When you hear Michigan football players and head coach Jim Harbaugh talk about beating Ohio State, you can just sense how much “The Game” means.
The Michigan-Ohio State is always important. It means everything to both programs. But you can sense that it means something a little extra to Michigan football.
Ohio State has dominated the series lately and really, it has ever since Jim Tressel was hired two decades ago.
That ended Lloyd Carr’s impressive run and he ended up below .500 against Ohio State after starting his career 5-1.
Since Tressel came around, Michigan has beaten Ohio State just two times: In 2003 and 2011. So it’s not like the losing started with Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan was on the doorstep of a win in 2016 and if the officials made the right call, the Wolverines would have ended the streak, won the Big Ten, and made the playoff.
The Wolverines also had a great shot to win in 2017 and Harbaugh actually put together a great game plan as his eight-win team nearly upset Ohio State. Yet, John O’Korn was playing quarterback and that’s all we really need to say about that.
In 2018 and 2019, Ohio State’s offense was too good. Michigan was slow to change but now, with a new coaching staff and the right kind of culture, it feels like U-M at least has a puncher’s chance.
And while there were questions about how seriously Harbaugh and Michigan took the rivalry, at least as it compared to Ohio State, those questions aren’t lingering anymore.
Harbaugh implemented the Ohio State drill which is just 9-on-7 but the name was changed to emphasize the importance of being physical. There was the “no red” rule and also, this Michigan team works on Ohio State every day, just like the Buckeyes do for U-M.
And if you hear what Aidan Hutchinson said on Inside Michigan Football with Jon Jansen, you can just sense how bad the Wolverines want it.
We will see a special effort from Hutchinson on Saturday. I don’t know that any Wolverine or Buckeye will be more motivated than he will be in Michigan Stadium.
His father was on teams that didn’t lose to Ohio State and Hutchinson, who could have gone to the NFL and been an early pick after last season, stuck around for games like this — to beat Ohio State and win a Big Ten championship.
In part, because of his Heisman-caliber season, the Wolverines are in position. And they believe, so does Jim Harbaugh.
All year we have said this Michigan team is different. The Wolverines themselves have said the same thing and Saturday, in the biggest game of their lives, they can prove it.