Michigan learning from past, focused on task at hand

Football


Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff committee will unveil its first set of rankings. Eyes will be glued to televisions across the Michigan fan base. Onlookers will bubble with anxiety over whether the Wolverines will sneak into the top four and where they will stand among the nation?s one-loss teams.

Not Karan Higdon. The senior running back doesn?t know what he will be doing when the rankings are unveiled Tuesday night but he knows he won?t be watching.

?They don?t even matter,? Higdon said. ?We got four more weeks left.?

Added junior cornerback David Long: ?I?ll probably see (the rankings) but I?ll take it with a grain of salt. Cause whether we?re fourth or fifth, we still gotta play the next week.?


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Two years ago, Michigan was in a similar spot when the first rankings were released. The Wolverines weren?t entirely sure that they would place in the top four (they ended up 3rd) but knew that they almost certainly controlled their own destiny.

At the time, coach Jim Harbaugh encouraged his players to ?embrace? their ranking. This go around, he hasn?t even brought it up.

?I don?t think at this point it really matters,? said fifth-year senior defensive end Chase Winovich. ?Because, at the end of the day, we got a job to do.?

Perhaps Harbaugh?s new approach stems from what followed.


Michigan’s defense ranks first in the Big Ten in eight different categories. (Photo by Andy Shippy)


Two games after the first CFP rankings release that year, Michigan was stunned by 14-13 by an unranked Iowa team. Then came the Wolverines? most haunting loss of the past decade. You know what happened so I?ll spare the details.

It?s not just that Michigan wants to avoid a repeat of 2016?s collapse. Their week-to-week mentality is a product of a new culture, one that emphasizes focus and preparation ? two things that are not possible if the team is caught looking ahead.

?That?s the worst thing you can do cause then you start sleeping on teams and you fall into a trap,? Higdon said when asked if he has begun to consider the Wolverines? regular season finale against Ohio State.

Added junior defensive lineman Carlo Kemp: ?This year, it?s just one game at a time. ? Two years ago, we were in this position so we know how it feels to be at the top and to be in control. And right now we have that grip, we?re just trying to not let it go.?

Even in a bye week, that week-to-week focus was evident.

With no game to play on Saturday, most of Michigan?s players spent the day watching football. Higdon watched every game he could get his hands on. For the rest of the team, though, Penn State?s narrow win over Iowa was clearly the most watched.

Given the opportunity to watch CFP contenders Clemson, Notre Dame, or Oklahoma, the Wolverines elected to stay focused on their next opponent.

Even on a bye week.

?We?re a hungry team,? Winovich said. ?You either are or you?re not that team. So if a bye week or some time off can really distract you then I don?t think you?re that team in the first place.?


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