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After Beating Ohio State, ‘Sky’s The Limit’ For Michigan

The program-altering win against Ohio State has Michigan's trajectory on a major upswing. But despite the success, the Wolverines are quickly refocusing, with all eyes on bringing home a Big Ten Championship.

All season, Michigan had one goal on their mind, and they didn’t shy away from it: They wanted to beat Ohio State. But after finally getting over that hump and putting themselves on the cusp of their first ever College Football Playoff berth, the focus around the practice facility is still razor sharp.

Now, it's centered around what can still be achieved.

“It wasn’t the end of the season,” junior defensive lineman Mazi Smith said. “A lot of times in the past [the Ohio State game] has been the last game we played. But now, we got another one. Now we’ve got to do what we need to do to beat Iowa.”

The quick turnaround following the euphoric win over the Buckeyes is a tall task for the Wolverines as they now must prepare to play for their first Big Ten title since 2003 this weekend. But on Tuesday night in Schembechler Hall, there was no dwelling on the big win.

All the focus is now directed towards the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa is a pesky team who’s 10-2 and has one of the stoutest secondaries in the country. It was unfathomable to think Michigan would be representing the Big Ten East in Indy at the beginning of the season. But even after making it this far, players know that without lifting that trophy the season just won’t have the same impact.

“It’s something that we have to stress as a team because we did have a very good win for our program but at the time we’re not champions yet,” junior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson said. “We haven’t claimed anything, so we have to make sure we come out locked-in. Making sure you’re never too up about a win or down about a loss.”

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Four weeks prior to the Ohio State win, Michigan lost to Michigan State, and it appeared that all hope for a promising season was lost. But unlike previous years, the team didn’t crumble. Instead, they grew stronger.

They held a player-only meeting that week and the message was clear; everything was still in front of them if they won out. Since then, they’ve pulled off two of the best wins of the Harbaugh era.

“That players' meeting helped a lot of us,” Smith said. “But at the end of the day, we had to go beat up on somebody else to realize we could still do what we had to do. And we did that.”

Now, following the release of the latest College Football Playoff rankings that saw the Wolverines rise to the number two, the stakes are simple. Win, and Michigan is into their first ever playoff game. Lose, and they’re out. The Wolverines are on the verge of completely altering their outlook as a football program.

But they believe their best football is still in front of them.

“Sky’s the limit for all of us,” Smith said. “We all have a lot of talent, and we are working harder to home in on what we have to do better every day. The last game was the closest that we’ve played to perfection, but it still wasn’t perfect. There was a lot to clean up.

“So that’s what we’re striving for; perfection.”