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Michigan's last shot at glory comes at Ohio State

By LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR, Nov. 21, 2008 (AP): A Michigan-Ohio State joke was making its rounds on both sides of the border less than 24 hours after the Wolverines lost a school-record eighth game.

Did you hear they [Michigan vs. OSU, Nov. 22, in Columbus] had to cancel the game?
No, why?
Because Michigan can't get past Toledo.

Yes, it's gotten that bad for college football's winningest team.

``I'm sure we'll hear all week that our guys have no chance,'' said Michigan coach Rich Rodríguez, whose Wolverines did in fact lose to the Toledo Rockets (2-8) this season.

Why does Rodríguez think the Wolverines (3-8, 2-5 Big Ten) have a shot to beat the 10th-ranked Buckeyes (9-2, 6-1)?

``It's 0-0 when you start,'' he said. ``If they're favored by whatever and up 21-0 before you kick off, that's tough. But it's 0-0 when you start.

``We've got some young guys and they've got some young guys.''

One of Ohio State's youngest—freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor—considered Michigan only after Rodríguez was hired nearly 11 months ago.

``We have to have a better plan than we did against running quarterbacks earlier this year,'' Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez knew he would be starting another rebuilding job after building West Virginia into a power and bolting for Ann Arbor.

But he and no one else thought it would get this bad at Michigan.

Northwestern beat the Wolverines 21-14 Saturday, handing them eight losses for the first time in their program's 129-year history and a school-record fifth setback at the Big House.

``It's real hard because you come to Michigan to win games,'' senior safety Brandon Harrison said. ``You don't lose at home. It's real hard to take.''

Michigan will play its final game against Ohio State for the first time since 1974, the last year the conference allowed only one school play in the postseason.

``That's my bowl game now,'' Harrison said.

Harrison said beating Ohio State ``would clear everything up'' in a season he called disappointing.

Rodríguez and some players wouldn't go that far.

``If we play well and happen to win, it wouldn't salvage the whole season,'' Rodríguez said. ``But it would certainly make you feel a little better because of the rivalry and all the frustration we've had this year.''

Senior linebacker John Thompson said the Ohio State game has become a one-game season.

``Probably a few months down the line it'll hit me that my career at Michigan is over,'' Thompson said somberly.

That's why Rodríguez expects the Wolverines to play with every ounce of emotion in their finale.

``I would be shocked and disappointed if they didn't play as hard as they ever have in their careers,'' Rodríguez said.

What would it mean to Rodríguez to cap his disappointing debut season with a stunning upset at Ohio State?

``It would be great for our seniors more than anything,'' he insisted.

Rodríguez also tried to downplay the fact that this will be his first experience in one of the game's greatest rivalries.

``I'm not worried about the so-called pageantry. I'm just worried about the game,'' he said. ``I understand the rivalry is better than any place in college football, so it's exciting, but our focus is preparing for that ballgame.''






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