Out of focus
With no room for error, it was imperative that Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines closed out the season on the highest of notes following their late season surge after losing a close one on the road to Penn State.
While many spent hours and even days slandering the Spartans and overlooking Indiana following a 44 – 10 exploitation of the Spartans, I was being a realist, alerting the masses to understand, while the win over Sparty was huge, we must not get the big head as the Wolverines could very well be victims of the same beat down... and two weeks later, here we are, sulking and calling for Jim Harbaugh’s job.
The real problem with Harbaugh stems beyond wins and losses, but recruiting and developing players who are capable of consistently compiling wins against the Ohio State Buckeyes and the nation’s best programs (let alone, the heavyweights of the Big Ten).
Sure, the bragging rights over MSU are cool and temporarily fulfilling, but being on the outside looking in at the big picture, Michigan hasn’t sniffed an opportunity to win the Big Ten or compete in the playoffs, now 0 – 5 against OSU and has failed to establish an identity as a brand under Harbaugh’s coaching outside of his past two seasons of having dominant defenses.
It’s bad enough the Wolverines have added yet another 20+ point loss to OSU (three under Harbaugh) after losing 56 – 27, but to add insult to injury, following the game, Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields calmly said “We take it [the rivalry] more serious than they do,” which judging by the results over the past ten years, seems very legitimate. Then came the dagger statement: “We prepare for it all year. We’re preparing for them next year right now. I think it just means more at Ohio State.”
Think about it. Could it really be that Michigan’s biggest goal is to be the number one team in the state, so much that the rivalry against Ohio State is a thing of the past? Or are we witnessing Harbaugh, who by now has proven to the fans he can’t win the big game, attempt to mimic OSU and their style of play with lesser athletes? No matter how you spin it, the focus is off, further pushing fans and critics to believe Harbaugh is not successor we all had anticipated.
Now I’m not suggesting Michigan and its’ coaching staff overlook eleven opponents each season, but if the focus isn’t mentally and physically set to beating or at the very least, competing against Ohio State from the start of camp, then what are they really selling these kids who come to the university?
For Ohio State, putting your foot on your rival’s neck is something embedded within their culture. For Michigan…it’s a tall task they’d love to scratch off their bucket list, while it seems there are other accomplishments prioritized ahead of beating the face and owner of the Big Ten Buckeyes.