Michigan's seniors know what's at stake Saturday. In careers defined by a lack of a Big Ten Championship, they understand a win over Ohio State could greatly alter how their class will be remembered.
"I don't think our legacy is done. We have one more game left," defensive tackle Jibreel Black said.
Black is one of 16 seniors to be honored before the game as they get set to appear in their final contest at Michigan Stadium.
For the 11 members of the class of 2009 and the five for the class of 2010, it has not been a smooth road. The 2009 haul, which includes fifth-year seniors Taylor Lewan, Michael Schofield, Fitz Toussaint and Cameron Gordon, among others, has a 38-24 record (.613 winning percentage), with a 4-1 mark against Notre Dame, but a 1-4 record against Michigan State and a 1-3 record against Ohio State.
The class is also 1-2 in bowl games.
The Class of 2010 is 33-17 (.660 winning percentage), with a 3-1 record against Notre Dame, a 1-3 effort vs. MSU and a 1-2 record against the Buckeyes.
Those numbers do not define these seniors, though, they argue.
"If you throw out the records, and look at the character of the players on this team, we're in a lot better position than where we started at in 2010," Black said. "Teammates picking each other up when they're down. Sticking together towards the end of games even if we're losing, even if it looks like we can't win. Little things like that."
The friendships they've made and the maturation they've made as individuals will stick with them far longer than the results.
"When you first get here, you don't know what's going on," wide receiver Jeremy Gallon said. "You're just strolling along, and now you get a chance to lead and be a role model for someone else, and change into a Michigan Man."
"When I came here, I just wanted to be a part of something bigger than me," Gordon added. "I feel like that has happened; it wasn't what I could do for Michigan but what Michigan could do for me."
Inside the locker room, the players keep perspective, but they also know that perception outside the locker room is of a program struggling to take the next step and regain its standing as a legitimate Big Ten title contender.
They also know that perception says there is a widening gulf between Ohio State and Michigan, growing every day, and that Saturday's contest will either prove that to be so or show, as they believe, that these two programs are closer than the simple numbers indicate.
"This game right here can definitely determine how we're remembered," Gordon said. "You're judged as a senor by how well you play in this game and the outcome of it. If you go out there and play hard and play like Michigan that's how you'll be remembered so we're definitely going to being our 'A' game and allow people to talk about it afterwards."