ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has not won a Big Ten title in 11 years, its longest drought since the gap between 1950 and 1964 conference championships.
The 16th-ranked Wolverines (6-2, 3-1 Big Ten) will need to keep winning, and they’ll need rivals Ohio State and Michigan State to lose, but they’re not giving up hope.
After having a losing record overall last year and a 3-5 Big Ten mark for a second straight season, defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow is glad to be going into November with a potential shot to play for a title.
“We’re really excited about the chance we have to possibly play in the Big Ten Championship game, but right now we’re focused on Rutgers,” Glasgow said. “They’re a good, improving team.”
The Scarlet Knights (3-5, 1-4) have a lot to play for, too. They need to win three of their last four games to be eligible for a fifth straight bowl and to perhaps help coach Kyle Flood return to lead the program for a fifth year.
“These are got-to-win situations,” offensive guard Chris Muller said.
Here are some things to watch when Rutgers plays at Michigan on Saturday:
UNDER CENTER: Wolverines quarterback Jake Rudock is expected to start after getting knocked out of last week’s game at Minnesota with what coach Jim Harbaugh has described as a torso injury. Rutgers, meanwhile, appears to be sticking with Chris Laviano under center. After a relatively strong start, he was 14 of 34 for 148 yards with two interceptions as the Scarlet Knights lost their last two games 48-10 at Wisconsin and 49-7 to top-ranked Ohio State.
MOVING ON: The Wolverines’ last two games were decided on the final play. They held on to beat the Golden Gophers with a goal-line stand after blowing a lead by botching a punt against Michigan State. After closely contested losses to Indiana and the Spartans, Rutgers lost its last two games by a total of 80 points. “If you don’t turn the page right when you correct the film and you’re stuck in last week’s game, it’s kind of like quick sand,” Laviano said.
KEY CONTRIBUTOR: Leonte Carroo may give Rutgers a boost, returning to play after missing last week’s loss to the Badgers and missing a half against the Buckeyes because of an ankle injury. In just five games, he has caught nine touchdown passes — three more than anyone in the Big Ten — and 28 TDs in 28 games.
GARDEN STATE GEMS: If Carroo plays, he will likely be covered at times by defensive back Jabrill Peppers in a matchup of New Jersey natives. “We played against each other in high school,” Carroo said. “He’s a great player. I’m a great player and I’m just going to go out there and compete.”
REVENGE FACTOR: The Wolverines have plenty of reasons to be motivated to beat Rutgers, and one of them may be what happened in the last meeting. The Scarlet Knights beat Michigan 26-24 last year for their first victory in the Big Ten.