Michigan recognizes the importance of The Game before Ohio State.

Michigan recognizes the importance of The Game before Ohio State.
Michigan recognizes the importance of The Game before Ohio State.

When asked about Ohio State during the first twelve weeks of the season, coaches and players for the No. 3 Michigan football team stated that the Wolverines were only thinking about the team in front of them, whether it was East Carolina, Nebraska, or Maryland. They refused to even consider the Buckeyes until they were the next team on the schedule.

However, Blake Corum, a senior running back, acknowledged on Monday that it could not have been entirely accurate.

“Throughout the season, you try to be as present as possible, but sometimes it’s difficult not to look away at that final game,” Corum remarked. And I believe that’s what we’ve been doing all year. Despite our constant teaching, “One game at a time,” We have undoubtedly lost our way. I’m aware that many guys have seen the Ohio State movie before. But we’ve arrived here.

With the week of The Game having finally arrived, the constantly drifting focus toward the Buckeyes now makes sense. Because this year The Game will decide the outcome of Michigan’s season. With a win, the Wolverines become the Big Ten East champions, earn a spot in the Big Ten Championship and in all likelihood receive a berth in the College Football Playoff.

With a loss, all of that fades away. Now with The Game directly on the horizon, they no longer have to equivocate, and Michigan coach Jim Harbuagh and his players have made it clear that they fully understand the stakes.

“We all know what it means,” acting head coach Sherrone Moore said Monday. “It’s the one you practice for, you play for, you work for all year. So we all know the stakes.”

With the pressure and the tension seemingly ready to boil over, Harbaugh and the Wolverines have tried to stress preparation above all animosity. Corum stated he won’t feel fully prepared until he gets to Friday night. Moore is emphasizing his preparation to execute the game plans as the de facto leader. And junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy even touched upon his friendship with Buckeye quarterback Kyle McCord adding that he “might shoot him a text this week.”

Harbaugh’s put so much emphasis on preparation that he’s even willing to bring it up at unprompted and awkward times. Asked what his level of respect is for Ohio State coach Ryan Day and his staff, Harbaugh chose to deflect.

It’s all about our preparation for Ohio,” Harbaugh said. “The days, the minutes, the hours — everything leading up to this game. That’s where our focus is. Preparing ourselves and planning, gonna practice and then execute. Anything else is irrelevant when you get into this kind of Big Game week.”

Harbaugh, McCarthy, Moore and Corum all acknowledged the impact of this one game. It isn’t just the next game the Wolverines are focusing on — it’s The Game. But regardless of the stakes, Harbaugh still won’t be on the sidelines.

In one of the biggest moments of his tenure, Harbaugh will not be at the helm. However, Moore and Michigan’s players are downplaying the potential impact of his absence.

Going into The Game without him, it’s kind of just adding fuel to the fire,” Corum said. “… We might play a little harder for him, and make sure that at the game, we give a game ball to him.”

For Moore though, the pressure and the stakes of the contest lie upon his shoulders. But he too has downplayed any distractions, emphasizing that he will be coaching in a manner that he feels Harbaugh has prepared him to do.

We’ve been well-prepared for these situations thus far, thanks to training camp and spring ball throughout the season, according to Moore. “To make the decisions we believe the coach would want while also thinking like the coach does.”

Even though Harbaugh won’t be at the stadium or on the sidelines, The Game’s legacy will have a significant influence on his program. Now that their greatest opportunity is right in front of them, both teams—undefeated Ohio State and Michigan—can play.

And they’re ready to acknowledge how much they’ve been considering it all along now that it’s finally here.

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