With rival on bridge, booming Michigan says it doesn’t overlook the Northwest
ANN ARBOR, Mich .– It might be easy for a growing and rested Michigan football team to look past their next opponent.
The Wolverines, still unbeaten and up to No.6 in the polls this week, welcome the struggling Northwestern this Saturday at Michigan Stadium (noon, FOX). Jim Harbaugh’s side are 6-0 and soaring high after a week off, and punters see Michigan as the favorite for three touchdowns to win the game.
And with state rival Michigan State on deck potentially pitting a pair of Top 10 teams, 7-0 against each other in East Lansing, this is shaping up to be one of the most big games for years.
“We can’t look to next week – because we have a very good opponent coming in this week,” defensive tackle Chris Hinton told reporters on Monday. “We have to take every game, every week, one game at a time. Because if we’re not going about our business this week, next week – and the week after – just isn’t as important. “
Michigan State held on to beat Indiana, 20-15, at Bloomington on Saturday, cementing the Spartans’ 6-0 score before a week off to them. With a week of rest ahead of them, Mel Tucker’s team will also have the opportunity to start their preparation for Michigan.
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Meanwhile, the Wolverines must take the field against Northwestern – a 3-3 team that traded wins and losses, but comes off an impressive 21-7 victory over Rutgers.
Remember, it was just three years ago, in 2018, when Michigan entered Evanston as a big favorite and fell behind 17-0 in the first half, to score 20 unanswered points. and escape with a victory.
“Continuously, you see the Northwestern team getting better every week,” said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. “This year, last year, the year before, the year before. When you play Northwestern in the middle of the season, later in the season, they’re really great. “
Michigan is one of two undefeated Big Ten teams still standing, with Michigan State leading the way to the Big Ten Championship if it can handle business in the second half of its schedule. In addition to the Oct. 30 game at Michigan State, the Wolverines are also due to travel to Penn State (Nov. 13) and host rival Ohio State (Nov. 27), a pair of essential games required for such a run. But before they can get there, or even attend the Michigan State game, they have to deal with business in front of them first.
“The team has been very locked in,” Harbaugh continued. “Daily weekly. What I continue to be satisfied with is the way they attack each day. They didn’t train on Friday, they didn’t train on Saturday – (but) they came back on Sunday and we did. had such a good workout (as we did).
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“Guys on the move, knowing what they’re doing – as locked in, focused as I’ve ever seen a team come out of a two-and-a-half day break.”
Harbaugh declined to provide a concrete update on injured Michigan players, saying only wide receiver Roman Wilson (undisclosed) and offensive linemen Chuck Filiaga (leg), Zak Zinter (leg) and Trevor Keegan (shoulder ) are day to day – “but progress”.
But if there has ever been one uplifting tale, check out Iowa last week. The Hawkeyes were undefeated and ranked No.2 in the country and lost a stun, 24-7, to Purdue to fall from the top 10. While they remain favorites to win the Big Ten West Division, their playoff hopes college football have faded. For Michigan to keep all of its hopes and dreams alive, a full effort will be required on Saturday against Northwestern.
“We’re not neglecting them at all,” said wide receiver AJ Henning. “We know they’re a great football team. They are going to come here and give us the best of themselves, so we are going to take the necessary preparation to try to have a positive result.
As Michigan has its best start since 2016, the team has taken a unique approach to preparing each week. The players say they treat each training week as if they’re preparing for Ohio State, long regarded as the best of the Big Ten, while treating each team like a “nameless and faceless opponent.”
They hope that will be true on Saturday against the upset Wildcats.
“Every week we come in with a 1-0 mindset,” said linebacker Kalel Mullings. “We want to be 1-0 for this week – and as long as we continue to do so, we will achieve all of our goals.
“There has never been a look at our opponent this week or any other game. We know we’ve got to take care of business this week, get busy next week – and if we keep doing that, we’ll be ready. “