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Sport A Michigan football win over Ohio State would elevate Jim Harbaugh's program. Here's how

00:50  30 november  2019
00:50  30 november  2019 Source:   freep.com

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What would a win over Ohio State mean for Michigan football ? Short of a spot in the Big Ten title game, it would mean everything. A win would give Michigan a full head of steam entering the offseason. It would show that the changes Harbaugh and his staff made last offseason in response to

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To some, it might seem unfair to judge an entire college football team's season on whether a team wins its final game of the year.

But this isn't a normal game. 

Just listen to the Michigan football players, who were bombarded with questions this week about whether it was fair to regard a season as successful if the Wolverines beat Ohio State — and unsuccessful if not. 

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"Absolutely," senior left guard Ben Bredeson said. "I think a huge part of both of our programs is this matchup. I think any time that you beat Ohio State or they beat us, it's considered a good season at the respective schools. Obviously there's other games on the schedule, but we all know which one's the most important."

Michigan vs. Ohio State: Scouting report, prediction

Michigan has accomplished plenty since Jim Harbaugh took over. It has been re-established as a consistently good program, averaging 9.5 wins in the past four seasons. The Wolverines are 3-1 in their past four meetings against Michigan State. They are long removed from the seven-year period (2008-14) that saw them go 46-42. 

Jim Harbaugh wearing a yellow hat: Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) © Darron Cummings, AP Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watches a replay during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) The biggest thing not on U-M's résumé since Harbaugh returned to Ann Arbor: A win over Ohio State. 

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Jim Harbaugh ' s kryptonite ( Ohio State ) is everything. It’ s Ohio State week, and there is no one who better understands what that means around here than Harbaugh , who was all He declared this game “the state championship between two states .” Last week he spoke of how teams improved by noting

Jim Harbaugh was 0-3 against Ohio State . The Buckeyes had won six in a row and 15 of the previous 17. But this was supposed to be Michigan ’ s year. But they won ’t be able to achieve their goals as a program until they find a way to get over that hump. And after today, it’ s harder to see that happening

The Wolverines have lost seven straight, and 14 of the previous 15, to their biggest rival. There have been devastatingly close losses. And there have been blowouts, like the 42-13 thumping in 2015 in Harbaugh's debut season ... or last season's in Columbus, which dashed Michigan's Big Ten title and playoff hopes. 

Ohio State has been the biggest barrier between the Wolverines and the upper echelon of college football. Had they won in 2016 or 2018, they likely would have made the playoff. And it likely would have completely changed the conversation around Harbaugh.

a group of people playing football on a field: Oct 12, 2019; Champaign, IL, USA; The Michigan Wolverines enter the field prior to the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. © Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports Oct 12, 2019; Champaign, IL, USA; The Michigan Wolverines enter the field prior to the first half against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Memorial Stadium. But they didn't, and so here we are. 

“For us, we take each game one week at a time," quarterback Shea Patterson said. "But in the back of our minds, each week leading up to this one is for this week. We prepare all year for this game, whether that be in spring and scout periods in the summer, bye week, whatever it may be. We slowly and silently prepared for them all year.”

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Our predictions: Michigan will tantalize vs. Ohio State, but will it win?

Thanks to a pair of losses to Wisconsin and Penn State, U-M can't win the Big Ten title even if it beats Ohio State on Saturday. 

But there's still a lot to be accomplished with a win. 

The Wolverines can get rid of the sour taste from last year's loss, which ruined a promising season in as dispiriting of a manner as possible. Earlier this week, Patterson stood in front of reporters and said he still remembers being on the sideline as the final minutes ticked away, taking solace in the knowledge that he and Michigan would get another shot in 2019. 

a crowd of people standing next to a fence: The Michigan Wolverines take the field for the season opener against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at Michigan Stadium. © Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press The Michigan Wolverines take the field for the season opener against the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders on Saturday, August 31, 2019 at Michigan Stadium.

His teammates all remember what happened in Columbus last season. If anything, that has only added to the rivalry. In the offseason, assistant coaches Greg Mattison and Al Washington joined Ohio State's staff; Mattison's departure particularly jolted Michigan's players.

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As senior linebacker and captain Khaleke Hudson said Monday, what happened in Columbus in 2018 has fueled the Wolverines for an entire year.

"Last year, it didn't end well, like we wanted it to," receiver Nico Collins said. "And ever since that loss, we don't want to have that feeling again. So throughout the offseason, our main focus was to not have that feeling again. We take it very personal throughout this whole building. And it's that week."

A win would give Michigan a full head of steam entering the offseason. It would show that the changes Harbaugh and his staff made last offseason in response to losing at Ohio State paid off. It would give the Wolverines a foundation to build off entering 2020. 

Oral history: Why Michigan's greatest upset over Buckeyes shows history can repeat

It could also shift the tide in recruiting. Excluding the transition class in 2015, Harbaugh has signed classes that ranked No. 8, No. 5, No. 22 and No. 8 in the nation, according to 247Sports. Ohio State's classes during that span have ranked No. 4, No. 2, No. 2 and No. 14. The Buckeyes currently have the No. 4 class in the 2020 cycle. Under former coach Urban Meyer, they consistently signed the top class in the Big Ten, and won the majority of their recruiting battles against the Wolverines.

What does Michigan football's blowout loss to Ohio State mean for Jim Harbaugh?

  What does Michigan football's blowout loss to Ohio State mean for Jim Harbaugh? No. 2 Ohio State defeated No. 11 Michigan football, 56-27, Saturday and claimed its eight consecutive victory in the annual rivalry game.Jim Harbaugh has revitalized Michigan's football program. The Wolverines again are a fixture in the polls. They are a good bet to win 10 games each season, too. But Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor remains stigmatized by his performance against Michigan’s greatest rival.

Because of the stumbles to the finish line, Harbaugh and his staff have never entered the signing period with momentum. We haven't seen what their recruiting would look like in the aftermath of a win over Ohio State.

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"It would mean a lot for Michigan going forward, with all aspects," Hudson said. "With recruiting just going forward to next season, and having confidence that we can keep this thing going.”

Saturday's game doesn't have a Big Ten title or playoff appearance on the line. But a win would still do a lot for the Wolverines. And all involved seem to understand what's at stake.

“It’d be the state championship between two states," Harbaugh said Monday. "It’d be big. As it always is.”

Contact Orion Sang at osang@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @orion_sang. Read more on the Michigan Wolverines and sign up for our Wolverines newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: A Michigan football win over Ohio State would elevate Jim Harbaugh's program. Here's how

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