ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Brady Hoke is not changing his message, not now.
The No. 22-ranked Wolverines are coming off a 24-16 loss at Iowa that hurt their chances of winning the Big Ten Leaders Division. No one in the program has lost hope, not with three games left to play and certainly not in the unpredictable Big Ten.
“I don’t think anyone in here can tell you what’s going to happen a minute from now, let alone four weeks from now,” Hoke said Monday. “There’s still a lot of football still to be played. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The first Saturday of November proved to be interesting. Three teams – including Michigan (7-2, 3-2 Big Ten) – entered the day tied for the division lead. But the Wolverines lost to Iowa, No. 10 Nebraska was stunned at home by Northwestern and Michigan State had to hold off Minnesota.
With three more regular-season games remaining, starting with the Wolverines’ final road game – at Illinois (6-3, 2-3) – Hoke said he will stress the importance of only dwelling on what his team can control.
That begins with moving on from a disappointing loss, which included a ruling that what appeared to be a touchdown catch by Junior Hemingway against the Hawkeyes was incomplete. Hoke said Monday he believes Hemingway made the catch, but nothing will change the result and it’s time to look forward.
“You can’t fight it, you can’t change it,” senior center David Molk said. “So there’s no reason to think about it.”
Plus, Michigan’s schedule includes home games against Nebraska and rival Ohio State after Saturday’s road game.
Michigan has struggled away from home over the past three years, compiling a 5-12 record since 2008. The Wolverines are 1-2 on the road this season heading into the Illini game.
Hoke said it’s important for his team to understand the test that awaits.
“It’s Michigan and if you’re Michigan, you’re going to get people’s best,” Hoke said. “And that’s a good thing.”
Although some of the momentum the Wolverines started the month may have been lost, the Wolverines say they have plenty to play for.
“There’s not a single team that has a safe schedule for the remainder of the season,” senior defensive lineman Ryan Van Bergen said. “Anyone can be beaten and it all depends on who shows up on Saturday. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and focusing on us.”
Van Bergen expects the Illini to enter Saturday’s game fresh after a bye week, but also remembering what happened in the last meeting between the two schools. Last year, Michigan outlasted Illinois, 67-65 in triple overtime.
“I guarantee you we’re going to get their best shot,” Van Bergen said. “Everything they can bring to the table, we’re going to see. It’s going to be a dogfight and Illinois isn’t going to lay down for us.”