Karan Higdon guarantees Michigan win over Ohio State
Ann Arbor – Michigan co-captain Karan Higdon believes so much in the fourth-ranked Wolverines he was willing to go on a limb and say they will beat arch-rival Ohio State on Saturday in Columbus.
Higdon was asked Monday if he would go as far as his coach, Jim Harbaugh, did in 1986 when he guaranteed Michigan would beat Ohio State. He considered the question for a moment before answering.
“Yeah, I do. That’s how I feel,” Higdon said. “I believe firmly in my brothers and this team and this coaching staff, and as a captain, I’ll take that stand.
Tight end Zach Gentry, who was standing to Higdon’s right, steered clear of the question. Gentry remarked about the reaction by reporters to Higdon’s answer.
“A lot of typing after that,” Gentry said, laughing.
Ohio State has dominated the series, winning six straight and 13 of the last 14.
Michigan (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) earned a share of the East Division with its win over Indiana last Saturday and would earn a spot in the Big Ten championship game for the first time by defeating Ohio State. A win also would keep Michigan in the national playoff hunt.
Harbaugh, in his fourth season as head coach at Michigan, has yet to beat Ohio State, although the Wolverines narrowly lost in double-overtime, 30-27, in a controversial finish at Ohio Stadium two years ago.
During his weekly Monday news conference, Harbaugh deftly dodged questions with mostly non-answer answers. He seemed peeved when asked if he considers Ohio State just another game.
“Of course not,” Harbaugh said, sharply.
The Michigan players made clear there is no love lost with the Buckeyes, saying they “despise” their rivals, and yet, there is a respect both teams share.
“You can’t really describe it,” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said Monday. “It’s something that happens when you wear the M. You walk in, you take the M on, you’ve got to despise Ohio State. And if you don’t, I don’t know why you’re at Michigan.
“You’ve got to despise Ohio State. This game has got to be it all. It’s a historic game. There have been so many successful players that have played for Michigan and been successful in the NFL that won this game, and this is everything.”
Left guard Ben Bredeson was a freshman when Michigan last played at Ohio State, where the Wolverines haven’t won since 2000.
He learned what Ohio State fans think of Michigan as the team busses neared the stadium.
“Everybody hates you there,” Bredeson said. “You’re getting flipped off by just about everybody on the way in and that gets you ready for what’s about to happen in the stadium too, because it’s nothing different when you’re in there. It’s fun, though. It’s an electric environment. With energy like that positive or negative, it just makes you want to play.”
Bredeson, a co-captain, said that’s when he figured out what the rivalry is about.
“I loved it from the get-go,” he said. “I love this rivalry. I absolutely despise that school. It’s going to be a good one going in Saturday.”
Linebacker Devin Bush played in his first Michigan-Ohio State game in 2016, as well, and that’s also when he learned what The Game means.
“You feel the hate. You feel the hate,” Bush said. “You feel the rivalry. Once you’re in that stadium, you know why the game has that magnitude that it does. You can feel it from their fans and from their sideline.”
Understanding how lopsided the rivalry has been and how much Michigan has on the line, Bush said the goal is simple.
“We haven’t beaten them in a while,” Bush said. “That’s something we really want to do, and that’s something we’re going to do.
“This is one of those games you’ve just go to win no matter what your record is or what’s been going on this season. This is one of those games where you’ve got to show up and you’ve got to play your best game no matter what you’ve been through, no matter what you’re going through. This rivalry means everything to us and I’m pretty sure it means everything to them.”
Safety Tyree Kinnel, a co-captain along with Bush, Higdon and Bredeson, grew up in the Columbus area.
“We strive to change the outcome,” Kinnel said. “This is a game we’ve all been waiting for. Now we have the opportunity in our hands to go change it. We feel very confident about that.”
Kemp didn’t travel to Ohio State with Michigan two years ago. He watched as the Wolverines, with high hopes like this one, lost in double-overtime.
“We’re in the same spot two years later,” Kemp said. “This game decides a lot for us. It’s our whole season. It’s what we wanted, though, for it to be us versus Ohio State for the game to go to the Big Ten championship and keep our playoff hopes alive.
“Everybody’s going to remember what you did against Ohio State. This game has huge implications. For us to go out there and continue the way we’ve planned, it would really be that statement as a defense, as an entire team, as a Michigan community of what we mean this year.”