ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Michigan players know the case when it comes to Ohio State. They are aware of the difficulties of the last decade when it comes to The Game.
It’s all on the line on Saturday – not only the opportunity to secure an elusive victory over the Buckeyes, a team Michigan haven’t beaten since 2011, but also to make it to the Big Ten Championship game next week and a chance to make the college football qualifiers.
The stakes are very high, and it’s something the team embraces.
“That says everything. Not only are we up against our rival, we’re playing this big game, but it’s a playoff game, and there’s a lot at stake and we know that, ”said team captain and fifth year senior linebacker Josh Ross . “It will depend on how we prepare this week and how we prepare day by day and how we approach and attack it until Saturday – that’s what wins matches. “
But not many people give the Wolverines a chance, given the story.
From 1969 when Bo Schembechler took over the program, until OSU head coach Jon Cooper’s last year with the program in 2000, Corn and Blue weren’t just competitive with the Buckeyes, they got some unlikely wins. Then Jim Tressel took over and lost only once to Michigan. The imbalance continued when Urban Meyer took over the program in 2012, and Michigan’s only game against Ryan Day in 2019 saw the Wolverines on the wrong side of a resounding loss.
Michigan is now well aware of the shortcomings, with just two wins in the rivalry since Tressel took the reins – 2003 and 2011. Every year there’s a lot of talk about coming back to the winning side, but these players don’t care. the past, they don’t care about the conversation. They are hungry for results.
“It’s brought up – not here, but social media and all that,” third-year wide receiver Mike Sainristil said. ” It’s the past. None of that matters this week. It all depends on what we have to do to get the job done on Saturday.
“None of it matters – we’re tired of talking,” Ross said. “None of the past events matter. We know what has happened in the past. We know everything that happened. But at the end of the day, it’s about now, having a great week of preparation and attacking, having a great day and having a great game this weekend.
At present, According to Tipico Sportsbook, Michigan is a 7.5-point underdog compared to Ohio State. In a way, that’s exactly where this team wants to be.
In 2020, Michigan did not face the Buckeyes but went 2-4 in the season shortened by COVID. While teams like Penn State and Wisconsin got the benefit of the doubt from their bad years, the Wolverines didn’t. This lack of faith set up a proverbial shoulder chip for these Wolverines, which helped inspire them to reach the 10-1 ranking they now have.
When nearly everyone relied on that Michigan program, it was these players in the building who rallied, knowing they were capable of so much more.
“I guess you could say that in terms of the poor performance last year and the attitude of our program,” said sixth-year center and team captain Andrew Vastardis. “But all that matters is the team, everyone inside the building, the way the team trusts each other, the way the team believes in each other. I would say it’s a great game that we have in front of us, a great opportunity. We have confidence in each other’s abilities and we are just ready to compete.
So while the Wolverines shouldn’t win outside of Schembechler Hall, it suits this team perfectly. In fact, they are where they want to be.
“That’s great. It’s the attitude we’ve had all year, the outsider mentality,” Sainristil said. “We feed off that energy. That’s what it is – if we’re underdogs we are underdogs, we’ll gladly take that and use it to our advantage on Saturday.
All betting lines courtesy of Tipico Sportsbook