Michigan has been the real Michigan since losing to Michigan State.

Following that 37-33 loss to the Spartans — who were handled 56-7 this past Saturday by Ohio State — the Wolverines have taken critical steps in their development. They jumped over Indiana, 29-7; they found a way to win a tough road game at Penn State, 21-17; and they disposed of Maryland, 59-18, this weekend in College Park.

This was not a team that was going to let the loss to MSU cancel the season.

Now at 10-1, 7-1 in the Big Ten, there is only one thing that stands in the way of Michigan and a certain College Football Playoff-berth: And that’s a win over Ohio State (10-1, 8-0), which entered the week at No. 4 in the CFP rankings, compared to No. 6 for UM.

A slower-paced, more controlled-tempo style will be the only way Michigan will compete with the Buckeyes. Obviously, keeping the Buckeyes from getting a quick start would also be beneficial — OSU led Michigan State 21-0 within a few blinks of an eye on Saturday in Columbus.

Trying to dig out of a 3-score hole won’t end well for Michigan, or any team, while facing the No. 1-ranked total/scoring offense in the country.

Michigan has done an admirable job of maintaining its focus. From coach Jim Harbaugh and staff, to QB Cade McNamara and the rest of the players, the idea of “never flinching” has become a battle cry of sorts. Harbaugh has often said that resilience is his team’s best quality. This year’s team has had that and more.

Beating Ohio State won’t be an easy task for anyone. Will Michigan score just its fourth series win vs. the Buckeyes since 2000? History says no. However, the story doesn’t have to remain the same for the Wolverines this time. They have enough talent to avoid getting run off their own field this weekend in Ann Arbor.

Michigan can score a lot, too…

Michigan has topped 40 points three times this year: 59-18 vs. Maryland; 63-10 vs. Northern Illinois; and 47-14 vs. Western Michigan. Don’t forget a 38-17 win at Wisconsin, either — that one deserves mention, though it was not a 40-point game, because the Badgers lead the nation in total defense.

The bottom line is that Michigan can put up some points.

Saturday, the Wolverines scored multiple ways. Cornerback D.J. Turner had a 42-yard interception for a touchdown and WR AJ Henning had a 79-yard kickoff TD return. UM scored through the air and on the ground as well.

Saturday’s win vs. Maryland was a good tune-up for the Wolverines. You know, something to get them going and feeling good. Well, they already felt good, and have for a few weeks. But Saturday’s thrashing was exactly what UM needed heading into rivalry week against Ohio State.

Entering Saturday’s game vs. Michigan State, Ohio State averaged 45.6 points per game. OSU has done UM dirty the past two meetings, winning 56-27 in 2019 and 62-39 in 2018. The Wolverines can’t, and won’t, win if they give up 50-plus.

But if both teams score in the 30s, UM might have a decent shot at capturing an elusive victory over the Buckeyes, who have won 21 straight games against ranked teams (that’s an NCAA record, by the way).

New Weapon?

Donovan Edwards had 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown — a 77-yard reception from QB JJ McCarthy — against the Terrapins.

Not a bad receiving line for a true freshman, huh?

Plus, he’s a running back, so that makes it all the more impressive.

Without Blake Corum (ankle injury), the Wolverines need their backfield to pick up the slack. Hassan Haskins has done a great job at rushing and he can catch, too. However, Edwards’ ability to catch the ball adds another dimension to the Wolverines’ offense, which, when clicking, can make life beyond difficult for defenses.

Haskins rushed 20 times for 78 yards and 2 TDs, his fifth 2-TD game of the season. Having a back that’s good for a couple of scores each game also provides some hope for the Wolverines as they prepare for the Buckeyes.

Cade keeps being Cade

Steadiness at quarterback has been another hallmark for the Wolverines this season. Other than fan noise and some media unnecessary stirring the pot, there has never been a question about UM’s leader under center: Cade McNamara has been one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the country.

He has only thrown 2 interceptions all season, with the most recent coming 3 weeks ago vs. Michigan State. Add 14 passing touchdowns plus the ability to eclipse 300 yards (383 vs. MSU), and there is a lot to like about McNamara. As long as he doesn’t get lost in his head on Saturday, he should be fine vs. Ohio State. He’s rarely looked rattled or disturbed this season.

Saturday vs. Maryland, he was 21-of-28 for 259 yards for 2 TDs.

It could happen

Michigan has built up to this point. It has shown that it’s a legitimate Big Ten contender, and most of all, it’s entering rivalry week with a puncher’s chance against a team that has owned the series since the turn of the century. Michigan wasn’t supposed to be here, so remember that when evaluating Harbaugh’s program.

At 10-1, heading into a game that’s going to decide a conference title, is a dream scenario for the Wolverines.

They would have liked to defeat the Spartans, of course. But again, that loss might have been the best thing that happened to the Wolverines this year.