Michigan linebacker Josh Ross says every week the Wolverines are in playoff mode Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — The fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines know that they have the potential for big postseason plans, if things work their way, of course.
But they control that. They control their way.
Michigan has two remaining regular-season games, at home against Indiana on Saturday and then at Ohio State the following week. The Wolverines are 9-1 overall, 7-0 Big Ten, are at the top of the East Division and are very much in the national playoff picture.
“Right now we’re in a beautiful position where we can control our own destiny,” linebacker Josh Ross said Monday. Just got to take it week by week and let everything sort its way out.”
Michigan has won nine straight since losing the opener at Notre Dame, including a three-game stretch of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State, all ranked opponents
“Ever since Wisconsin it’s been like every week is like a playoff game, to say the least,” Ross said. “Now we’re in the mode we’ve got to win out to make it to the playoffs. We have to stay focused. It’s natural to stay focused. It’s natural to be focused on every single day because we know what the stakes are. We can come up short any time.”
The Hoosiers are 5-5, one game from bowl-eligibility and they are 2-5 in the Big Ten. Michigan has been pushed two of the last three games against Indiana, winning 48-41 in double overtime in 2015 and 27-20 in overtime last season.
Michigan’s players said because of those games, no one should think they’re even considering looking ahead to arch-rival Ohio State on Nov. 24.
“Just always been tough games with them,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Two ties, two overtime games and then a 20-10 game here in 2016. I’ve always looked at them as a really tough opponent.”
Senior receiver Grant Perry said they know what the Hoosiers bring to the table.
“We’re expecting a big fight,” Perry said. “Two double-overtime games with Indiana. There are no easy opponents. We’re preparing for a war, basically, so we’re just going to go out there and give it our all. They’re trying to be bowl-eligible and we’re trying to stay in the top four. We’ve both got determining factors that keep us motivated, so we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh discusses how tough the Hoosiers can be during Monday's media availability. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
The Wolverines have maintained a singular focus each week. They know it’s been working, so they have no interest in altering that approach.
“I feel like we’ve done a really good job at taking things week by week and that’s what’s put us in the position we’re in,” running back Tru Wilson said Monday. “We obviously know what’s ahead of us and how many games that we can potentially play. The next one is always the most important.”
The Wolverines say they love the feeling of winning and dominating. They’ve allowed only a touchdown in each of the last three games and have scored 42 points in each of the last two.
“We have a lot of confidence on offense right now, being able to score the ball almost whenever we want to,” tight end Sean McKeon said. “It’s definitely a great feeling to be playing for a Big Ten championship.”
McKeon said he knows some might shrug at the game-by-game approach, but because it has worked so far, the Wolverines have no intention of abandoning.
“I think the team as a whole is really focused on this individual week every week just preparing for our opponent at hand and then trying to beat them and the next we focus on the next opponent,” McKeon said. “I know it’s kinda cliché just take it game by game, but that’s really what we’ve been doing. We’re not worried about two weeks from now or three weeks from now. We’re just worried about beating Indiana this week.”
They absolutely know Ohio State is around the corner.
“But we’re not focused on them right now,” McKeon said.
They will be, though. Soon.
“We try not to look too far ahead, because you’ve got to win the game each week before you can advance,” Perry said. “I know some guys are taking peeks, but we all know that Indiana is no joke. They play us really hard, so we’re going to have to step up our game this week in order to really have that big game the week after that.”