Michigan football: Where do the Wolverines go from here?
Michigan wasn’t supposed to lose to Michigan State.
However, this past Saturday, the 3-TD-favorite and No. 13 team in the land did just that, falling 27-24 in Ann Arbor.
Following the defeat, Wolverines QB Joe Milton said “this game didn’t turn out how it was supposed to …” while RB Hassan Haskins said the loss “doesn’t feel real.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen, but it was certainly real.
Now where does Jim Harbaugh take his Wolverines from here?
Despite the tough, perhaps shocking, loss to the Spartans, Nick Eubanks, a 5th-year senior TE, sees more on the horizon for the 1-1 Wolverines, who still have on their schedule pesky and sneaky Indiana, B1G West contender Wisconsin, robust Penn State and conference-favorite Ohio State.
“The only way is to go up,” Eubanks said during Monday’s Zoom press conference call. “It makes no sense for us, you know, to stay down and droop about this loss. Just keep our heads up, you know?”
Things happen, Eubanks explained. College football can be a wild game. Uncertainty and unexpected results are a part of the landscape, like it or not.
“Lord knows if we keep our heads down, it’s only going to get worse,” he said. “Our best bet is to move forward.”
Eubanks, a self-proclaimed “old head,” knows that leadership from the top — the experienced players, namely — will be of the utmost importance for the Wolverines, who have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the Big Ten.
“It happened,” he said of the MSU loss. “Being here for 5 years, we’ve lost a ton of games in the way of us being challenged. But it’s adversity…. Adversity is the best teacher, and the best thing for us to do is to move forward and move through it. That’s what we’ve decided to do.”
At 1-1, and with an obviously rigorous road ahead, the Wolverines must find a way to rebound against Indiana, which has a knack for catching teams off-guard — just ask Penn State, which lost 36-35 in overtime to the Hoosiers in Week 1 of the B1G season. Rutgers, which racked up one of the most surprising wins in recent B1G memory against Michigan State — 38-27 — also fell off while playing the Hoosiers, losing 37-21 in Week 2 in Piscataway, N.J.
Indiana has been on the up for the past few years. Michigan has had problems with the Hoosiers during the past handful of years. Sure, Michigan has won each meeting since 1988, but they haven’t all been easy — especially under Harbaugh.
In 2018, Michigan came away with a 31-20 victory in Ann Arbor. In 2017, Harbaugh escaped Bloomington with a 27-20 win. In 2016, it was a 20-10 effort that allowed the Wolverines to earn the “W” against Indiana. The previous season, 2015, Michigan needed to light up the scoreboard to get past the once-lowly Hoosiers, 48-40.
We all know about Michigan’s failures against Ohio State, which has only lost 3 meetings since the turn of the century. Michigan blew out Penn State in 2016, 49-10, with a College Football Playoff-worthy squad. The year prior, UM won 28-16. In 2017, the Wolverines were crushed at Beaver Stadium, 42-13. UM won 42-7 in 2018 and then turned around and lost 28-21 to James Franklin’s squad in 2019.
Wisconsin is always a problem, regardless of records or circumstances. Wolverines vs. Badgers is always a game to watch, not only in college football as a whole, but for the Big Ten faithful.
The road only gets bumpier after Michigan State.
“What happened Saturday (vs. MSU), happened,” Harbaugh said. “That window’s now closed. There is nothing that you can go back and do about what happened on Saturday. Next Saturday is some days away. You have some control over that, and that’s what happens. We’ll get back to work and make sure that (bad loss) doesn’t happen again. We (need) a better result next time we play.”
Harbaugh kept it positive during Monday’s Zoom call. So did his players.
As the old saying goes, you can’t let a team beat you twice.
Michigan needs to realize that before letting 2020 getting out of control. The Wolverines have too much talent to fade into the background of the Big Ten race. But if it doesn’t win Saturday against Indiana, Michigan can sign itself out of contention — with Harbaugh’s John Hancock distinctly marked at the bottom of the letter.
So do players.
Veterans like Eubanks know what’s at stake.
“Keeping our heads up is the best bet,” Eubanks said. “That’s all we can do.”