools will share the national spotlight. After the game, each facet will be dissected and analyzed by many. Let’s make sure the analysis is all about the game.

“Our two universities can show that civility and respect can be a hallmark of not only college sports but what we need to strive for in our society.

“Our institutions have high expectations of student-athletes, coaches and staff and how they serve our communities. We share a steadfast commitment to represent our schools with class and dignity as participants, students and members of our respective communities.

“This weekend will be a time of togetherness, celebration, and competition.

“On behalf of both institutions, we invite you all to represent yourself and your favorite side in a manner befitting our proud communities.”

The game will be the 110th in the rivalry series, with Michigan State winning seven of 10 under Mark Dantonio.

Michigan won last year’s game, 32-23, and is a heavy favorite to win again this year.

Michigan State is 3-1, while No. 7 Michigan is 4-0.