The Wolverine

August 2019

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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8 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2019 T his is it. This is the year Michigan football under Jim Harbaugh smashes through the final wall, shoves Ohio State aside, takes India- napolis by storm and regains its history-kissed mantle as Big Ten champions. It has to be. The writers said so. And as we all know, when you write, you can't be wrong. If you believe that, we have some oceanfront property in Columbus to sell you (free tattoos and restraining orders included). In the annual Cleveland. com writers' poll of 34 scribes from around the conference, the Wolverines prevailed. No fewer than 17 penciled in Harbaugh's crew to emerge to win the league. Fourteen picked Ohio State, two chose upstart Nebraska and some iconoclastic, purple-underwear-adorned Evan- ston dweller pulled the lever for Northwestern. The Buckeyes have dominated the poll (and to be fair, the league) in recent years. They were the choice to win the Big Ten the last four years and five of the last six. In three of those six seasons, Ohio State did emerge on top, the latest iteration of the evil empire under Ur- ban Meyer withstanding strong chal- lenges by Harbaugh's program. So why now? Why is this the year Michigan gets it done? We'd never presume to speak definitively for the esteemed writers around the league, who might be over-caffeinated or simply sick to death of scarlet and gray (who could blame them?) at any given moment. But there are some obvious points that at least whisper a Buckeye de- throning on the way. Here they are, along with the requisite dose of real- ity sprinkled in: 1. Meyer is gone: There wasn't any Urban decay in the bottom line under Meyer, making it tough for OSU to show him the door. After all, he won more than 90 percent of his games in Columbus — the best per- centage in the school's history. He racked up a national champi- onship, notched the aforementioned Big Ten titles and — perhaps most importantly to the Michigan-hating Skoal spitters in the Horseshoe — never lost to the Wolverines in scarlet and gray. Then Meyer "retired" after serv- ing a three-game suspension at the start of the 2018 campaign, continu- ing a long OSU tradition of football coaches exiting less than graciously. No, he didn't slug an opposing player. No, he didn't lie repeatedly to the NCAA to the point of getting banned. But he did disavow any knowl- edge of spousal abuse allegations against an assistant coach … before admitting that wasn't quite accurate. Anyway, he's gone, leaving massive, disingenuous, slippery shoes to fill. Reality Check No. 1: New head coach Ryan Day engineered the of- fense that put 62 points on Michigan last November. Dismiss him if you will — the Wolverines won't. 2. Dwayne Haskins is gone: The delivery mode for Day's destruction plan involved quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who threw for 318 yards against the Wolverines. Haskins opted to take his talents early to the NFL stage. He fashioned one of the most dev- astating performances ever by a Buckeye quarterback in the annual Michigan-Ohio State showdown. The Wolverines will miss seeing him again like they'd rue a missed opportu- nity to watch video from the 2008 season. Reality Check No. 2: Ohio State always features talent at quarterback. Always. And if the Buckeyes keep whoever they put back there as un- touched as Haskins, he'll enjoy a very legitimate shot at OSU's fourth straight win in Ann Arbor. 3. The Game is at Michigan: The Wolverines have the Buck- eyes at home where officials shouldn't be swayed by the preponderance of scarlet and gray. It's not just the Buckeyes who are coming to Ann Arbor, either. Michigan doesn't have to travel to East Lansing, hosting Michigan State at The Big House. U-M also gets the potentially tough Iowa game at home. Despite their recent success at Michigan, Ohio State stands 10- 14-1 in Michigan Stadium since Bo Schembechler arrived in 1969. The Wolverines hold the upper hand at home in the game that so often de- cides their Big Ten fate. Reality Check No. 3: The Buck- eyes have gone 6-1 in their last seven trips to Ann Arbor. There's no fear there, and no memory of OSU squads getting dominated. Plus, Michigan's overall schedule is much tougher, with the Buckeyes getting MSU, Wisconsin and Penn State at home. Can Michigan become Big Ten champs again, for the first time since 2004? Sure. The Wolverines will feature a senior quarterback, a veteran offensive line and another solid defense. But words won't make it so. In this case, the write stuff won't put any season into orbit. ❏ Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB _ Wolverine. WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON Success Requires More Than A Vote Jim Harbaugh's squad was picked to win the league by 17 of the 34 writers who voted in's annual Big Ten preseason poll. Twenty predicted U-M to win the Big Ten East. PHOTO BY BRANDON BROWN

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