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ANN ARBOR — The first loss of the season hasn’t created an identity crisis for the Michigan football team.
Save for an anticipated change on the offensive line, the Wolverines aren’t making any further wholesale changes in personnel in preparation for Saturday’s game against Indiana. UM (5-1, 1-1 Big Ten) isn’t panicking, nor are they prognosticating.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen this week,” quarterback Devin Gardner said. “We’ve moved on to Indiana, and we’re going to see how it goes.”
Gardner was succinct when asked what his team’s mentality is, in preparing for Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers.
“Win the game,” Gardner said.
A win would soothe UM’s psyche. And it could put to rest some of the white noise that’s seemed to have gotten louder — and darker — as the season has progressed.
The Wolverines squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter at Penn State, which got trounced a week prior at Indiana. They lost a four-overtime game that became one of the weekend’s most publicized, and lost in one of college football’s highest-profile venues.
Their road woes in three seasons under Brady Hoke have been well documented. Furthermore, they lost their first game this season in stunning fashion.
In the wake of last weekend’s loss, UM fell out of the Associated Press top 25 poll and made a more dubious poll: USA Today ranked Michigan second behind Oklahoma on its “Misery Index,” a weekly tongue-in-cheek ranking of each fan base’s angst level.
“Everybody’s going to have their opinion, whether you win or lose,” said Gardner, who leads the Big Ten in total individual offense with 439 rushing yards and 1,276 passing yards. “We lost one game, but that doesn’t determine how our season’s going to end and how it’s going to finish. That’s up to us, whether we finish strong or let this loss be a cloud over our heads.”
Despite the external chatter, the Wolverines aren’t buying into the talk of a meltdown.
“We talk about the things that are important that are said in this [locker] room,” Hoke said. “No one else really matters besides the guys in the room when we’re talking to the team. I can’t tell you about each individual and how they’ll let things affect them. The older guys who have been here have heard the good and the bad, which comes with playing football at Michigan because of the high expectations.
“They’re resilient about moving forward, and they’re a pretty tight-knit group overall.”
Now perspective becomes the key for Michigan to move forward and prepare for Indiana (3-3, 1-1).
“We’re pretty amped up and ready to go,” Gardner said. “Penn State’s behind us, and it was a great game and everything, but you can’t dwell on the past. I just can’t wait to get a chance to play Indiana.”
Big Ten releases schedules
The Big Ten released its conference schedules for the 2018 and 2019 seasons Wednesday, returning to a nine-game conference schedule for the first time since 1984. East Division teams will host five conference games in even-numbered years and teams from the West Division will host five conference games in odd-numbered years.
Michigan moves to the East Division in 2014. It will open its 2018 Big Ten schedule Sept. 22 at home against Nebraska and its 2019 conference schedule Sept. 21 at Wisconsin
Ohio State also moves to the East Division next season. The Buckeyes open their 2018 Big Ten schedule Sept. 8 at home against Rutgers and the 2019 conference schedule Sept. 14 at Indiana.
Ohio State hosts Michigan on Nov. 24, 2018, and Michigan hosts Ohio State on Nov. 30, 2019.