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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Everything is still in front of the Michigan Wolverines, despite the loss on Saturday to Michigan State.
Now ranked No. 7 in the country according to the only rankings that matter — the College Football Playoff rankings — the Wolverines have their loss to No. 3 MSU, but also have a win over No. 21 Wisconsin. They have games against unranked Penn State and No. 5 Ohio State coming up.
Though there’s much consternation amongst the fan base, the team is regrouping and galvanizing, knowing that they can still win the Big Ten and more, so long as they don’t let one loss turn into two. On the heels of a player-led meeting on Monday, the team is determined to not make the same mistakes that plagued it on Saturday in East Lansing.
“Took away that we’re moving on,” second-year right guard Zak Zinter said. “It didn’t ruin our season, we’ve got everything we want in front of us. We’re gonna win out and let it be the past. It’s a tough loss, moving on. We can’t do anything about it.”
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The team made it back to the practice field on Tuesday, and it was like nothing changed. Yes, the team is studying what it did wrong on film and is working to correct it, but the players aren’t lamenting their misfortune and dwelling on the past in that manner.
Instead, they’re remembering what got them to 7-1 and focusing on doing what they can to get back to their winning ways, starting with Indiana this Saturday night.
“The energy’s still up — no different energy,” third-year outside linebacker David Ojabo said. “We’ve still got each others’ backs. Can’t have anybody hanging their head low. We’ve just gotta bounce back. Everybody can’t point no fingers, can’t blame the official, can’t blame anybody. We all we got — just keep pushing.”
But why are they so confident that they can still do something special?
The consensus amongst the frustrated is that this is the same old Michigan — beating lesser teams but struggling in big games. Bowl projections have the Wolverines outside of the New Year’s Six and likely to go to a second-tier bowl like the Citrus Bowl or Outback Bowl — despite it being just one four-point loss to the now-No. 3 team in the country.
In short, this season isn’t like those before it, at least not in the locker room.
“We’ve been saying from the beginning that this team is special — it’s been all sunshine and rainbows since the beginning,” Zinter said. “I think what will make everyone see that this team is special is something didn’t go right, we had a tough loss — the ability for us to turn around and finish off the season strong.”
So the feeling is much different than a year ago? They really aren’t pointing fingers after this game, when there certainly could be fingers pointed?
Zinter says no, they remember what it was like last year, and where did it get them? Above all, the team leaders are holding everyone accountable and ensuring that the players really do move on with Indiana on-deck on Saturday night.
“I would say definitely. I would say last year, we took a loss, and it affected us going into next week,” Zinter said. “This year, it’s different. The ability of the leadership on the team has been able to help everyone to move on and help us get ready for this week.”