Following an incident in Michigan Stadium's tunnel on Saturday, the Wolverines understand that they must remain focused on their over-arching season goals. Kate Hua/Daily. Buy this photo.

The No. 4 Michigan football team’s rivalry win over Michigan State should have been a cause for celebration. Instead, the scary altercation that transpired in the tunnel post-game clouded the jubilation of reclaiming the Paul Bunyan trophy for the first time since 2019. 

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh condemned the incident on Monday, but didn’t lose sight of the circumstances his team faces moving forward. 

“It’s been a challenge,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been traumatic. But we’re in it right now. We’ll face the challenge head on and support our players in every way possible.”

For the Wolverines, they don’t have much time to dwell on the fight — even amid an ongoing police investigation. The reality is, they are in the thick of the College Football Playoff race and want to continue their undefeated march into Columbus. And the next step on that journey comes this Saturday against Rutgers. 

Michigan may be dealing with an unprecedented situation but it must find a way to remain focused on its season-long goals — ones that haven’t eluded them despite the fight. 

Junior running back Blake Corum, for one, isn’t losing sight of what’s still at stake. 

“Now it’s just like ‘Let’s keep winning,’ ” Corum said. “We’re on to Rutgers. That’s what our mindset is. That’s why we’re here on this Monday. That’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna watch Rutgers and just gameplan.”

Although the violence is likely still on the Wolverines’ minds, there is some good news for Michigan: the Scarlet Knights aren’t the most formidable opponent. Rutgers is just 4-4, has only one win in conference play and hasn’t looked competitive against top-tier Big Ten competition. 

Barring something miraculous, the Scarlet Knights won’t end the Wolverines’ undefeated season. But with the first College Football Playoff rankings coming out tomorrow, the time is now to leave an impression and go for style points. 

Michigan wants to make sure it looks dominant on the field, while not letting the fight impact its play. 

“We’re really just focused on the next week,” sophomore safety Rod Moore said. “That happened last week. Of course, everyone’s gonna be up and on our toes about it, but we really just want to move on from it and get ready for our next four weeks.”

The Wolverines are motivated to move forward quickly because bigger matchups lie beyond. The Game with Ohio State speaks for itself and the week before they will battle Illinois — who has just one loss and leads the Big Ten West. 

Last year, the matchup against the Spartans was the low point of Michigan’s season. The Wolverines blew a lead in a game they believed they should’ve won. But they responded and proved the loss wouldn’t define them, defeating Penn State and Ohio State on the way to a Big Ten title. 

This year, adversity has formed in a different way. Michigan thrived on the field, but was rattled by what occurred off it. Whether fair or not, the players have no control over the fallout of the fight. 

But the Wolverines can control how they execute on the field. And in a season that has more chapters to be written, they want to make sure the narrative remains focused on what the team can still do. 

“It’s business as usual,” Corum said. “We’re 8-0, we’re on a rampage. We’re gonna put that behind us.”