‘We’re over it’: Michigan focusing on FSU, not playoff miss
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — It’s been more than a month since Michigan’s last football game, and it’s still difficult for quarterback Wilton Speight to watch the film.
And that’s understandable.
The last game was the Ohio State game. The one Michigan lost to its biggest rival. The one that kept the Wolverines from the College Football Playoff.
Win or lose, Michigan has a rule — as do many other teams — that the outcome of a game can only be fixated upon for one day, and then it’s on to the next challenge. While it may have taken the sixth-ranked Wolverines more than 24 hours to get over that 30-27 double-overtime and somewhat-debated loss, they insist that the focus is solely now on No. 10 Florida State and the matchup that awaits in the Orange Bowl on Friday night.
“We’re over it,” tight end Khalid Hill said.
“Sure as heck better be,” Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh said.
Speight has studied his every move from that game more than once, trying to find the things that went right and the things that he needed to do better. Painful as it was, he said it was important and necessary because he sees parallels between the Florida State and Ohio State defenses.
“It was a bummer not making the playoff, but we put ourselves in that position,” Speight said Tuesday. “We put the ball in other people’s court to determine if we were going or not and you never want to do that in anything in life. But we were quickly happy, and moving on to the Orange Bowl and playing an unbelievable opponent.”
That being said, he doesn’t watch the more-dramatic television copy of the game.
He limits himself to the cut-ups in the Michigan film room, ones that focus only on Xs and Os — not oohs and aahs.
“There’s a little pit in your stomach when you watch it,” Speight said.
Ever since this matchup was set on Dec. 4, the Wolverines have said that they don’t look at the Orange Bowl as some meaningless consolation prize. A win would make this only the second 11-victory season for Michigan since 1997, plus put the Wolverines to finish as a top-five team in the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1999.
Coming into a talent-rich state like Florida and beating a team like Florida State surely wouldn’t hurt recruiting, either.
“We wish we would have beat Ohio State, yes,” Hill said. “But at the end of the day I still think we’re one of the top four teams in the country. We can compete with any of those guys.”
When the Buffalo Bills were in the midst of their run of four consecutive lost Super Bowls in the early 1990s, coach Marv Levy — a brilliant man who probably knew as much English literature as he did football — recalled a poem from a book that his mother had given him a half-century earlier.
He wound up sharing it with his players. The story has been oft-repeated over the years, even to the point where some erroneously attribute the poem to Levy himself. And Harbaugh channeled it as well in the preparation for this game, fitting after the loss to Ohio State.
“It was a tough loss,” Harbaugh said. “But as Sir Andrew said, ‘I’m a little bit hurt but not slain. I’ll lay down and bleed awhile, and then I’ll rise to fight again.’”