The Wolverine

January 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2019 T he task for Jim Harbaugh isn't any different than Bo Schembechler's, when he rolled into Ann Arbor 50 years ago. Beat Ohio State. The key to Michigan's football future, and Harbaugh's ultimate success upon returning to Ann Arbor, rests solely in those three little words. Sure, there are other challenges these days, including Penn State, a revived Michigan State, etc. But Harbaugh has proven he can dom- inate the Nittany Lions, and he'd be 4-0 against the Spartans but for a couple of mammoth bad breaks. It comes down to scuttling the scarlet, and that's no impossible task. It seemed like it, during the 62-39 mind-bender of a regular- season finale. The teams appeared farther apart than ever for 60 min- utes. Fifth-year senior defensive end and Michigan MVP Chase Win- ovich insists it isn't so, and there's reason to believe him. "I would say to any recruit or any potential guy who sees what happened in the Ohio State game — who is persuaded against coming to Michigan because of that — that alone is a mirage," Winovich said. "What we've built, and what we're continuing to build, is a power- house. "The Michigan I'm leaving is a Michigan that's headed in a trajec- tory where the sky is the limit … "We didn't have our best game. It wasn't us. It happened. We're going to look it in the face. It's not us be- ing way worse than Ohio State. We had a bad day." The two years preceding this one back that notion. Michigan led by 10 in Columbus in 2016 before getting edged out in overtime. Last year, an under-equipped U-M crew led 14-0 but couldn't hang on. Michigan will push back, in the post-Urban Meyer era. Meyer, of course, went the way of OSU's most successful coaches ever. Win big, flame out in disgrace. Woody Hayes punched a Clem- son player in the throat, signaling his exit. Jim Tressel got away with a career of NCAA cheating and lying before it caught up with him. Meyer coddled criminals through- out his Florida days and sat out the first three games of 2018 with Ohio State for keeping an alleged wife- beater on staff and lying about it. Now Meyer has "retired." Don't think the Buckeyes are go- ing to fall apart. Ryan Day, the of- fensive coordinator who concocted the scheme that tore apart Michi- gan's much-lauded defense, is the new mob boss in Columbus. Harbaugh's job? Become the Eliot Ness of Ann Arbor. Take down the kingpins. He'd made a lot of prog- ress, prior to the "mirage." He and the Wolverines need to flood the desert and leave no doubt. Because beating Ohio State is the key to it all — Big Ten champion- ships, the College Football Playoff, a shot at a national title. It starts and ends with crushing the Buckeyes — and that's a tough nut to crack. ••••• The gridiron Wolverines could certainly take heart from their basketball brethren, who appear ready to steam roll anyone in their way. A 10-0 start, including lopsided wins over defending national champion Villanova and North Carolina, not to mention Big Ten victories over Purdue and at Northwestern? Let's just say folks have noticed, including South Carolina coach Frank Martin. He proved particu- larly frank after Beilein's team made the Gamecocks Victim No. 10, 89-78. "They play like a championship team," Martin insisted. "There's no doubt that they played for a national championship this year, and they're going to compete at that level again, because they don't take plays off." The Wolverines experienced no post-Moe woe, despite the leader of last year's run to the champion- ship, Moe Wagner, now wearing a Los Angeles Lakers uniform. The immediate sensation of freshman forward Iggy Brazdeikis, veteran leadership by junior point guard Zavier Simpson and redshirt junior guard Charles Matthews, and a lock-down defense, has U-M among the nation's elite. "I don't think Coach Beilein gets the credit he deserves for the way his players develop," Martin stressed. "They all speak about his offense, because it is a machine, the way they play offense. But the growth of players … "I grabbed Simpson yesterday. I said, 'Listen, man, I was watching our film from two years ago. You and [junior center Jon] Teske were like two little kids. Now I'm watch- ing you guys play, and it's unbeliev- able how much better you guys are and how different you look.' "John does an unbelievable job getting his players better during their career." And his teams. This one's on the rise, faster than expected. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Harbaugh's Job Is The Same As Bo's Since taking over a 5-7 team, Jim Harbaugh has coached the Wolverines to three 10-win seasons in his four years at the helm. However, nobody will be satisfied until he beats the Buckeyes. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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