State College, Pa. – Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's days of guarantees are long gone.
In 1986, as the Wolverines' quarterback, he boldly guaranteed Michigan would beat Ohio State in Columbus, and his teammates backed him up for the victory.
"That was such a long time ago. That was a long, long time ago," Harbaugh said laughing, after Michigan's 28-16 victory at Penn State said. "In my youth, in my youth."
Michigan is 9-2, 6-1 in the Big Ten and is preparing to face defending national champion Ohio State on Saturday in the regular-season finale at Michigan Stadium.
As the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard at Beaver Stadium, Michigan fans began chanting "Beat Ohio!"
Don't expect the 2015 Wolverines to resurrect their coach's long-ago guarantee, but they know what the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry means. The Buckeyes have dominated the last decade of the series, winning nine of 10.
"That rivalry means everything," said Michigan's Jake Butt, who grew up in the Columbus suburb of Pickerington. "It is the greatest rivalry in all of sports and we haven't been up there where we're at right now, so it's going to mean a lot more no matter what happens (with Ohio State and Michigan State).
"It's going to mean a lot for both teams. We don't want to lose to them, they don't want to lose to us. It's one of those situations where we're going to be at our best, they're going to be at their best. You're probably going to see a great game."
Defensive lineman Taco Charlton, also from Pickerington – he attended Central, while Butt graduated from North – said it's been a long year since the last game, a loss at Ohio State.
"It's just special going against Ohio State every year because it's a team I grew up around," Charlton said. "Growing up in Columbus, it's a team I've watched every Saturday. Getting my shot to finally go up against them is something I was waiting on since last year."
Quarterback Jake Rudock started the last two seasons at Iowa before transferring to Michigan for his graduate year. While he has not been part of the Michigan-Ohio State series, he is well aware of its meaning.
"Everyone in the entire country is well aware it's the greatest rivalry in college football," Rudock said. "That's what it comes down to so many times, so many historical times that game decides who goes on to the Big Ten championship."
Ohio native Chris Wormley (Toledo Whitmer) described the post-game locker room scene at Beaver Stadium.
"We're all excited especially when you get a big win on the road against Penn State," Wormley said. "We know what we're playing for. We're playing for something bigger than just this game and when you get this win it's just the next step closer to what we wanted to accomplish.
"It's right there in front of us. The energy and the enthusiasm in that locker room afterwards was pretty special and pretty fun to be a part of."
Several players were asked if Ohio State was brought up in the locker room. They were quiet, until Wormley answered.
"We all know what it is, and what we're playing for and the type of game it is," Wormley said. "We've just got to win the next game."
Harbaugh might be out of the guarantee business, but he know exactly what Saturday’s game could mean.
“You move on with humble hearts when you win a game like this (at Penn State) and get ready for the preparation next week,” Harbaugh said. “(We’re) right where we want to be, playing for the championship.”
UM coach Jim Harbaugh talks about Jourdan Lewis' big return and the play of the defensive line.