Of course, head coach John L. Smith is very aware of this fact and was busy preaching it in the post-game locker room following Michigan's 27-20 victory over Michigan State. But he must take some lessons from that game to avoid having them repeat themselves in Columbus on Saturday.
No doubt, Ohio State watched the film with great interest to see how Michigan was able to run the ball so effectively against what was then the 14th ranked team in the nation against the run.
Michigan's huge offensive line dominated MSU's smaller more active front controlling the football for long stretches of the clock. Without defensive tackle Greg Yeaster and strong safety Eric Smith to defend the middle of the field, Michigan relentlessly pounded the ball right up the gut on the Spartans.
Smith made it be known that the Spartans will learn from that game and use those lessons the rest of the season.
"I want (the team) to look in the mirror and, first of all, know that we did not play like we should have, like we could have or like we can. I want them to look in the mirror and ask themselves, 'Did you do everything that you could have done, do it as hard as you could for your teammates, unselfishly, on every play?' If you did, that is great. If you didn't, show up (to practice) tomorrow to get that done.
We all had a hand in (the outcome of the game). You win as a team and you lose as a team, so we will never see a finger pointed at somebody else."
"We still control our own destiny and we can still have a great year. We lost to a good football team, but don't ever hang your head in losing to a good football team. I think that our success so far this season is because we have worked our tails off. The only thing that we know is that we are going to come back (to practice) tomorrow with a renewed enthusiasm and we are going to work as hard as we have been, or even harder, so that we can get better and control our season from here on out."
Spartans running back Jaren Hayes, who was held to just 26 yards rushing on 10 carries, says the focus has to shift now. "At this point we just need to look forward to Ohio State. We're just going to keep doing the same thing we have been doing, work hard all week in practice and stay focused."
MSU linebacker Mike Labinjo also was looking ahead. We're still tied at the top of the Big Ten. We just need to get to work; all we can do now is win our last three games."
Should Michigan State win out in their last three contests, a New Year's Day bowl game awaits them, most likely the Outback Bowl because unless Michigan loses to either to Northwestern or Ohio State, they will claim the Rose Bowl, they have almost no shot at the BCS championship game, the Nokia Sugar Bowl. MSU could have an outside shot at another BCS bowl as well if it wins out, so these are high stakes.
Even with one more loss in their last three a 9-3 MSU squad would be attractive to the folks in Orlando, FL at the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl). But if the Spartans loses two more to finish at 8-4 they must likely would end up in Music City Bowl in Nashville, TN on December 31st and if they lose out they could find themselves in the dreaded Motor City Bowl at Ford Field on December 26th with a 7-5 record.
So snap out of it, it could have been a "magical season" in football had things been different on Saturday, but the prospects for a top notch bowl are still pretty good to go "bowling for the holidays" and the more wins, the better the trip.