EAST LANSING – In 2013, Michigan State opened its season with a visit from Western Michigan and its relatively unknown freshman, 32-year-old PJ Fleck.

He closed out his regular season with a win over Minnesota on a day when the Spartans clinched a spot in the Big Ten title game.

Nine years later, both Minnesota and Fleck are finally returning to Spartan Stadium for the first time since that season. And this time they do it together; Fleck became Minnesota’s coach in 2017 and is in his sixth season at the helm.

And if none of the Minnesota players know what it’s like to play in Spartan Stadium, given that nearly nine-year hiatus, Fleck can tell them.

“It’s going to be a hostile environment, we know that,” Fleck said Monday during his weekly press conference. “They are a very traditional football team, they have a great fan base, a great stadium. We know it’s going to be loud and we’ll be ready for it.”

Fleck also spent the week showing his players what it would be like to play at Spartan Stadium.

On his weekly radio show Tuesday, Fleck described a Gophers practice that he said was one of the most chaotic of his tenure. It featured increased noise, a game clock shortened by 10 seconds, and other distractions designed to distract players.

“If you came to training today, you’d be sitting here exhausted, ready to have a few beers to calm yourself down. It was one of the most chaotic practices, organized chaos,” Fleck said.

After making a name for himself in Kalamazoo by leading the Broncos to the Cotton Bowl in 2016, Fleck left for Minnesota, where he went 38-23 over six seasons. That includes a 3-0 start this year in which the Gophers have outscored their opponents 149-17.

But that record contrasts with the lowest-ranked Power 5 schedule Sagarin.com. So while those wins showcased a strong Mo Ibrahim-led Gophers offense and a defense that allowed just 17 points, Fleck said the trip to Michigan State will be a new challenge. Hence the chaotic practices.

“We’re going to be in a hostile environment, so we need to create that during training,” Fleck said. “It’s the pressure of the situation and I think that’s what this team has to continue to do. Can we do it under the pressure of the situation? I hope they can.”

Michigan State, meanwhile, is coming off a 39-28 loss at Washington. But that setback doesn’t stop an upbeat Fleck from being excited about a team that will present the Gophers’ toughest test yet.

“They’ve got a lot of swings, tight ends that can block, and they’re incredibly athletic, making amazing catches,” Fleck said. “They have a quarterback who has played a lot of football, has a lot of guts, has great leadership, controls the offense, plays with incredible passion and emotion and is really the heart of this team,” Fleck said.

“If you look at the Washington game, it was just a few plays earlier where they fell behind. If it wasn’t for a few streaks or performances, I wonder how this game would have turned out.”

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