The Detroit News' John Niyo and Angelique S. Chengelis break down the Wolverines' 24-10 loss at Madison, Wisconsin.
It is a one-game season for Michigan. At least that’s how the Wolverines are looking at their regular-season finale against rival Ohio State.
The Wolverines dropped out of the national rankings with a 24-10 loss at Wisconsin. They are 8-3 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, and the playing status of redshirt freshman starting quarterback Brandon Peters is unclear as they prepare to face the Buckeyes on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
Peters was knocked out of the Wisconsin game and transported to a local hospital where he underwent head scans before flying home with the team. John O’Korn, who started four games this season after starter Wilton Speight suffered three fractured vertebrae in the Big Ten opener, finished the game against the Badgers.
If Peters can’t play against Ohio State, O’Korn likely will start. Speight, who was cleared by doctors last week to throw but not take contact in practice, could also potentially be cleared to play.
Regardless, the Wolverines are finishing this season against the Big Ten’s two best teams. Wisconsin will represent the West Division in the Big Ten championship and Ohio State, coming off a 52-14 victory over Illinois, will represent the East.
The Buckeyes have won five straight against Michigan, including last year’s 30-27 double-overtime win in Columbus, and are 12-1 the last 13 games. The Wolverines last won in 2011.
“It’s big,” senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst said after the Wisconsin loss. “I haven’t beat them since I’ve been here, so I think it’s such a big opportunity play them and try to grind out a win by any means necessary.
“We’ll definitely be ready and get as prepared as possible for this Ohio State game. It’s just one of those games you put everything on the line. It is a one-game season for us, so just focus on that game and put all our effort and everything we have into it.”
The Buckeyes are zoned in on this game, as well. Ohio State coach Urban Meyer told reporters after the Illinois game that everything in their football building changes for this week. There are some new coaches on his staff who have not before coached in the game, so he planned to talk to them about it, as well.
After clinching the Big Ten East title, Meyer said he wanted his players to move on.
“We did celebrate it for a quick minute,” Meyer said. “And then it’s over. Now it’s time to put our laser lights on our rival.
“I love our focus. I love the fact the way that we’re practicing and the focus. Intent focus is the mantra right now. And I like where we’re at.”
Ohio State is still potentially a playoff team if things fall into place. For the Wolverines, upsetting their rivals will be top of their priority list, and they embrace the idea of playing spoiler.
“It’s one of those games where you have to put everything on the line,” linebacker Devin Bush said.
That is the approach the Buckeyes are taking, as well.
“To beat the team up north, that better happen,” Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley told The Toledo Blade. “That’s like law. You don’t break that law. You better beat that team up north.”
Worley said the Buckeyes haven’t thought about the Big Ten title game.
“The only thing we’ve talked about so far is the team up north,” he said. “I mean, we have meetings throughout the whole year and throughout the summer about, ‘Beat the team up north.’ That’s the No. 1 thing.”
Michigan’s freshmen have yet to play in "The Game," but already know what’s at stake.
“We’re going to treat them like any other opponent,” receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones said. “We want to win. We’ve got to come out of there with a win.”
Freshman defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon echoed his teammate.
“It’s a must,” Solomon said. “We’ve got to. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.”