ANN ARBOR -- When Jake Long made his decision to return to Ann Arbor for his final season of college eligibility, it was to win a championship. Stunning losses to both Appalachian State and Oregon to open the season ended all hopes of a title at the national level, but, as the Wolverines prepare for the season-ending battle with the Ohio State Buckeyes this weekend, the resiliency of a once 0-2 team has found the Maize and Blue in a position they've been in many times before.
"Beating Ohio State and winning the championship," Long said on Monday about what is the most important thing about this weekend. "It's winning the Big Ten Championship. That's what we've been trying to do all year, and that's our goal. You know, it's right there for us."
Standing in the way, one final test. The Ohio State Buckeyes.
Michigan's recent struggles against Ohio State are well documented. In the past three years, Long, and his fellow seniors, are winless against Ohio State. As a fifth-year senior, Long is one of the very few that have even been standing on the field the last time the Wolverines knocked off the Buckeyes.
"I've beaten them once my red shirt year, but I really don't count that," Long continued. "All the seniors, we haven't beaten them yet, and what a better way to win than to play for the Big Ten Championship, play at our own place. They're a great team, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
If the Wolverines are to claim the conference crown this season, though, it won't be easy. Running back Chris Wells provides a stiff challenge for a Michigan defense that who struggled the past six quarters against power running teams.
"I mean, he's a threat because he's got great feet, and he's got great explosiveness, and he runs very, very fast," Carr said on Monday. "And he's big.
"They're a typical Ohio State team. They're a well balanced team. They're well coached. They play hard together. And that's who they are."
Adding fuel to the fire, the comments of running back Mike Hart after Michigan's 41-38 loss to Ohio State last season. After Hart's words were used in a story ran early in the week by the Detroit News, Long, who recently was projected as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, responded to all of the hype that comes with the Michigan-Ohio State football game.
"It's a different team, different season, different atmosphere, and we're not thinking about last year," Long said. "Anything that was said or the game or nothing, we're just focused on this year.
"It seems the five years I've been here, this game has come down to Ohio State-Michigan for the Big Ten and for a chance to play at the Rose Bowl, and that's what it is this year again. It's fun. It's where it should be."
Michigan and Ohio State kick-off at noon on Saturday at Michigan Stadium. ABC will provide television coverage of the event.