Michigan’s players support Jim Harbaugh ahead of the Ohio State matchup.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Both Michigan and Ohio State will be competing for a position in the Big Ten title game and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff when they meet on Saturday.
But the Wolverines will be doing so without head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh will be suspended for the sixth game of the season, preventing him from coaching the third-ranked Wolverines. This is the season’s biggest game, with the most at stake, as unbeaten Michigan plays second-ranked Ohio State.
However, Michigan’s players and coaches remain confident despite Harbaugh’s absence.
“A lot of us would run through a wall for [Harbaugh], so it’s been tough, and going into the game without him is kind of like adding fuel to the fire,” Wolverines running back Blake Corum said Monday.
“We’re going to play — not that we weren’t going to play hard at all — but we might play a little harder for him and make sure we give him a game ball at the end of the game.” And if you say you’re going to deliver a game ball to someone, you have to win; so we’ll make sure we accomplish that for Coach.”
Harbaugh will serve the third game of a three-game suspension from the Big Ten Conference following charges that former assistant Connor Stalions ran an in-person scouting plan to steal play signals and calls.
Harbaugh also sat out the first three games of the season due to a self-imposed suspension coming from an unrelated NCAA investigation that is still ongoing.
Rather than seeing Harbaugh’s absence as a negative, the Wolverines are embracing a “Michigan vs. Everybody” approach.
During his Monday news conference, Corum wore those phrases on a sweatshirt and stated that what has happened this season off the field has driven Michigan. Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy reiterated that idea, saying it has brought the team closer together.
Despite the fact that this is a storied rivalry that means so much to both schools this season, McCarthy believes the Wolverines have been through enough without Harbaugh to survive any extra pressure or special circumstances that may occur against Ohio State.
“Just the whole process and throughout the day of just not having him there,” she added. “At first, it was strange. And right now, knowing how it works, how the coaches react to certain things, and how they approach coaching the game, it’s going to be huge for us this Saturday, since it’s one of the major games.”
Harbaugh referred to his team as “battle-tested,” and he expressed confidence in his coaches’ ability to handle the issue without him. He compared the outside noise to a high-pitched siren, which he has learned to bear.
“I always go back to the ‘Ted Lasso’ show,” Harbaugh explained. “‘Believe.’ What follows from it is belief, and I’m simply so proud of our team. Despite the noise, our locker room is still intact. And, like Ted, a locker room is similar to my mother’s bathing suits in that I prefer to see them in one piece.”
Michigan offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore, who will serve as interim head coach for the fourth time this season, acknowledges that this game is more important, but he doesn’t expect it to change how the players work or prepare during the week.
“We all know what that means, it’s ‘The Game,'” Moore explained. “It’s the one for which you practice and play all year.” So we’re certainly aware of the stakes, and it will give us a chance to defend our Big Ten title. The words and prep will come out a little later in the week; we’re trying to keep it on a low boil this week since it can become very high really quickly.
“The kids are as prepared mentally and physically as they’ll ever be to get ready for this week.”