Michigan is still holding out hope it can smell the roses.
"There's still a chance we could go to the Rose Bowl," linebacker Stevie Brown said Monday. "If we can win out, I still think we can."
The Wolverines (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) would have to upset No. 13 Penn State (6-1, 2-1) Saturday at the Big House to maintain their slim hopes for a trip to Pasadena, Calif. They would have to get some help because they're tied for seventh in the conference.
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez doesn't mind his players talking about lofty goals as long as they focus on getting better each day.
"I don't think our guys are sitting around looking five weeks ahead, hopefully not even four days ahead," Rodriguez said. "If I sensed their concentration was not in the moment, was further ahead, I'd rein them in.
"I don't think they wake up thinking about the Rose Bowl or anything further than today, at least I hope not."
The Nittany Lions should give Michigan enough to focus on this week and Rodriguez expects his team to be ready.
"Our guys will be juiced up to play because they understand the importance of it, they understand the intensity we have to play with," Rodriguez said. "Not that we didn't have it last weekend, but they know it's got to be a little different level now."
Michigan had what was essentially a working bye on Saturday at home. The Wolverines beat Delaware State 63-6 while resting their starters, including quarterback Tate Forcier, for most of the game and holding out banged-up running backs Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown.
The win, though, moved the Wolverines within a victory of qualifying for a bowl.
College football's winningest program wasn't close to being eligible for the postseason last year. Michigan lost a school-record nine games and failed to become bowl-eligible for the first time in three-plus decades.
Brown finished his freshman season at the 2007 Rose Bowl and insisted he didn't take it for granted.
"But we haven't been back since," Brown said. "I really want to get back."
Michigan expects center David Molk to play against Penn State. Molk, who is perhaps the team's best offensive lineman, has missed four games with a broken foot.
"It would be a big boost," guard Steve Schilling said.