A big challenge and a huge opportunity await Michigan on Saturday against Ohio State.
“Both teams are 11-0 and I know our 11-0 really doesn’t mean anything now. It’s all about going 1-0,” head coach Jim Harbaugh told the media on Monday.
Harbaugh says he believes Michigan will find that they’re “made of the right stuff”.
Even so, there’s no denying how big of a moment this is for both programs. Throw Michigan’s 42-27 win over the Buckeyes out the window right now, Harbaugh says it’s about where the team is at right now at this moment and embracing the challenge with a positive attitude.
“Winner takes the (Big Ten) East, winner takes all right there. Strong opponent and it’s the kind of situation that gives you the opportunity to display how strong our team is. There’s no need to hate, be grateful for the opponent. It’s like superheroes — it’s through a strong opponent that you get to find out who you are.”
Left tackle Ryan Hayes was asked if he takes a different approach to Harbaugh, Hayes’ backed Harbaugh’s comments.
“I agree with what coach said. Both 11-0, the season has been building to this point and it’s just winner go home at this point so all we’re trying to do is win.”
11-0 vs. 11-0 is one thing, but from analytics to a good old-fashioned eye test, both teams are really even.
“They got great players, we got great players. They have great coaches, we have great coaches,” Harbaugh explained. “They have players with Heisman habits, we have players with Heisman habits. Congratulations, be grateful for having the opportunity to play this kind of big game.”
Throughout Harbaugh’s 15-minute media availability he didn’t waver from his message. Thanksgiving is on Thursday, and he preached the message of togetherness and thankfulness. Words like anxiety, nervousness, and frustration, aren’t the emotions he expects his players to exhibit on Saturday.
Harbaugh has said for weeks that his team’s “happy warriors”, “on a “happy mission” with “joy and gusto”. The Wolverines will be going into one of the most hostile environments in sports at Ohio Stadium, but Michigan will aim to absorb that energy and turn it into an advantage. Easier said than done, sure, but the approach cannot be faulted. Having a cheerful mental edge could pay big dividends.
“There’s no need to hate, or anxiety or anger or anything like that. It’s about being grateful this Thanksgiving week. Grateful for this opportunity, these circumstances, grateful to be tested against this opponent at this time.”
Michigan at Ohio State kicks off at noon on Fox.