At No. 2, the undefeated Wolverines have their highest ranking since 1997.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan worked hard in the off-season to improve its standing in college football.
The Wolverines pushed themselves to run and lift more, eat less and to get together on the field to improve after enduring their worst season in two decades.
With a stifling defense and a balanced offense, college football's most-winning team is back by any measure.
Michigan (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) is ranked No. 2 in The Associated Press poll -- its highest ranking since winning the national championship in 1997.
Coach Lloyd Carr doesn't care, and neither do his players.
"As a football team we're happy, obviously, with the fact that we are where we are as far as a record," Carr said Monday. "But it really does not have any significance now. There should be something in there that's a motivating factor because we don't live in a vacuum."
Carr denied it later, but he seemed to be referencing -- Ohio State -- the only team ranked ahead of Michigan.
Michigan at Ohio State
The Buckeyes will host the Wolverines on Nov. 18 in what could end up being one of the biggest match-ups in the history of one of sport's greatest rivalries.
"We know where we are," Carr said. "If we're a smart football team, which we have been this year, then we understand that you better be focused on who's coming to town this week and what we need to do to get better."
The Wolverines play Iowa (5-2, 2-2) on Saturday at home and if they win, they can likely coast over the following three weeks against Northwestern and Ball State at home and at Indiana before playing Ohio State.
That should give wide receiver Mario Manningham, who had minor knee surgery last week, time to come back. Manningham, a Warren Harding graduate, is not expected to play this week, but Carr is encouraged by his progress.
"He was rehabbing it last Friday," Carr said. "He's got a great attitude, which is exactly what you need. The swelling was really insignificant, which is the best news you can have."
Michigan leads the nation in rushing defense, giving up just 32.6 yards a game, and that has helped to limit opponents to a 27.5-percent conversion rate on third down -- a rate that is among the nation's best.
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