ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has won three straight, scoring 35 points each game, since its midseason slump.
The Wolverines (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) won easily over Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland to climb back to No. 19 in The Associated Press poll . They had same ranking after getting routed 42-13 on the road to No. 2 Penn State, a second loss in a three-game stretch that hurt their chances of winning a Big Ten title for the first time since 2004.
“We can still be a 10-win team and kind of ruin people’s seasons,” Michigan center Patrick Kugler said Monday. “That’s kind of what my goal is right now.”
The Wolverines have an opportunity to spoil hopes and plans for two teams.
They play at No. 5 Wisconsin (10-0, 7-0) on Saturday, facing a team with a clear path to the Big Ten championship game and a shot at being in the College Football Playoff. They close the regular season the following week at home against No. 8 Ohio State (8-2, 6-1), a rival still holding national championship hopes.
Even if Michigan can close the regular season with two upsets, though, it needs the 13th-ranked Nittany Lions and No. 22 Michigan State each to lose a game to avoid tiebreaker scenarios that wouldn’t favor the maize and blue after losing to both schools.
“Our goal is still to go to the Big Ten championship and that’s still a possibility,” receiver Grant Perry said.
If the Wolverines can’t celebrate a championship, they want to mess up plans other teams have over the next two weeks.
“We’ve kind of taken on the role of the villain a little bit,” Kugler said. “People have been doubting us, saying we haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this year. That’s kind of the big one that is going around right now. The next two games, two big ones, Wisconsin and Ohio State. If we can come out on top of both of those, the villain wins. That’s kind of a fun role to play.”
The Wolverines’ eight wins are against teams with .500 or worse records, adding to the argument that they haven’t beaten any quality teams this season. On the road, that hasn’t happened in a long time because they don’t have a victory over a ranked opponent on its home field since Lloyd Carr’s 2006 team won at No. 2 Notre Dame.
Mike McCray believes Michigan has momentum going into its game against the Badgers after bouncing back from a humiliating loss at Penn State.
“I think we’re a lot more confident,” the senior linebacker said. “We went through a little bit of adversity. We know we can fight through that adversity. Since then, we’re closer together.”
Wilton Speight is closer to coming back to potentially playing, coach Jim Harbaugh said. The quarterback, who cracked vertebrae Sept. 23 at Purdue, has been cleared to practice without contact. Running back Karan Higdon didn’t finish the game at Maryland because of an ankle injury, but Harbaugh sounded encouraged about the chances he will play against the Badgers along with running back Ty Isaac, who has missed two games with an injury.