Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo, and Angelique S. Chengelis preview the Michigan-Ohio State game from Schembechler Hall. The Detroit News
It’s Michigan-Ohio State week, so never, ever believe a coach on either side who says his team doesn’t think about or prepare for the other the entire season.
That’s the nature of this rivalry and why it has earned the designation of "The Game."
It will be the 115th meeting between the teams when fourth-ranked Michigan (10-1, 8-0 Big Ten) plays No. 10 Ohio State (10-1, 7-1) at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. The Wolverines are looking to finish the Big Ten regular season unbeaten for the first time since 1997, the last time the program won a national championship. The winner will represent the East Division in the Big Ten title game with a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, appearing Wednesday morning on 97.1 The Ticket’s “Jamie and Stoney” show, was asked if the Wolverines practice anything special all season long for The Game.
“Yeah, we have things. Quite a few,” Harbaugh told the show, being uncharacteristically forthcoming on the subject. “And that’s OK. It’s OK to ask that question because you don’t mind your opponent thinking that -- that all things are possible.”
Harbaugh said the Michigan-Ohio State week has a different feel.
“Heightened. It’s a heightened sense of things, of excitement, of preparedness, energy, you name it,” Harbaugh said. “Practice tempo, attacking with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”
He has always enjoyed going on the road with his teams. Michigan, which has lost six straight to the Buckeyes, has not won at Ohio State since 2000.
“The competitive stakes are higher even,” Harbaugh said on the show. “There’s nothing that will make you feel more like a man than beating another team in their hostile stadium, and if you can throw the elements in there, too, there’s a third thing you can defeat as well.
“In the end, it’s 11 players that are on the field on each side and some officials. That’s the only ones that are allowed to be out there on the field. Coaches, we’re all in. Nobody’s hitting the snooze button around here to put ourselves and our players in the best position possible for this ball game.”
Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson talks about there being more at stake in this season's rivalry game. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Will he or won’t he?
It remains unclear if the Wolverines will have starting defensive end Chase Winovich available for the Ohio State game. He suffered an undisclosed injury in the third quarter of the Indiana game last Saturday.
He eventually walked off the field under his own power to the locker room. Harbaugh said all X-rays and tests were negative.
“No, not yet,” Harbaugh said on the “Jamie and Stoney” show when asked if there’s an update on Winovich’s status. “Still a little too early in the week to give a determination on that.”
Winovich is third on the team in tackles with 58 and leads with 13.5 tackles for loss.
“(You’d) have to kill him to take him out,” quarterback Shea Patterson, Winovich’s roommate, said Tuesday night after practice. “We’re not really sure his progress yet. He’s a tough guy.”
Patterson was asked if he thinks Winovich will play against the Buckeyes.
“I’ve talked to him, he says he’s feeling better,” Patterson said. “I’d assume he’d play, but you never know the severity of it.
“Knowing him, I think he’ll play.”
Top passing team
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins has thrown for 3,685 yards, already an Ohio State single-season record, which ranks him third nationally. Haskins has set 12 single-season school records this season.
“Dwayne Haskins is a heck of a great quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “Throwing the football, no doubt about it, he can really see the field, he can put the ball in all different parts of the field. He’ll run with the ball. They’ve got really explosive backs, as well, and really effective running game. It’s the big challenge for the defense when you’re playing an offense that’s really effective running the ball and throwing the ball.
“That’s the best passing attack we’ve faced all year.”
Freshman kicker Jake Moody was told in pregame warmups he would kick for Michigan against Indiana. He was 6-for-6 in the 31-20 victory.
“Can’t say enough great things about Jake,” Harbaugh said. “It was a marvelous, marvelous performance. We told him before the game, ‘Jake, you’re going to kick,’ during the pregame warmups, ‘You’re going to go.’ He nodded his head and said, ‘OK.’
“He made the first field and I was like, ‘Great job, Jake, great job,’ patted him on the shoulder. He just nodded, said, ‘Thank you.’ Second field goal, nodded said, ‘Thank you.’ Third field goal, ‘Great job,’ nodded, said, ‘Thank you.’ Fourth, nodded said, ‘Thank you.’ Fifth, sixth, nodded said, ‘Thank you’. Pretty darn good demeanor for a kicker really when you think about it. Just really steady doing his job putting it through the middle of the uprights.”