After beating Ohio State for the first time last year, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is looking to do it again this year, but on an even bigger stage.
This contest between Michigan and Ohio State is the highest-ranked matchup between the two teams since 2006, when they were the two best teams in the country. The winner will not only set themselves up to play for the Big Ten Championship but in the College Football Playoff as well.
Harbaugh's on the Precipice of Michigan Glory, But it Wasn't a Cakewalk
RELATED: Inside Jim Harbaugh's Family: His Two Marriages & 7 Kids
After making the CFP last year, Michigan has picked up right where it left off. With an undefeated record and minimal hiccups, this team looks legit, but the most challenging part of their season is just getting started. They played only one ranked team through their first 11 games, and while they dominated Penn State in that contest, their schedule was about as easy as can be. They will only be facing great teams from here on out, and their matchup against No. 2 Ohio State will prove to be their toughest test by far this season. How they perform will show us if this team is good enough to get back to the playoff for a second straight year.
Jim Harbaugh started his career at Michigan losing his first five matchups against Ohio State. Even when they were going through a coaching change, Harbaugh could not get the job done against the Buckeyes. After last year, it seemed he completely erased this stigma and has moved on to bigger goals. Not only did he beat Ohio State last year, but he also brought Michigan to its furthest point in the College Football Playoff era. Harbaugh is an amazing coach, but he has to keep getting these big wins if he wants to take Michigan to that next level, which is the level that Ohio State has been on.
Winning a national championship has to be one of the hardest things to do in American sports, but it's especially hard when you have one of the best programs in all of college football in your way. Michigan was roadblocked by Ohio State up until last year, and this Saturday will show us if last year was just a fluke. Harbaugh and the team got a taste of what it felt like to beat Ohio State, and there is no way they are just going to give the Big Ten crown back to them without a fight.
The Wolverines Have Been Not Missed a Beat
RELATED: We're Still Laughing at Jim Harbaugh Getting Hit By a Football
While Michigan's roster is extremely talented, their best player so far this season has been running back Blake Corum. He was forced out of last week's game against Illinois with an injury to his left knee, and the team was immediately affected. After playing only one half of football, he was still able to rack up 108 rushing yards and a touchdown. Corum was averaging six yards per carry, and while his offensive line played great, his talent was truly on display. After his exit, the other running backs on the roster only managed 54 rushing yards on 18 carries, the same amount as Corum. While it looks like he is going to be healthy enough to play on Saturday, it is likely he is not feeling 100%.
As Harbaugh gets his team ready for the biggest game of their lives, he has to be talking to his other coaches about the possibility of rotating some other backs in with Corum. Ohio State's defensive line is one of the best units in the country, and they are going to get after Corum when they see him. Luckily for Harbaugh and the Wolverines, their offensive line has been great at making sure the holes are there for Corum, and they are going to need to be there on Saturday.
Can Harbaugh Go Back-to-Back?
RELATED: "The Game": Why Ohio State & Michigan's Rivalry Remains Unnamed
Last year, Michigan was able to dominate Ohio State on the ground, and it led to a 42-27 victory in front of the home Michigan fans. Playing in Columbus this year, Michigan has to make sure to get out in front of this Buckeyes team early, and it has to come from running the ball again. Hassan Haskins was Michigan's running back last year, and he showed up in a big way against Ohio State and led the offense with 169 rushing yards and five touchdowns. His performance was incredible, and Michigan needs Corum to deliver in a big way like that this year.
If the Wolverines can prevent C.J. Stroud and his extremely talented receivers from hitting the big plays like they have all year, they will have a chance to play their brand of football. Much like their game against Penn State when they dominated the second half, they have to stick to their game plan against the Buckeyes even when things do not go as planned. Even with a hurt Blake Corum, this Michigan team still has one of the best rushing offenses in college football, and they have to show this on Saturday.