Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh made waves by guaranteeing a victory over Ohio State in 1986, just after the Wolverines dropped a stunning home loss to Minnesota to knock them from the ranks of the undefeated. Yesterday, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner provided a bit of his own fuel to the rivalry.
Asked if Michigan had the type of team that could compete for a Big Ten title this year and make noise on the national scene - which means competing head to head with the Buckeyes - he told the Huge Show's Bill Simonson U-M was ready for the challenge.
"We always have room for improvement, but we definitely have a championship caliber team that will win against Ohio State in the Big House," he said. "We don't feel like we're inferior to anyone in the country. Days like today are what make it so believable. Today is our first day off in a while, but I've thrown twice to two groups of receivers, and I come in here and the linemen are working hard [on their own]. I may have to come again a third time. That convinces me we are ready.
"Myself and the seniors, we went on the trip to California and saw how the Navy Seals worked so well together, ready to put their lives on the line for each other. Our lives aren't on the line, but it's close to that on the football field. Even before then [we were ready] but that trip solidified the championship run we are ready to take."
Gardner probably mean to say 'can' instead of 'will' in referencing OSU, but nobody will back down from that statement. Like Bo Schembechler said after Harbaugh's guarantee, you'd rather have a guy confident he was going to win than worried he might lose. It was the team's job, he said, to back Harbaugh up.
The 1986 Wolverines did, rallying from a 14-3 deficit to pull out a 26-24 victory and go to the Rose Bowl. Gardner is confident his team will also have his back in battle, noting the competition and leadership has been tremendous in the summer.
"Chemistry is without a doubt one of the most important things," Gardner said. "Off the field, everyone is hanging out with each other, playing video games, going to movies, whatever it is. We're building a trust factor we can take to the field. Guys are willing to give up everything for each other. That makes a great team."
Gardner said he was thrilled to get his redshirt, calling it "another opportunity to get better and become a better quarterback - to better the recruiting here at the university."
He said he's making better decisions, gotten stronger and faster an become a better leader, learning from Denard Robinson that he had to do it on every snap. Offensive coordinator Al Borges gives him new plays every other day, as well, trusting him to work on them with the team when Borges isn't there.
"He's really detailed," Gardner said. "A play could work well and you think you've done everything right, but there's still some small thing - and it's like you committed adultery. He nips it in the bud right away. That's good for me and my development."
Fifth-year senior tackle Taylor Lewan continues to impress with his leadership.
"He's a great leader," Gardner said. "Today was the first day off from a week straight of working out. He and the whole line were in today working out when I came in to throw. If Taylor wasn't here, they might not have had it today. He provides a lot of leadership, and I know with him there I don't have to worry about my blindside."
The Wolverines continue to work more under center while maintaining some of the spread principles they used with Robinson last year.