That was really ugly, yet again. Not much else to say about it so let’s just dive into the highlights of another Buckeyes beat down:
Ohio State 56 – Michigan 27
Now to why you’re really here. My takeaways from the loss and my thoughts on where the program stands moving forward:
1. Mistakes Return for the Body
What a bummer. It seemed like it wouldn’t happen again. Not for the second year in a row. It seemed like the coaching staff and players would be so locked into this game that there was no way it would resemble anything close to the 2018 debacle.
Boy, were we wrong.
Michigan brought back it’s self-inflicted wounds from early in the season to make sure the Buckeyes had as easy as a go as possible in the Big House.
Blown coverages on 3rd and longs? Check. Fumbled snap in the red zone? Check. Missing extra points? Check. Jumping offsides on a game-changing punt? Check. Not fighting for crucial first downs? Check. Not securing touchdown catches? Check. Dropping damn near every pass to start the second half? Check. Getting lost in coverage? Check.
It was another extremely frustrating showing by the Wolverines against the Buckeyes.
Michigan came out early and looked good. The offense was buzzing, Shea was making plays, and the defense looked to have Justin Fields locked up. But a dominant rushing attack from Ohio State, behind their earth moving offensive line and arguably the best running back in the country, JK Dobbins, opened things up for the Buckeyes.
Once the mistakes began, it was all but over for Michigan.
Side Bar: Say what you will about the field goals that Harbaugh elected for in this game, points had to be had one way or another. I didn’t have much of a problem with those 4th down decisions. The one I did have a problem with, even though it “should’ve” worked, was going for it on 4th down at the start of the 4th quarter down just two scores.
If Hassan Haskins follows the pulling guard it was a for sure first down and possibly even a touchdown. But he didn’t and was stuffed at the line, giving the ball to the Buckeyes to go up three scores and end the game.
Now, that may have happened either way with the way the defense was getting gashed but extending the game when facing a 4th down in the shadow of your end zone seemed like the better move to me. Thanks.
Either way, that’s not what lost Michigan the game. It was the self-inflicted wounds that mainly helped do that.
It was also another bad defensive showing. It happened again to Don Brown’s defense. And it’s tough to watch. His guys can lock down the opposing team when they’re the most talented guys on the field. But they just don’t seem to show up when facing the top teams in the country. It’s starting to become a bit of an issue.
We’ll see if Michigan and Don Brown can at least bounce back a bit and go out on a high note with a proper showing and win in whichever bowl game in Florida they end up in. The program definitely needs it.
2. This is Today’s Michigan
The Michigan football program hasn’t been a true National Championship contender since the late ’90s. There have been some really good teams from time to time but those haven’t been as common to come by as some may think.
Since 2000, Michigan has won 10+ games seven times and 11 games just twice. That’s in 20 years. Two decades. Now with a bowl win this year, it’ll be eight 10+ win seasons in the 20 years. Not too bad but far from great, let alone elite.
For comparison, Ohio State has won 10+ games 16 times since 2000, 10 of which were 12+ win seasons. That’s better than Oklahoma. That’s way better than Clemson. It’s a lot better than even Alabama.
They’re the god damn Juggernaut and Michigan is Deadpool:
Michigan has gone through struggles over the last 20 years. The “dark ages”, as some would say, with Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke in charge. That is where the Wolverines won just 46 games in seven seasons.
Do you know how shitty that is?
That’s an average of just 6.5 games per year. That’s a 52% win percentage. That’s the same win percentage as Michigan State since 2016. Just good enough to make the Quick Lane Bowl every year.
Do know who had more wins in that same time period? Rutgers. Yup, the worst Power Five program in the country won 53 games in that same time span.
That’s what Jim Harbaugh inherited.
Since taking over, Harbaugh has improved the Michigan win percentage drastically compared to his predecessors. He’s made Michigan a top 10 program and relevant again. But it’s clearly not enough.
