ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rich Rodriguez loves to win -- and he hates to lose as much as anyone.
Michigan's coach, though, tries to keep as much perspective as he can.
Rodriguez has his wife and kids around him after practices, at the team hotel and on bus trips to the stadium. His office door is always wide open, allowing visitors to say hello.
Heading into his first Michigan-Ohio State game -- where the Wolverines are expected to extend their dubious record with a ninth loss -- he tried to deliver a message to fans who have lost touch.
"It's amazing some of the things that people would say [on a message board] or yell at you of a personal nature," Rodriguez said Monday. "You almost want to tell them, 'Get a life.'
"There's a whole lot bigger problems. Look at the economy."
College football's winningest team has tumbled like the stock market, losing a school-record eight games and getting beat a Michigan Stadium-record five times at home.
For the first time since 1974, the Wolverines will be relegated to watching bowl games.
The 10th-ranked Buckeyes are favored to beat their rivals on Saturday at home by 19 points, matching the largest spread in series history, and win at least a share of the Big Ten title for the fourth year in a row.
Ohio State has won four straight over the Wolverines, who seem to be days away from losing five straight in the series for the first time.
Rodriguez and some of his players were hesitant to acknowledge it, but ending a miserable season with an upset at Ohio State would salvage the year -- to some extent.
"The frustrations we've had or any disappointments we've had, a win would at least help a little bit," Rodriguez said. "But it's not going to erase everything, and it shouldn't erase everything.
"It's going to take a lot more time to get all of that salvaged."
In the meantime, the Wolverines are wholeheartedly embracing the spoilers' role against the Buckeyes.
"[If] we go down there and beat them, they have no chance to go to the Rose Bowl," senior safety Brandon Harrison said. "That's what we're playing for."
Michigan's challenge has been made more daunting by Rodriguez's injury update.
Rodriguez said he doubts quarterback Steven Threet will play because of a separated shoulder, leaving Nick Sheridan to start in the biggest game of his life just two years after making the team as a walk-on.
Freshman running back Sam McGuffie also might be out because of a death in his family, Rodriguez said.
Running back Brandon Minor insisted he will play in Michigan's finale after missing the previous game with rib and shoulder injuries.
"I've told the team, 'Not a lot of people are going to expect you to do well and win the game, but we expect [you] to do well,' " Rodriguez said. "It's a challenge, but we are capable of playing pretty good football. We just have not done it consistently.
"I know that sounds like coach-speak. But if we can play consistently like we have at times this year and get a few breaks in there, anything can happen."