Growing up, Josh Metellus’ mother would tell him not to set his expectations higher than reality.
“You’re always going to (get) let down when you do that,” the junior safety explained Monday afternoon, “because you’re never going to reach those goals you really, really want.”
The expectations — those goals Michigan really, really wanted — are off the table now. There’s no Big Ten title for the Wolverines, nor an upcoming College Football Playoff appearance. Instead, reality came crashing down 10 days ago in Columbus, and now, players are left picking up the pieces.
Perhaps anti-climactically, the season will end in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, Ga., on Dec. 29 against No.10 Florida — an opponent the Wolverines will have faced three of the last four years.
“We had a lot of big goals — National Championship goals — at the beginning of the year. Obviously those now are unattainable,” said junior guard Ben Bredeson. “But we’re definitely very motivated to try to win that last game.”
Bredeson insisted the mood around the team has stayed positive. Some guys, he says, will sear the pain of the 62-39 loss to Ohio State in their memories, pooling it for motivation in the years to come. Bredeson, on the other hand, watched the game once, picked out what he did well and what he did poorly, then moved along. He found no use in dwelling.
“Nobody came here with this gloomy, drowned face,” said redshirt junior tackle Jon Runyan “… We know what happened, we’ve got to move forward from that, pick each other up, and go forward and get this win that everybody wants. That’s the cure for it, another win.”
For the most part, attention has shifted past the demoralizing loss and toward the future. Junior defensive end Rashan Gary has already declared for the NFL Draft and decided he will not play in the bowl game. Ben Bredeson all but said Monday he’d be returning to school next year, though “it’s not official,” he clarified. And wide receivers coach Jim McElwain was announced Monday as the next head coach at Central Michigan.
More decisions — most notably from junior linebacker Devin Bush, junior cornerbacks Lavert Hill and David Long, and junior quarterback Shea Patterson — are likely forthcoming.
Despite the moving parts, players insist that winning the Peach Bowl is important for this team and for the trajectory of the program. Michigan has won one bowl game in the last seven years.
“It matters. We’re really sick of losing the last game of the year,” Bredeson said. “This team, we’ve had adversity worse than any team I’ve been on since I’ve been here. So if there’s one group that will bounce back and get a big win at the end of the year, I think it’ll be this one.”
Prior to Harbaugh’s arrival in 2015, Michigan hadn’t finished with double-digit wins in back-to-back seasons since 2002-2003. With 10 wins, the Wolverines have done so in three of the last four seasons. Against Florida, Michigan will go for 11 wins for the first time since 2011.
“We’ve lost to two rivals and everyone tries to make it out like we had a bad year, but we finished 10-2,” Bredeson said. “It’s not the year everybody wanted, but it’s a great year nonetheless, and I think we really just need to cap this off with a great bowl win, and everybody will remember it as a great year.”
Others might beg to differ.
But, really, in the end it’s all relative to expectations. Just ask Josh Metellus’ mother.