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Michigan's last stop on 'Revenge Tour' boasts biggest stakes

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan’s “Revenge Tour” is making its last stop in Columbus on Saturday with baggage full of payback.

For the fourth-ranked Wolverines (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten), arch-rival No. 10 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) 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.

Michigan wide receiver Tarik Black, left, celebrates with tight end Nick Eubanks after Eubanks scored a touchdown in the second quarter Saturday against Indiana.

The Buckeyes have won six straight and 13 of the last 14 in the series. Michigan last won in Columbus in 2000 when quarterback Drew Henson threw for 303 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score.

That’s a long time ago, and a lot of games in between. Ohio State won last year at Michigan Stadium, 31-20, but the last time they met at Ohio Stadium in 2016, the game was decided in double overtime, OSU winning, 30-27, in a controversial finish still discussed two years later.

This game has added weight with so much on the line, especially for the Wolverines who not only want to break from the Ohio State stronghold in the series but want a chance at their first Big Ten championship game and conference title since 2004.

“This is the last regular-season game, and this is a game everybody wants,” Michigan safety Josh Metellus said after beating Indiana on Saturday. “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 hype dup 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.

Whether Winovich will be available for this leg of the tour is uncertain.  In the third quarter against Indiana, Winovich suffered an undisclosed injury, but was able to walk off the field directly to the locker room. After the game, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said X-rays and a CAT scan were negative.

Harbaugh said things were “progressing well” for Winovich but when asked if he’s optimistic Winovich will be able to play at Ohio State next week, he said he didn’t know.

In an Instagram post Sunday, Winovich thanked fans for their support and then offered a vague comment regarding his future.

“To those who celebrated what they thought would be my demise, I’ll back,” Winovich wrote.

It would be an enormous loss for the top-ranked Michigan defense if Winovich is not available. He is third on the team in tackles with 55 and leads in tackles for loss with 13.

His presence would bolster Michigan’s strength — the defense is yielding an average 234.8 yards — against Ohio State’s strength. The Buckeyes’ offense ranks No. 2 nationally (541.8).

The Buckeyes have been watching, and they know what Michigan’s defense is capable of accomplishing.

“I watch Michigan every week,” Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins told the Toledo Blade after the Buckeyes’ slim win at Maryland. “They’re the No. 1 defense in the country, I think. Gaining some experience against them last year will help out tremendously going into this week. Everything goes into full throttle today. It starts today. We’re going to start getting ready for them right now.”

Neither team needs added motivation heading into this week and this game. But the Wolverines are still smarting from last year’s 31-20 loss at home.

“Everybody in the whole entire country know what this week is. We know what this week is, so we want to attack it,” Michigan 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 in the sense he’s never played in it. But he knows about The Game having grown up in Toledo as a Michigan fan. 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. Ohio State’s defense has shown its vulnerabilities. The Buckeyes are ranked 69th in total defense, giving up an average 398.6 yards.

“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.”

Twitter: @chengelis