ANN ARBOR, MIch. -- While the Wolverines no longer control their championship aspirations after last Saturday’s 29-6 loss at rival Michigan State. The message from the Wolverine captains and senior leaders is still the same: Win the Big Ten Championship.
“Bounce back, we just have to bounce back,” said fifth-year senior and co-captain Cameron Gordon. “It’s not a time to (sit) around and be all depressed. It’s a time to really focus in. You know? focus in on winning the Big Ten championship.
“It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Right now with these next games we have to finish strong.”
The odds of Michigan making a trip out to Pasadena, Calif. for the Rose Bowl are very slim. Michigan (6-2-2 Big Ten) trails Michigan State (8-1, 5-0) in the Legends Division and the Spartans hold the tie-breaker over the Wolverines due to their head-to-head win last week.
But despite the long odds, the Wolverines have not stop believing, said Michigan coach Brady Hoke.
"I don't think you know our team very well and how they feel about it,” Hoke said. “and how they feel about Michigan and how they feel about the personal pride that they have.”
U-M takes on Nebraska (6-2, 3-1) this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium with plenty of motivation, said fifth-year captain Taylor Lewan.
"I don't think it's that difficult,” Lewan said. “We have a lot of competitors on this team, and you don't come to the University of Michigan if you're not a competitor. That's one of the things they look into. These guys want it. I know they want to get better. They understand that our fate as far as going to a Big Ten championship is not in our hands anymore. We have to hope for a couple lucky losses or wins and just keep playing our game. That's really all that we can focus on is these last four games, and whatever happens after that happens.
“Two years ago in 2011 we lost two games and ended up winning the Sugar Bowl. Obviously, we want to win a Big Ten championship every year, but we have to keep moving on and keep working."
But the message by the seniors is still the Rose Bowl, said junior Frank Clark.
“Rose Bowl,” Clark said. “They can’t preach it enough to us. I believe that’s the most times I have heard a word in about year in my span here. Rose bowl, I believe I’ve heard it 20 times this week. Just making it to the Rose Bowl. That’s our ultimate goal. We believe it’s still in our vision. We believe we can still make it. And we’re very confident about that.”
Michigan would have to win out and the Spartans would have to lose their last three games, but that’s exactly the scenario U-M is hoping for, said Gordon.
“The scenario is to do our job. You know,” Gordon said. “If we win every game, then of course, other people are going to lose. Will just do what we have to do and see where it puts us. We can’t really think about what other teams are going to do. We just do what we have to do.”
Clark echoed Gordon, saying, “Definitely, I trust my teammates and my teammates trust in me. And we trust in our coach. At the end of the day, when you have a team like that, that family oriented I believe -- nothing is impossible.”
Improbable, yes, but still very possible.