Forget The Critics, Michigan Proving To Itself: "We Deserve To Be In The Playoffs"

With one game to go, the Wolverines are focused squarely on themselves.

Will Burchfield
November 17, 2018 - 10:15 pm

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Categories: 

All season long, Michigan running back Karan Higdon has talked about proving people wrong. About defying outside expectations and flipping old narratives. He's talked about this in a manner that would suggest it's been fuel for the Wolverines. 

After Michigan dismantled then-No. 15 Wisconsin in mid-October, Higdon declared, "This was more of a personal game for us. A lot of people have a lot of questions about who we are as a team, our offensive line, our run game, we don’t show up in big games. I think we laid that to rest tonight. 

When the Wolverines exacted revenge against then-No. 24 Michigan State a week later, Higdon smiled afterward and said, "Every week it seems that people with the playoff rankings find a reason to talk about why we don’t deserve to be a top-ranked team. Last week it was, 'We don’t show up in big games.' This week it’s, 'Michigan State's got the number one run defense,' and blah, blah, blah." 

Michigan hasn't stopped winning since, hasn't stopped sending a message to the rest of the country. Its latest statement came in a 31-20 win over Indiana Saturday night at the Big House, a performance that wasn't so much dominant as it was dogged. The Wolverines were tested in this one, tested for the first time since that game in East Lansing, another instance where they battled through adversity

What they found out, yet again, was that when the going gets tough, they just get tougher. Michigan outscored Indiana 16-3 in the second half to turn around a 17-15 halftime deficit.

"It kind of just tested our resiliency," said Shea Patterson, who threw for 250 yards and a touchdown and added 68 yards on the ground. "They're a good team. In football, not everything is going to go your way, so we overcame some adversity. ... I think there’s a lot of positives to take out of this. When you’re tested, you either give into it or come out resilient, and I think we did that." 

Higdon, who topped 100 rushing yards for the eighth time this season, was the last player to come to the podium. One would have expected him to keep beating his drum, to keep bringing up the doubters and disbelievers. But this time was different, even when Higdon was asked what the Wolverines are proving to people now, at this point in the season. 

The Wolverines aren't worried about those people anymore, Higdon said.

"We’re not proving anything to anybody. They’re going to get what they get out of it, but we’re proving stuff to ourselves -- that we definitely can be the best team in the country, that we’re definitely a top-four team and that we’re a playoff contender and we deserve to play in the playoffs," Higdon said. "And that only happens if we continue to dominate each and every week." 

Maybe the critics don't have any ammo left. Maybe Michigan's already shot most of them down. Fact is, the Wolverines first broke into the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 5. They've since moved up to No. 4. In all likelihood, that's where they'll be when the next rankings are released on Tuesday. 

If they take care of business next week at Ohio State and then the week after in the Big Ten Championship game against Northwestern, they'll almost surely be in the playoffs. (Keep an eye on No. 5 Georgia, though. No. 6 Oklahoma, too.) That's a place very few people thought the Wolverines would wind up after their season-opening loss to Notre Dame. 

But there they are, and who cares what anyone else says, anyway.