The Wolverine

August 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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18 THE WOLVERINE AUGUST 2021 BY JOHN BORTON D rive five hours and 19 min- utes and you can cover the distance between Carmel- By-The-Sea and Pasadena, Calif. Invest another estimated 20 hours and two minutes and you can arrive at Mt. Everest (not including summiting). How long it takes Michigan to fig- uratively reach either of those latter two places — as a Big Ten champion or a national title contender — re- mains unclear. The head coach, how- ever, retains a clear vision about the ascent. Back in 1997, then-head coach Lloyd Carr likened Michigan's climb to a national title to an assault on Everest. This year, Jim Harbaugh's family hike inspired his own take on a hoped-for mountaintop experience. Harbaugh issued his thoughts in the cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis — site of the 2021 Big Ten Football Media Days and, coinci- dentally, site of this season's national championship game. Harbaugh isn't promising that summit this season. When your team goes 2-4 in a COVID-shortened, in- jury-riddled year, you don't do that. But he made it clear to reporters and anyone listening in, he and his crew are up for a good hike. "Sarah, Addie and I went up this mountain," Harbaugh said, regard- ing his wife, daughter and a visit to Carmel. "I don't know how high it was — pretty high — but it took like 15,000 steps to get up there. Addie was counting on her phone. And we were getting up close there, and she said, 'We've got to apex, Dad! We've got to get to the top!' "'You're darn right we do. That's what we've got to do!'" It's no different for his own team, the Michigan head coach asserted. "We've got to apex this," he of- fered. "We've got to get this to the top. She's got that gene in her — and I was darn glad to see it. "I'll tell you, I've got that gene in me. We've got that gene in us. We've got to get to the top." The summit seems as far away as it has in Harbaugh's six and a half years at Michigan. Back in 2016, the Wolverines led Ohio State by 10 points in Columbus, with barely more than a minute remaining in the third quarter. U-M lost that game 30-27 in dou- ble overtime. The last two times the Wolverines faced the Buckeyes, they went down in defeat by a combined score of 118-66. None of that dissuaded Harbaugh from talking about The Game in In- dianapolis, and not in the "Sure, we want to beat them — we want to beat everybody" sense. No, Harbaugh took the inevitable OSU questions head on. "They're on top of the perch," he acknowledged. "You all picked them to win the conference. Somebody's got to knock them off that perch. Why not us? Let it be us. Let us do everything in our power to get that done." He didn't downplay talk of added attention to Ohio State around Schembechler Hall. "That's on our mind every day," he stressed. "Also, what are you doing that day to get better today than you were yesterday; to be better tomor- row than were today. "If both of those things are on your mind, then you go into the season and have that mindset of getting good enough at football to win that championship. That will be the strat- egy of being the best in the Big Ten. That's where we're coming from." He retains that competitive gene, he insists. He sees it in his players and coaches. He expects to see it on TOUGHEST CLIMB YET Michigan Begins Its Re-Ascent Under A Determined Jim Harbaugh H a r b a u g h s a i d o f O h i o S t a t e : "Somebody's got to knock them off that perch. Why not us? Let it be us. Let us do everything in our power to get that done." PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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