That additional contact is fine with quarterback Andrew Maxwell, who was injured last spring with almost compete protection from hits. But before next spring or a bowl opportunity, there is a final challenge that has to be met.
"I think if the wheels were going to come off, that would've happened a long time ago," Maxwell said. "We're not going to hang-dog it in practice. We realize how special this is. We're in a playoff right now. It's win or go home. And we're going to find the inches we need this week in everything we do."
The Spartans are 3-5 in games decided by four points or less after going 8-1 in one-score games the previous two seasons. They have played better on the road this year with a 3-1 mark compared to a 2-5 fizzle at home.
Notes: Free safety Kurtis Drummond is a go this week after leaving the Northwestern game with a stinger, not a concussion as was originally thought. Injury-plagued defensive tackle Tyler Hoover, a starting defensive end for the 2010 Big Ten co-champions, has decided to petition the NCAA for a sixth season.