3. Changes and Patience is Needed
Now, I’m not here to defend Jim Harbaugh. Well, not completely. He took over a shitty program that only recruited decently well on name brand alone. He was a judgment spot call away from beating Ohio State in Columbus to send Michigan to the Big Ten Championship Game and likely the College Football Playoff in 2016. He has the 7th best team in the country since his arrival. It’s far from dreadful but it is also far from what the expectations were.
Though Big Ten Championships and National Championships were in the dreams, the biggest expectation from fans was the return to a fair fight in the biggest game of the year. But he just cannot get over that kick in the face.
That kick in the face being Ohio State during its most amazing run in program history and one of the best runs in college football history. And it doesn’t look to be coming to an end anytime soon.
So, changes are necessary.
Not drastic, fire everyone type of change. But I do believe a new focus needs to be put into place. It’s no secret that Ohio State cares about one thing and one thing only, even though they have a song that says the opposite. But that’s to beat “That Team Up North”.
It’s all they care about. They have an entire state of swing voters that care about one team. The coaches admit to poaching the Michigan recruiting classes. OSU players talk about how they’re already focused on next year’s game against the Wolverines following this year’s beating. It’s a sickness. But not like a terminal disease that’ll eventually consume and kill but more like a zombie virus that makes them impermeable to pain, thirsty for blood, and unable to fucking die.
But that’s not the only reason Ohio State has won 17 of the 20 games since 2000. A lot of that has to do with the talent discrepancies, and the people that act like there isn’t a gap are either trolling, uneducated, or just dumb.
Michigan has done a very nice job on the recruiting trail over time but when you compare their success to Ohio State’s, it’s like comparing the program’s records over the last 20 years.
Hell, since Harbaugh’s arrival, here are the finishes in the recruiting rankings for each program (per 247Sports Composite Rankings):
- 2019: 14th
- 2018: 2nd
- 2017: 2nd
- 2016: 4th
- 2015: 7th
- 2019: 8th
- 2018: 22nd
- 2017: 5th
- 2016: 8th
- 2015: 37th* (partial class)
You don’t need to be a mathematician or recruiting guru to see that there’s likely a large gap in talent and depth on each roster. Especially when you add in the average rankings of the previous 10 years combined.
- 2014: Ohio State #3 – Michigan #20
- 2013: Ohio State #2 – Michigan #4
- 2012: Ohio State #5 – Michigan #6
- 2011: Ohio State #6 – Michigan #30
- 2010: Ohio State #18 – Michigan #17
In 10 full recruiting classes, Michigan has “out recruited” Ohio State just twice with it happening on the bookend years of that decade of classes. And those wins were mainly thanks to signing much larger classes.
From 2010-2019, OSU is averaging the 4th best class in the country while Michigan is averaging the 16th best class.
It’s not that hard to figure out. If Michigan wants to pull off a win here or there, keep floating down this lazy river and it’ll eventually come. But if the program truly wants to catch Ohio State and rejoin the “elite”, it’ll need to really improve its recruiting efforts from top to bottom.
Add in a new focus and desire to beat Ohio State (recruiting Ohio would help) and this thing could be going in the right direction.
But these changes can’t be made overnight. The foundation is there and should continue to build up. Hopefully, the wait isn’t too much longer.
It’s a good thing patience is a virtue.
4. Cheers to a New Decade
The 2020 season has the chance to be memorable for the Michigan football program. The 2000s and the teens or 2010s or whatever the hell they’re called were just not very good for the “Winningest Program Ever”, let alone a blue blood program.
Say what you will about his lack of Ohio State wins or Big Ten Championships but Jim Harbaugh has this thing going in the right direction. Of those seven 10+ win seasons since 2000, he has three of them and could add another this bowl season.
No, he hasn’t met the lofty expectations we all put on him. But honestly, I don’t think there are many coaches that could have with the condition the program was in when he took over.
This was another loss to forget but I do still fully believe Jim Harbaugh is the right guy for the job and Michigan could be in store for a very successful upcoming decade.
Here’s to hoping that annoying optimism pays off.
Photo Credit: Patrick Barron/MGoBlog
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