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This Saturday Will Be The Defining Moment Of The Jim Harbaugh Era

Last year was great; now, do it again. People can talk about the schedule until the end of time, but the fact is that Michigan has suited up 11 times the season, and they’ve taken care of business every single time. Now comes the rumble. This is what college football fans dream of. Michigan is 11-0. Ohio State is 11-0. The winner, assuming they take care of business in Indianapolis next week, will go to the college football playoff. 

Last year, Jim Harbaugh’s team finally knocked off Ohio State. They did it with a tremendous offensive line, a legendary performance by Hassan Haskins, and an excellent defensive game plan. Last year got the monkey off Jim Harbaugh’s back, and now this year is the opportunity for him to officially change the narrative. If Michigan wins on Saturday and beats the Buckeyes for the first time at the Horseshoe Since 2000, it will officially be fair to declare Michigan as the dominant force in the Big Ten.

There’s been a lot of years over the last two decades in which Michigan has gone into Columbus, where I thought they legitimately had no shot of winning. The worst of the RichRod and Hoke years were a prime example of that. Michigan CAN beat Ohio State on Saturday. They have the players to do it. They have the personnel to do it. I don’t believe that this is going to be a death march. But they must be schematically better than Ohio State. They can’t make dumb mistakes, and they have to execute their game plan. Jim Harbaugh’s best and worst quality is that he is remarkably stubborn. 

Last year, Ohio State got completely bullied at the line of scrimmage. Michigan’s front four dominated that football game. They will attempt to do that again in 2022. If it works, no one’s going to complain, and we’ll be talking about potentially back-to-back Big Ten titles for a program that two years ago appeared to be going off the rails. And now, if the Michigan team that showed up on Saturday against Illinois shows up against Ohio State this weekend, then it’s probably going to be a bloodbath. Michigan needs to come correct, and a lot of it is going to fall on the shoulders of J.J. McCarthy. 

As unique and as fun as last year‘s win over Ohio State was, I have a hard time believing that they are simply going to run it up Ohio State’s ass. If you want to beat a top-five team on the road in the last game of the season in a hostile environment, your quarterback will need to make some plays. JJ McCarthy is a five-star QB, and he’s played admirable football this year. I know every Michigan fan, myself included, wants to believe that Michigan’s on the verge of finding their Joe Burrow or Tim Tebow or Cam Newton, but the sad truth is that the offense is simply not designed for Michigan to have a 4000 yard, 35 touchdown passer, but JJ is more than capable. Last week, he missed multiple throws, some of them probably would’ve been touchdowns, and the receivers didn’t do him any favors either. 

Those mistakes cannot be made this Saturday. Regardless of whether or not he’s 100% healthy, Michigan will try to ride Blake Corum all day, and even if he plays the game of his life, JJ McCarthy will have to make some throws downfield if Michigan wants to be the Buckeyes on Saturday. 

This is always an emotional week, and last year helped build up the drama. Michigan did what many people were starting to wonder if they would ever do a season ago. Now they have an opportunity, not just a play spoiler but to establish themselves as one of the great programs in college football. You can say a lot of things about Jim Harbaugh, but the one thing you can’t deny is that he is consistently put Michigan in a position to play for the college football playoff. That’s where they find themselves once again. 

Just beat Ohio State.