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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Last week, when Michigan football players met with the media, there was no ‘it’s just an honor to be here,’ no ‘we can’t believe we got here.’ When it comes to having beaten Ohio State, winning the Big Ten, and advancing to the College Football Playoff, these Wolverines say that this has been the goal. And it’s been expected.
Why has it been expected though? The maize and blue were 2-4 last year and were expected by many to struggle to make a bowl game in 2021.
For wide receiver Cornelius Johnson, it’s been about a mixture of taking each day at a time and execution.
“Well, the reason why some people say we’re not surprised is what we were talking about earlier, just taking it day-by-day,” Johnson said. “If you just take care of each day, you’re not really surprised by the work that you put in. All the work we’ve done in the summer, all the work we’ve done throughout the season it finds its way to shine. It’s no surprise, some of the awards and some of the victories and the place we’re in right now. It’s a result of all the effort and the whole process that’s been going on.”
That said, Michigan isn’t satisfied with its accolades to this point.
Sure, a win against the Buckeyes and a conference championship mean a lot, but there’s a lot more at stake. So the Wolverines will continue doing what they’ve done to this point: work.
“We’re just keeping it level-headed, not trying to change or do anything different, necessarily,” Johnson said. “Just play our brand of football. Just because we’ve won a few games, that’s good, but we’ve got another opponent on the line. We’ve just gotta focus on that opponent, which is the Georgia Bulldogs.”
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But herein lies another issue: with Dec. 31 being arguably Michigan football’s biggest to date, as the College Football Playoff didn’t come into existence until 2014, these players have to manage how they handle it.
There’s some consternation about the month between games on one end, and the team perhaps getting a little too excited once they find themselves on college football’s biggest stage. For Johnson, he says, again, it’s about taking things one step at a time, and realizing that just because the moment’s big, doesn’t mean it’s too big of a moment.
“It’s got to the point where you’ve gotta put yourself in that dark place and it’s almost in a sense where you can’t be thinking about the future,” Johnson said. “Because it’s all just comes down to one day – you’ve got one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted.
“It does wear on you because you know it’s not just any other regular game – it’s a bowl game. It’s in a legendary stadium, legendary everything around you. It’s important to not get caught up in that hype, because at the end of the day, you’re just on the football field. It could be any field – on Glick, a high school field; it’s still just 100 yards, 100 yards long. That’s how I try to think about it to calm things down for me. Not to overthink it.”