It is a wounded, struggling, and dazed Michigan team that is gathering in Ann Arbor, preparing for its biggest game of the year, which also happens to be its biggest game of every year.
The Wolverines are coming off a 24-21 loss at Iowa, which was their third Big Ten loss in the last four conference games. Only an overtime win against Northwestern has prevented this from being a full-on nosedive.
But the sting of a 3-4 Big Ten record can't be erased by a win over Ohio State, even though a Michigan victory would serve major destruction on the Buckeyes' unbeaten season and national championship notions.
"No, that never happens," Michigan head coach Brady Hoke said about whether a win over Ohio State could erase Michigan's disappointment over its 2013 resume.
"But this game is for our seniors. We are going to honors those kids on Saturday. It is always important to win these types of game for those fourth- and fifth-year guys that have given a lot to this university and this program. That's what you talk about."
Hoke said that rather than place a lot of emphasis on how sweet the spoiler role might be for his team, he prefers to focus on the historical meaning of the game.
"This is one of the weeks in football where if you are passionate about the University of Michigan or passionate about Ohio, it is exciting," Hoke said. "It's such a great rivalry that we are fortunate to be able to play and to be able to coach in. This week is a week that gets everybody involved."
During their recent struggles, Hoke and the Wolverines have been getting hammered in the press and on social media, but the Michigan coach said he has no time for the naysayers, and won't let that noise be a distraction.
"Number one, I would say that we are going to play the game," he said. "This game has always been different in some ways. Are they a good football team? Yeah, they are a very good football team. Do we have to play better than we've played? I don't think there's any doubt about that, and we've got to be more consistent and finish things better. It's what makes it so much fun."
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--DE Frank Clark has set career highs in sacks (4.5), tackles-for-loss (12.0), total tackles (41) and fumble recoveries (two) through 11 games in 2013.
--TE Devin Funchess has 686 receiving yards this season, the most in a single season by any tight end in Michigan history.
--WR Jeremy Gallon has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards this season, becoming just the 13th player in Michigan history to reach that level.
--CB Blake Countess is the Big Ten conference leader in interceptions with five through 11 games.
--PK Brendan Gibbons' school record streak of consecutive made extra point kicks has reached 141.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He has had some really good moments and some moments that he'd rather redo if he could. I think we all have that. I do as a head coach. There are always moments that you think about and wonder if you should have done this. But the one thing about Devin is that he has been pretty resilient. He is a guy who comes to work every day and prepares to get ready to play and play his best." -- Michigan coach Brady Hoke on his QB Devin Gardner