CHICAGO - John Navarre's 29 career starts and 20 victories are tops among returning quarterbacks in the Big Ten Conference.
But Michigan hasn't won a Big Ten regular-season title since 2000, where it shared the crown with Northwestern and Purdue, and hasn't won an outright title since 1997, when it won a share of the national championship.
Navarre, a fifth-year senior, hopes to reverse that this season.
“A lot of people ask me that question, are we due for a championship?” Navarre said yesterday during the Big Ten kickoff luncheon at the Hyatt Regency. “I don't want to say we're due for one, but we haven't had one in a couple of years, so we really want it. We expect a Big Ten championship every year, that's our goal.
“For this group of seniors, my class and the fourth-year guys, it's getting crunch time for us. We want to go out with a ring on our finger and win a championship. We haven't had that taste in our mouth for a while. I think we're hungry for it. That's been our goal all summer and all winter. I think we have a great attitude and we're ready for it.”
Navarre has circled Nov. 22 on his calendar. That's the date that Michigan will face defending national champion Ohio State in Ann Arbor in the 100-year anniversary of the heated rivalry.
Two of UM's three losses last year were close calls - at Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Wolverines had a shot to win both in the closing seconds, but last-second passes by Navarre were intercepted.
“When we say Big Ten championship, we include the Ohio State game,” he said. “That game, most likely every year, typically helps decipher the Big Ten champ.
“It's a long road to the Ohio State game. We stubbed our toes a couple times last year before we got to that game. Hopefully, if we keep our focus and get to that game undefeated this year, that game could be bigger than ever.”
UM BACK SUSPENDED: Michigan coach Lloyd Carr has suspended junior fullback Sean Sanderson for the season because of academics.
Sanderson was expected to be a starter. He remains on scholarship, but will not practice with the team. Carr said his status will be re-evaluated after this season.
Kevin Dudley and Brian Thompson are the likely front-runners to replace Sanderson. But Carr said he might use more two-tight-end sets until Dudley and Thompson can gain experience.
ON THE MOVE: UM's Marlin Jackson, a starter at cornerback the last two seasons, has put on 12 pounds, which should help him in his new role at safety.
“It has the potential to be a great move for us,” Carr said. “He has an opportunity in our minds to make a lot more plays at safety.”
On Wednesday, Jackson was tabbed as the Big Ten's preseason defensive player of the year.
BLOWING THE WHISTLE: The Big Ten has completed a review of its game officials, and will issue a report in two weeks. The review, which included input from the conference's 11 coaches, was conducted at the request of Penn State.
Dave Parry, director of Big Ten officials, said yesterday that four referees have left since last season - one went to the NFL and three others called it quits - but he denied that any have been fired as a result of the study.
In past years a complete list of active Big Ten officials was included in the league's annual media guide. This year that list is gone.
Parry said the league continues to study the possible use of instant replay in the future.
“I'm hoping we get it, but it's not that big of a deal to me.”