The Wolverine

November 2016

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2016 Why play the game if you don't think you can win a Big Ten championship? That's our goal. We're not going to be shy about it. We have the guys to do it, and we have the coaching staff to do it. — Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow I t's a great set of questions the Wolverines are asking them- selves these days. Why wait? Why not now? Why not us? As September rolled into mid- October, there weren't any strong answers to the negative, even with the Eye Of Meyer searching the land out of Mordor, aka Columbus. Michigan exited its well-timed bye week No. 1 in the nation in scor- ing defense (10.3 points allowed per game), total defense (212.8 yards surrendered per game), third-down conversion percentage defense (12.2 percent success rate by opponents) and team sacks (tied for first with a 4.0 per game average). The Wolverines stood second in average tackles for loss (10.0 a game) and scoring offense (50.0 points a contest), and tied for sec- ond in the nation for fewest inter- ceptions thrown (two). They cranked it up on offense to pull away from one tough team in Colorado and put the defensive clamps on another in Wisconsin. In short, they've passed a lot of tests. "We've had to respond to getting punched in the mouth," senior tight end Jake Butt assured. "We've had our backs against the wall here and there. We've faced some adversity. We've also handled games that we were supposed to handle." The latter represents a diplomatic way of saying they crushed Hawai'i, Central Florida, Penn State and Rut- gers by an average score of 60.3-6.8. Those who claimed it would take a while for Jim Harbaugh and his coaches to get a high level of foot- ball cranked back up in Ann Arbor are backpedaling faster than Deion Sanders in his prime. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight directs an offense that turned the football over only four times in six games. Such care plays perfectly into the hands of Dr. Blitz (defensive coordinator Don Brown) and a crew that drove Colo- rado quarterback Sefo Liufau from the game and rendered Wisconsin's Alex Hornibrook as effective as Alex Trebek behind center. Life looks awfully good for Har- baugh's No. 3-ranked crew, but the Wolverines are determined to make it better. They constantly reiterate the mantra of not letting up, prep- ping for a championship game ev- ery week and unleashing a wither- ing attack on Saturdays. Butt and all of his teammates know getting comfortable equates to growing vulnerable. "Going into the season, we had a target on our back," Butt assured. "With each win and each week, that target's just growing. We un- derstand that. Since I got here as a freshman, everybody's played their best game against us … everyone's going to want to knock us off and ruin our season." Some of those everyones look far less equipped to do so than they did entering the fall. Michigan's back- loaded schedule initially appeared rightly cast as a three-game road showdown to divide good from great: at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Ohio State. The Spartans are in full free fall, plummeting faster than Mark Dan- tonio's mood upon hearing "The Victors." Since taking a stunning 36-7 lead on pre-fraud confirma- tion Notre Dame, MSU has been outscored 160-81 while losing four straight. Now, Dantonio will summon the venom of 10,000 Black Mambas for Michigan's arrival, but there's no better time to cut the head off that snake than right now. Any hint of letup approaching that game can be met with the screening of you- know-which horror film from 2015. Iowa isn't scaring anybody these days, after losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern, along with an almost unfathomable 14-7 win at Rutgers. Anyone that rolls into Pis- cataway, N.J., these days and comes out with two touchdowns needs an engine overhaul. That leaves the Buckeyes, who remain dangerous as ever — but not invincible. Wisconsin proved that, before bowing in overtime, 30- 23. The Badgers hung 236 rushing yards on the visitors, led 16-6 at the half and controlled large portions of the game. Behind cheetah-quick quarterback J.T. Barrett, the Buckeyes rallied to a ridiculous 20th consecutive road win. They'll be more than a handful in the Horseshoe. The Wolverines won't fear that challenge, when the time comes. Nor should they. Their whole season continues building toward that clas- sic clash. "With the preparation we've been putting in during game week and how hard we've been practicing, we're going to finish with a Big Ten championship," Glasgow insisted. They've given themselves reason to ask: Why not now? Why not us? ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Halfway Home With A Goal In Sight Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow and the Wolverines are focused on winning their Big Ten title since 2004. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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