I honestly thought this might just be the year when my 4-year-old scalding-hot prediction that Jim Harbaugh would never win a Big Ten title might come up snake-eyes. Who knew that Ol’ Sharkface could find a way to gag up another one, this time with a team favored by 4 points in Columbus. Even I was amazed.
Keep in mind, Michigan had been favored in but one game in this series in the past 13 years in either venue – -7 in 2011 during the abortive 1-year Luke Fickell tenure, the only game won by U-of-M in that span (40-34). The Wolverines had not been favored in Columbus since Lloyd Carr brought a #7-ranked team into the Horseshoe in 2004 and was upset by unranked Ohio State (37-21).
But Ohio State’s defense had looked so utterly hopeless against the run and had not been very tough on the offensive line, either. I foresaw a turgid 3+-hour session of corporal punishment inflicted by the Wolverines, a probable under total (24-12, constructed precisely by Harbaugh?) culminating with a military march led by maize and blue Hummer H1s and goose-stepping civilians back in Ann Arbor well into the evening.
Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, Harbaugh again sphinctered-up in a big game, just like Bo did it in the old days, the way he was taught by his mentor Woody. And Ohio State obliterated the nation’s top-ranked defense by the count of 62-39. It wasn’t that close.
Michigan’s savior/quarterback Shea Patterson was not great. His misthrows outnumbered his bucket drops. But he was also constantly placed in difficult situations by the U-of-M brain trust’s play-calling in the first half and into the third quarter.
Instead of Ohio State’s blocked punt and interception deep in Michigan territory merely gaining an advantage for OSU, they ended up being an aggregate knockout punch that made it 41-19 and effectively ended the game before the fourth-quarter break.
I was verbally accosted by many in the mitten-state camp for saying a few weeks ago that Harbaugh’s caveman brand of football will never adequately exploit the substantial talent he’s acquired and will install a ceiling on what Michigan can accomplish. I reassert that sentiment here.
Now, those who merely look at the score and didn’t watch the game will assume Don Brown’s defense is entirely at fault. And there is plenty of blame to be served up there, although he did lose a lot of key components either before or during the game for parts of it.
Defensive end Chase Winovich was the victim of a cheap shot against Indiana and clearly had a banged-up shoulder that turned him into an ordinary player against OSU. Cornerback David Long, tackle Rashan Gary and linebacker Devin Bush, all left the game at various points early in the third quarter, though Michigan had already relinquished 24 points by then.
But the point is this: In today’s game and for the foreseeable future, you must be versatile enough to win a shootout when you encounter it. The way football is played now, there’ll be games where your defense, no matter how good it is, will be rung up. And your offense must respond.
I wrote a few weeks ago that Michigan wouldn’t be able to handle a pinball scoring match and would flip out if it had to play one because its strategic acumen is so underdeveloped and its talented weaponry such as wideouts Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones are so underutilized. I cited a hypothetical Oklahoma-Michigan match as a worst-case example for the Wolverines.
As it turned out, the part of the Sooners was played by the Buckeyes.
Michigan co-offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, as surely directed by Harbaugh, never matched the aggressive attitude of OSU OC Ryan Day until it was too late. While Dwayne Haskins was popping quick crossing routes to Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill throughout the opening half, Patterson was limited to handing off on almost every early down. And not just first down.
Over and over through first 35 minutes, the Wolverines ran unimaginative 2nd-and-long running plays from loaded-up formations with 7 linemen. On 8 instances of 2nd-and-6 or more during their first 8 possessions, the Wolverines ran the ball.
Then, they repeatedly threw short in front of the sticks on 3rd down and depended on their receivers to get to the marker. It was like Dick Nixon was President again.
Meanwhile, Haskins was unleashed by Day and, stunningly, Brown’s previously fearsome pass rush could not get to him. He stood back there as he did through the first half of the season and carved up the Michigan secondary, repeatedly going after vulnerable nickel back Brandon Watson like an NFL QB seeking a mismatch.
By the time Campbell flew around the edge on a fly sweep and kicked in the afterburners down the sideline, it was 48-25 and all but over with 14 minutes still to go.
The amazing part of the score: It actually should’ve been worse. If not for Urban Meyer’s meddling insertion of “dual-threat” Tate Martell on two instances when Ohio State had first-and-goal situations bracketed around halftime, the Buckeyes easily could have had 8 extra points. Martell clearly was not respected as a passing threat by the U-of-M defense and each of the hyper-conservative tactics failed, ending in chip-shot FGs rather than TDs. Add the 8 points for those and OSU scores 70. Toss in the final minute in which OSU had again ripped inside the 10 before kneeling twice and maybe it’s 77.
Where from here for Harbaugh? Are we at the point after all these big-game pratfalls where his recruiting will begin to suffer? It’s possible. Who would want to play quarterback for Michigan at this point? We’ve gone through John O’Korn, Brandon Peters and now Patterson as the guys who were supposed to unveil a new era. It never happens.
Since Harbaugh’s arrival, all of his significant rivals – Meyer, Mark Dantonio and James Franklin – have not only won the Big Ten East but conference titles. Harbaugh has won neither and nothing.
You might expect a little more by now for $7.5 million a year.
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Source : https://www.pennlive.com/pennstatefootball/2018/11/jim-harbaugh-has-now-spent-4-seasons-collecting-3rd-highest-salary-in-college-football-with-0-trophies-to-show.html