Inside Slant

The Sports Xchange

November 21, 2018 at 1:28 am.

Michigan visits Ohio State with big prizes within reach

Throughout the 2018 season, many Michigan players have made reference to a “Revenge Tour” that was meant to motivate the Wolverines ahead of matchups they lost last season.

That resulted in payback wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State by a combined score of 101-27 during a four-week span.

But now comes the most critical stop on that tour: Ohio State, the hated rival who has won this matchup simply known as “The Game” six years in a row. And as if this matchup didn’t already have a lot going on, the winner claims the Big Ten’s East Division title and stays in the hunt for a College Football Playoff bid.

No. 4 Michigan (10-1, 8-0) has lost eight straight games at Ohio Stadium, though the last time was as close as it could be. OSU earned a 30-27 victory in double overtime, aided by a favorable spot on a fourth-down play that set up the winning touchdown.

“We’re just working hard to make darn sure we do whatever we possibly can to make sure we win this football game,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly press conference, one that had an extra layer of tension to it because of the opponent.

Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback who famously guaranteed a win over Ohio State in 1986 (and backed up that promise with a 26-24 road victory), said “of course not” when asked if Saturday’s 12:05 p.m. ET kickoff against the 10th-ranked Buckeyes (10-1, 7-1) was just another game. He furthered that by never actually mentioning OSU by name.

“This opponent has a great record — you are what your record says you are — and so do we,” he said. “The competition is always the best part. Expect competition at the highest level.”

Michigan heads to Columbus having won 10 straight, its longest in-season winning streak since beginning 11-0 in 2006 (before losing at Ohio State and then to USC in the Rose Bowl). Does that mean there’s extra pressure on this contest, more so than in previous years?

“I always look at pressure as life-giving energy,” Harbaugh said.

Saturday’s winner will face Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Michigan has yet to make an appearance in that contest since it was created in 2011.