'Sticking with the mission': Michigan-Ohio State week simmers with anticipation

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
"Obviously, this is a game to get us into the Big Ten championship where we want to be," Michigan's Karan Higdon says.

Ann Arbor — There’s no tip-toeing around this — it’s Michigan-Ohio State week and players can be careful and say all the right things, but this one always carries added significance.

For fourth-ranked Michigan (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten), arch-rival Ohio State stands between the Wolverines and a date in the Big Ten championship game and a shot at the national championship playoff. The Wolverines play at Ohio State on Saturday.

The Buckeyes have won six straight and 13 of the last 14.

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“This is the last regular-season game, and this is a game everybody wants,” Michigan safety Josh Metellus said. “This is a game we want. Last stop on the Revenge Tour. We take this one personal. Thanksgiving week. Great week. Great week for football. This is one of those games you’re all hyped up for, the reason you come to Michigan.”

If you don’t know about the Revenge Tour, well, here’s a quick synopsis. Defensive end Chase Winovich coined it after the Wolverines beat Wisconsin, the first win against a team that had beaten 8-5 Michigan last season. Other stops on the tour included Michigan State, Penn State and, now, Ohio State.

“Everybody in the whole entire country know what this week is. We know what this week is, so we want to attack it,” defensive end Rashan Gary said. “It’s been a whole year of having a bad taste in our mouth. We have to go out and prepare the right way and go out there and see what happens.”

Shea Patterson is new to the rivalry. Oh, he knows about it having grown up in Toledo a Michigan fan. But Patterson has never played in a Michigan-Ohio State game.

He transferred here from Ole Miss last December, but when you grow up a Michigan fan, you understand from birth — no, that’s not an overstatement — what The Game is all about.

Still, the Wolverines have taken a measured approach each week, not wanting to get ahead of themselves as they remain focused on their goals.

“It’s another game,” Patterson said. “We understand the tradition, the meaning behind it. We’re going to attack it the same way we have the past 10, 11 weeks. We know they’re a good ballclub at their place. We’re just going to prepare and come out firing.”

Senior running back Karan Higdon said staying even-keel in their approach has helped all season and they will not stray from that this week.

“We’re going to continue attacking like we have every other week,” Higdon said. “One of the great things we did this year is do things the right way from the start, so we can’t get too high or get too low. We’ve just got to continue sticking with the mission.

“We’ve been attacking each week like it’s a championship game, and this is nothing more than that. Obviously, this is a game to get us into the Big Ten championship where we want to be, so we’ve got to our job and make sure that happens by any means necessary.”

Change at right tackle

Juwann Bushell-Beatty started at right tackle against Indiana, but he didn’t play long. Andrew Stueber spelled him and played the majority of the game.

“Juwann came out of the last game, he was working through something,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, referring to the Rutgers game last week. “Tried hard to go but felt like Stueber would be more effective. Hopefully Juwann, get him back 100 percent next week.”

How it happened

Michigan appeared to be on its way to a score before halftime, but eight seconds ticked off the clock at the end and the Wolverines were not able to get off a last play from the Indiana 2-yard line.

“We were driving good, we used our last timeout at about the 28-, 30-second mark,” Harbaugh said. “It was third-and-1, we ran the ball, got the first down, had our second play ready and called during the timeout. Went to the throw. We thought we could hit (Sean) McKeon and get him in the end zone, (and) if we didn’t get in the end zone, we thought it would get out of bounds. Their player made a great play on it, a great tackle in the field of play.

“Clock was moving so we called to kill the clock. There seemed to be some problems getting the ball back in, whether that was us not getting the ball to the official quick enough. Seemed they kicked the ball. Have to look at that.”


Twitter: @chengelis