Ricky White strapped on the pads for Michigan State to take on its rival Michigan at the Big House on Halloween 2020.
The Big House is the nearly 110,000-seat home of the Michigan Wolverines; however, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were under 1,000 people allowed at the game.
Entering the matchup, ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the Michigan State Spartans a 6.6 percent chance of defeating the No. 6 ranked Wolverines.
White did not care about the odds ESPN put in 2020, nor did he care about UNLV’s odds in 2023 to beat Michigan.
White will get his second chance to defeat the Wolverines with its fans watching in person instead of television on Sept. 9. White sees the game as two college football programs playing with student-athletes with the same objective to win.
“We play at the same level they are at. Its college football, anyone can win the game or lose the game,” White said. “We got to play every down and play our hardest.”
White’s upset victory at the Big House
In 2020, when the Spartans were underdogs, White tallied up eight receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
The Spartan underdog victory got jump-started by Rocky Lombardi clicking with White early targeting him for a 30-yard touchdown to get a quick 7-0 lead over the Wolverines.
In a game where the Wolverines were supposed to take care of the Spartans easily, the Spartans stood strong and took a 14-10 lead into halftime.
In Michigan State’s first drive of the second half, White flipped the field with a 50-yard reception to put the Spartans into the red zone. The Spartans finished the drive with a field goal and extended its lead to 17-10.
A Michigan touchdown on a long 11-play drive following the field goal evened up the game at 17-17.
Late in the third quarter, White caught a crucial third down pass to put the Spartans in field goal range yet again to make a kick to give them a 20-17 lead.
A Spartan touchdown late in the fourth quarter extended its lead to 27-17, and they carried on to win 27-24 at the Big House in Ann Arbor, MI.
In 2023, White is returning to the Big House as a Rebel to get another shot at beating his former rival. The difference in this go-around is that there will be a packed crowd.
“100,000 fans will be at the game. It will give us the energy and excitement to go compete,” White said.
In 2023, with COVID-19 restrictions behind us and a packed stadium, the narrative entering this matchup is not about fans missing from the stands but one person missing from the sidelines.
The person missing will be Jim Harbaugh, who was self-induced a suspension by the university for Michigan’s first three games of the 2023 season due to alleged recruitment violations.
Harbaugh not coaching on the sidelines will be an adjustment Michigan will have to make; however, ESPN Analytics still only gives the Rebels a 1.6 percent chance of defeating the Wolverines on Sept. 9.
In preparation for White’s round two matchups with Michigan, he is preparing just like any other game. However, he is excited that there will be a significantly larger crowd at Ann Arbor.
“It is a little more exciting, there is going to be more fans,” White said. “Other than that, it’s the really the same preparation throughout the week.”
The Rebels are projected to play in front of 110,000 fans at Michigan compared to a little over 20,000 fans in its Week 1 matchup against Bryant.
UNLV Head Coach Barry Odom looks at the matchup against Michigan as a “faceless, nameless opponent” and takes the same weekly approach to them as any other team. With that, Odom plans to utilize White’s experience in defeating Michigan to the Rebels’ advantage.
“There [are] always plays that we design for certain players, and certainly, we will carry a number each game for Ricky,” Odom said. “We also can’t force that to happen. The game will unfold, and he’s good enough that the plays will happen.”
White will get his second chance to defeat the Wolverines with its fans watching in person instead of on television on Sept. 9 at 12:30 p.m. PST.