Michigan State football’s Antjuan Simmons has a prediction vs. Michigan

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Antjuan Simmons gets to go home one more time. Even if that wasn’t supposed to be the case for the Michigan State football&nbsp;linebacker’s final game against Michigan.” data-reactid=”6″>Antjuan Simmons gets to go home one more time. Even if that wasn’t supposed to be the case for the Michigan State football linebacker’s final game against Michigan.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Spartans initially were supposed to host the Wolverines this season, but the game was flipped to his hometown, Ann Arbor, during the pandemic-induced reshuffling of schedules. The rivalry, however, never changes.” data-reactid=”7″>The Spartans initially were supposed to host the Wolverines this season, but the game was flipped to his hometown, Ann Arbor, during the pandemic-induced reshuffling of schedules. The rivalry, however, never changes.

“They’re them, and we are who we are,” the senior said on a video call this week, measuring his words. “I don’t really, you know — I ain’t gonna say too much. … Me, myself, I would say I’m the ultimate competitor. But I’m also very respectful. Respect this kind of important thing to me. If you can respect me, I can respect you — it goes both ways.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ Here’s how Michigan State can pull the upset to stun Michigan&nbsp;]” data-reactid=”13″>[ Here’s how Michigan State can pull the upset to stun Michigan ]

Michigan State's Antjuan Simmons, right, slaps hands with head coach Mark Dantonio before the game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.Michigan State's Antjuan Simmons, right, slaps hands with head coach Mark Dantonio before the game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

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Michigan State’s Antjuan Simmons, right, slaps hands with head coach Mark Dantonio before the game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

So is this a respectful rivalry for both teams?

“Probably not,” Simmons said with a chuckle. “I don’t think there’s any respect, I don’t think there’s really too much respect amongst both programs. It’s an unwritten rule in a sports world, I guess, to keep your mouth shut the week of games and focus on your opponents. You don’t want to give nobody no extra fuel or nothing like that. This game’s got enough fuel, and there’s gonna be enough fires out there burning.”

But when Simmons arrives across the street from his old stomping grounds at Ann Arbor Pioneer, he will enter a Michigan Stadium unlike anything he — or anyone else on the two rivals — has ever experienced.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="No. 14 Michigan (1-0) will host MSU (0-1) in front of an almost empty stadium Saturday (noon, Fox). The opponent alone, Simmons said, should be enough to inflate the Spartans’ energy after getting stunned at home by Rutgers in new coach Mel Tucker’s debut last week, 38-27.” data-reactid=”37″>No. 14 Michigan (1-0) will host MSU (0-1) in front of an almost empty stadium Saturday (noon, Fox). The opponent alone, Simmons said, should be enough to inflate the Spartans’ energy after getting stunned at home by Rutgers in new coach Mel Tucker’s debut last week, 38-27.

“The rivalry should amplify the game itself,” Simmons said. “Crowd or not, you’re gonna be able to see what this game means to both programs. It’s gonna be easier to tell. You’re not gonna have fans there, all the media, the bands and stuff like that. It’s just gonna be us and them. The momentum is gonna swing back and forth. It’s a rivalry game, so big hits are gonna happen. Trash talk is gonna be there.

“But it’s just gonna be important for both teams just really say focused, on really is to stay focused, not lose composure and just take it one play at a time.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[Think the rivalry doesn’t matter to recruits? Think again&nbsp;]” data-reactid=”40″>[Think the rivalry doesn’t matter to recruits? Think again ]

Oct 7, 2017; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan State's Antjuan Simmons celebrates the 14-10 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium.Oct 7, 2017; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan State's Antjuan Simmons celebrates the 14-10 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium.

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Oct 7, 2017; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan State’s Antjuan Simmons celebrates the 14-10 win over Michigan at Michigan Stadium.

This will be Simmons’ fourth game against his hometown Wolverines, and he is 1-2. The linebacker won his debut in 2017 at Michigan Stadium as the Spartans weathered a story more frightful than the U-M offense, 14-10. After only registering a 12-yard kick return in MSU’s 2018 home loss, Simmons returned to Ann Arbor last year at middle linebacker (in place of Joe Bachie). He finished with seven tackles, including two for a loss and one sack. But he didn’t feel he played well in the Spartans’ 44-10 loss.

“I’m playing right across the street from my high school. I know a lot of people back in Ann Arbor,” said Simmons, who led the Spartans in tackles against Rutgers with 11, including three for a loss, and had a special teams fumble recovery. “So it definitely makes me want to go a little harder and put a little bit extra into this week. … I definitely gotta put a better foot forward this year and have a better game.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="[ MSU’s Mel Tucker has support: Nick Saban, Kirk Cousins, Robaire Smith&nbsp;]” data-reactid=”67″>[ MSU’s Mel Tucker has support: Nick Saban, Kirk Cousins, Robaire Smith ]

Michigan State Spartans linebacker Antjuan Simmons (34) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium.Michigan State Spartans linebacker Antjuan Simmons (34) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium.

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Michigan State Spartans linebacker Antjuan Simmons (34) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium.

So do the other Spartans defenders after giving up 107 points in the past four meetings with U-M, including consecutive losses for the first time since 2006-07.

Simmons and quarterback Rocky Lombardi addressed the team’s younger players earlier this week about what to expect from their first taste of the rivalry game. One of his final duties as a senior is to fuel their fire and dislike for the Wolverines.

“What we did was just tell then what this game means to the program, what this game means to us as individuals, things we’ve been through, the things that come with this rivalry, things that come afterwards,” he said. “Just everything, trying to try to catch them up, trying to make sure they understand what they’re getting into now.

“This is a trophy game. This game holds more weight. It means a lot to this program, it means a lot to them. So both programs are definitely gonna bring it.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Contact Chris Solari:&nbsp;csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.” data-reactid=”92″>Contact Chris Solari: csolari@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari. Read more on the Michigan State Spartans and sign up for our Spartans newsletter.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State’s Antjuan Simmons vs. U-M: ‘big hits, trash talk’” data-reactid=”93″>This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan State’s Antjuan Simmons vs. U-M: ‘big hits, trash talk’

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