Wednesday, 4 p.m.
Practice is crisp and lively, and at the finish Saban begins playing to the pride that he challenged a day earlier. "Do you guys want to live with this crap from Michigan for another year?" he asks. "Do you? Last year you had people yelling at you that the reason you're at Michigan State is because Michigan didn't want you."
Wednesday, 8:30 p.m.
Irvin stands in front of a small, rectangular mirror in his spare on-campus apartment. He Ilexes his bullish upper body and stares into his reflection. "Can you do this?" he asks angrily. "Can you do this?"
Every day of Michigan Week he repeats this ritual. Since Irvin, the cousin of Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, came to East Lansing from Miami two years ago, this is the opportunity he has sought. "I want the burden on my back," he says. "I want my teammates to say, 'Sedrick, let us ride you.' " Later he falls across a couch and reads a Detroit newspaper column in which a Wolverines defensive player is quoted as saying he's happy that Michigan State is good this year, because Michigan wants the best the Spartans can deliver.
"Gonna get it," Irvin whispers.
Thursday, 10 a.m.
In blustery cold, a tall, bearded man in sweats, who calls himself John Spirit, sits vigil in front of the 10-foot-tall Spartan statue, called Sparty, that sits just down the road from the stadium. He's protecting it from the advances of maize-and-blue vandals from the east. John Spirit's sanity notwithstanding, the rivalry simmers with dislike. The word most often used by Spartans fans in reference to Wolverines rooters is arrogant. Jokes about Michigan Staters abound. For instance:
Q: What do you call a room with 32 Spartans in it?
A: A full set of teeth.
Perhaps Michigan can spread its emotion evenly among Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan State, but for the Spartans, there is only Michigan. When Saban approached Campbell on Wednesday afternoon to ask if he could play with his painful shoulder, Campbell said, "Coach, you can't make me sit this one out."