Aren’t coaches always telling their players not to look past their next opponent – even when the biggest game of the year looms in the distance?

Seemingly unconcerned with such conventional wisdom, Michigan coach Lloyd Carr decided to bend that rule a little bit. The Wolverines have a week off before they face Indiana on Nov. 12, and Carr said on Monday that he would use part of that week to prepare for Ohio State.

“We still have a normal week of preparation for our next opponent,” Carr said. “I think, obviously, there is time in there that you are trying to prepare for both (Indiana and Ohio State).”

Carr insisted there is nothing out of the ordinary about readying for more than one team at a time. As he pointed out, any time a coach sits down to watch film there are two teams on the tape, and coaches tend to take note of how both teams play. Still, there is little doubt that this week’s preparation for the 12th-ranked Buckeyes was a bit more intentional than that.

According to Carr, he and the rest of Michigan’s coaching staff spent Tuesday and Wednesday studying film on Indiana and Ohio State and then working on both opponents with the players at practice each day. From there, the bye week schedule varies. The coaches spent yesterday recruiting, which they will continue to do today. The players came in to lift yesterday, and then they are off until practice on Sunday night.

So what are the players’ big plans for this rare weekend off? Not too much, if you believe freshman safety Brandon Harrison. Carr told the players not to go home, so Harrison said his plans include watching film on Indiana with some of his teammates.

Right tackle Jake Long said he might head to Hillsdale on Saturday to watch a friend play for Wayne State. But most of the redshirt sophomore’s plans involve hanging around Ann Arbor and getting additional treatment on the leg injury that kept him out of the Wolverines’ first seven contests. With the extra rest, Long said he expects to be back to 100 percent for the Indiana game.

Both Harrison and Long stressed how much their team needs a week off to get healthy for the final stretch of the season.

“We’re all a little beat up,” Long said. “This week is absolutely going to help us.”

Carr couldn’t agree more. In fact, the large number of banged-up players on Michigan’s roster is the only reason Carr is glad to see this bye week come.

“Under normal circumstances, I think we would prefer to continue to play because we do have some momentum and we’re doing some things very well,” Carr said. “But given our injury position, I would not trade that bye week.”

Even so, Carr made it clear that he doesn’t believe the week off will stop his team’s momentum. If anything, he expects the Wolverines’ three-game winning streak to keep them motivated even with the time off.

“You hope that you have a football team that understands that there is a lot to play for,” Carr said. “I think that’s the most important thing. – If there is something that bottles that, I would like to know what it is.”

Carr might not have the magic potion to guarantee his team remains focused through its bye week, but the chance for at least a share of its third straight Big Ten championship should do the trick.

And if all else fails, early preparation for Ohio State can’t hurt.

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