ANN ARBOR—7-4 and well out of Big Ten championship contention, Michigan and Coach Brady Hoke are down to their 12th and final regular season game in 2013.
A year many expected the Wolverines to take a jump as a program as they look to return to form as one of the conferences upper tier teams, Saturday’s this fall have been anything but positive for Michigan following yet another loss at Iowa last week.
“Yeah, is the goal always to win the Big Ten championship?” Hoke rhetorically asked Monday. “No question about it. And we won’t make excuses nor back down from it.
“Have we played and coached as well as we needed to? Obviously not. And those are things we’ve got to keep going and keep working everyday because that’s all you can do.”
Despite the negative plays and mounting losses, Hoke remains confident in his team and his coaching staff moving forward, not focused on outside criticism.
“No matter what I say, they’re going to have their own opinion,” Hoke said. “I know that this is going in the right direction but that’s, what am I going to say that it’s going backwards?
“I mean, seriously, I feel very confident in what we’re doing and how our kids are responding.”
Now, it’s onto Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will head to Ann Arbor a perfect 11-0, still very much in the race for a national title appearance and have yet to lose a game since Urban Meyer was named head coach in 2012.
Whether or not Michigan is internally discussing the opportunity to snap Ohio State’s 23 game win streak or snatch away their hopes of winning a national championship, the Wolverines, publically, aren’t playing into the hype.
“It’s not about them,” Hoke said. “It’s about us.”
Hoke added, “If I have to say something like that to motivate the guys in our locker room then those guys shouldn’t be in our locker room.”
After linebackers James Ross and Desmond Morgan both exited Michigan’s loss at Iowa with undisclosed injuries, Hoke updated the status of both heading into Saturday, as well as the health of junior quarterback Devin Gardner.
“They all are going to be fine,” Hoke said. “Update, yeah they’re fine, all three of them.”
Hoke also added he does expect all three to play Saturday.
Reserve running back Thomas Rawls also exited the game against the Hawkeyes after injuring his knee on the opening kickoff.
“Rawls has got a slight MCL, we’ll see,” Hoke said. “He would be the only guy right now I think that is probable -- less than probable.”
Michigan went right back to work Monday morning, stepping back onto the practice field. Though this isn’t the first time the Wolverines have practiced on a Monday morning this season, it isn’t a part of their normal routine.
“I like it,” Hoke said. “And I might like it even more -- do it more often.”
Hoke added, “It was a great way to start the morning. We had a staff meeting at 5:30 and team meeting at 6:00 and you start your day. It gave the coaches and it gave the players some time to reflect and then get back to it.”