After the Wolverines won in double overtime in Indiana, 48-41, the chances of making it to the Big Ten Championship became slightly better. The Wolverines still have a long road ahead of them, however, and Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had the perfect anecdote for the rest of the season:
"Heck, when we were young, living over on Anderson Street, over the summer we’d all get together in the morning and go play basketball at Pattengill Elementary School. Concrete basketball floor, two rims with the chains as the nets. You’d pick your team, and the team that won got to play the next game, and if you lost, you had to go to the side and pick a new team. The goal was to play all the way to lunch. You didn’t want to miss any game … To me, that’s what the playoff situation is like.
"We’re in the kind of situation. If we don’t (win), we have to watch."
The next must-win game for Michigan is against Penn State, the Wolverines’ second-straight road game. Harbaugh noted that Penn State has a "heck of a quarterback" in Christian Hackenberg, but that they also have an outstanding running back and receivers.
Though the Wolverines are dealing with some injuries, Harbaugh wouldn’t agree that his team is a little "beat up."
"We’re not walking around beat up," he said. "Nobody is beat up that I know of. Unless there’s something that I don’t know about, we’ve got a bounce in our step, we’re ready to go. I think the student athletes have a bounce in their steps and they’re ready to attack the day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind."
Harbaugh repeated what he’s been saying for the past few weeks about quarterback Jake Rudock’s unflappability and how important that is to the team.
"I told his dad the old saying that ‘the branch doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ "Harbaugh said. "He’s been raised really good. Smart, composed, talented, tough, confident. He’s got all of those things that make up that kind of reaction to pressure and adversity."
Harbaugh even sees himself trying to "incorporate" some of Rudock’s steadiness into his own personality. The coach trusts Rudock more in game time, too. Occasionally, Harbaugh lets him call the play.
"I’ll give him a play or two, ‘Which one do you like better?’ Here’s three, ‘Which one do you feel more comfortable with?’ "
Harbaugh also showed support for his coaches.
"I’m like Abraham, I’m going to die leaning on our coaches — I’m like Abraham, I’m going to die leaning on my staff. I think that’s the way Abraham said it.
"I had trust in (Passing Game Coordinator Jedd Fisch) and what he was seeing and the rest is history."
Fisch was in the box, and suggested the touchdown play that helped end overtime.
NOTE: Harbaugh said that running back Derrick Green didn’t travel because "he’s working through something that he got last game." Harbaugh isn’t sure if it will be long-term or not.