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UM players' attention shifts to Ohio State game

Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Michigan Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke stands on the sidelines in the final seconds of his team's 23-16 loss to Maryland on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Ann Arbor — At one point in the postgame interview area, there were three Michigan players from Ohio.

They spoke about the Wolverines' 23-16 loss to Maryland in the final home game of the season, but their attention quickly turned to arch-rival Ohio State.

Michigan is 5-6 overall and needs a victory to become bowl eligible. The Wolverines play next week at Ohio State, which has won nine of the last 10 meetings in the rivalry, is ranked No. 7 overall and is in the national playoff conversation.

Center Jack Miller, an Ohioan, said he had already turned his thoughts to playing the Buckeyes.

He said the game does not have a different feel this year.

"We're not playing for a whole lot like they are," Miller said. "They're trying to get a bid into the playoff. Games like this is what this rivalry is built on when one team is going to be a big underdog going in, and all three kids in here (the postgame interview) are Ohio kids, and I can tell you it would be pretty sweet to go in their backyard and get a win."

Does that mean this will be about Michigan ruining Ohio State's shot at a playoff?

"No, don't, come on, no, it's not about that," Miller said. "It's about us trying to go out on a good note. For a lot of Ohio kids on the team, that's a pretty nice way to end the season.

"They are playing for a lot, and we're not, that's no secret. Would it ruin their season? Yeah, but that's not the goal to ruin their season. The goal is to go out on the right note."

Senior linebacker Jake Ryan grew up outside of Cleveland and promises a strong effort by Michigan.

Last season at Michigan Stadium, Ohio State was a large favorite and won, 42-41, after Michigan failed on a two-point conversion attempt. Quarterback Devin Gardner was playing on a broken left foot.

"It's going to be a game, I can tell you that much," Ryan said.

Obviously, Michigan-Ohio State takes on a different feel for the Wolverines, but ultimately, it is the next game.

"We're going to treat it like every other game, but you know it's a rivalry game, so it's more amped up," Ryan said.

Joe Bolden grew up in Cincinnati and knows he and his fellow Ohioans on the Michigan roster will not be popular.

"It's the biggest rivalry in all sports, it's the last Saturday in November, (and you're) going back to your home state in front of a lot of people who don't like you anymore," Bolden said. "Obviously, it's a meaningful game. You can throw out the records, you can throw out what the points difference is. It's a football game."

Michigan coach Brady Hoke said it won't take much to motivate the players even after the loss to Maryland.

"From what I've seen and what we've seen of this team every week, I don't think that will be a problem," he said. "I do know the opportunity to play in the greatest rivalry in sport and in college football, that kind of gets your juices going."

For the players, it's not about becoming bowl eligible, but it's about refocusing and trying to beat their rivals.

"All of that big-picture stuff, our goal is week by week and however it sorts out it sorts out," Miller said. "Obviously, at the end of the year, you'd like to say we didn't have a losing record and went to a bowl game. We're just trying to beat Ohio and let the chips fall where they may."