Michigan Monday: It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Michigan is headed to the College Football Playoffs and what was once thought unthinkable by both Buckeye fans and Wolverine fans alike is now everyone’s new reality.

In arguably the most wide-open playoffs since they began eight years ago, the Michigan Wolverines are just two wins away from claiming their first national title in nearly a quarter of a century.

In order to make that happen, the Wolverines will need to win a pair of games in which they’ll likely be the underdogs. Fortunately for them, they already know what that’s like since they were underdogs in their wins against both Wisconsin and Ohio State this season.

Just as importantly as dealing with life as an underdog, however, is dealing with it as a favorite, which they did in terrific fashion Saturday night in their first-ever appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game. They hammered Iowa 42-3 and won their first Big Ten Championship since 2004 and first outright conference title since 2003.

That’s a long time to wait for something that should at least be within reach every year.

But it’s here now and everything needs to be recalibrated.

Michigan is no longer a punchline and nobody is laughing.

Four months ago at this time, people were wondering if Indiana had passed Michigan by. They weren’t even asking if Penn State had passed them by because it was already understood that they had.

As long as Jim Harbaugh remained at Michigan, the UM football program would have a ceiling that required ducking in most rooms.

At least that’s what we used to think.

But here we are. Harbaugh told everybody to shut the hell up and he went and did it his way and now he has a win over the Buckeyes and a playoff berth. He is the first Michigan head coach since Lloyd Carr in 1999 and 2000 to go consecutive years without losing to Ohio State.

The world is his oyster.

It’s like this entire season has been one long September for Harbaugh and the Wolverines.

And, as a Michigan Man is wont to do, he’s enjoying his allotted time talking about it.

Those are the spoils of war. You beat your rival, you get to talk about it. That’s one of the things that makes it fun. Needling is an essential activity when you get back into the winner’s circle for the first time in a while. There is a lot of pent-up talking that players, coaches, and fans need to do. They’ve earned it. It’s what everybody signed up for and you can’t unsubscribe now.

Harbaugh quipped that some people are born on third base and think they hit a triple. That’s his way of taking a shot at Ohio State (and some say Ryan Day), but also crediting his own program for how hard they had to work in order to get where they got this year.

This was no triple for Michigan. They got to third this year by advancing to first base on a passed ball, then were bunted over to second before stealing third. They scrapped, they fought. Things that maybe they weren’t doing before.

There is no question that Jim Harbaugh needed a reboot and he got that with his new defensive staff. This is not the same guy we have seen for the last four years or so. The old Jim Harbaugh is back and it’s great for the Big Ten. It’s also great for the rivalry. Just the fact that Ohio State fans were happy that Harbaugh returned this year tells you all you need to know. But now that Harbaugh is gloating, Buckeye fans aren’t having quite as much fun anymore.

Harbaugh’s official football title at Michigan is the J. Ira and Nicki Harris Family Head Football Coach, but following the sponsored title and his name, the suffix of “most hated man in Ohio” should also be attached. And when he stops living up to that title again, then maybe it will be time to talk about somebody else taking over.

For now, Jim Harbaugh is back, and he’s back with a vengeance.

For the second time in his career, he called his shot against Ohio State and came through. This last one wasn’t public, but it wasn’t much of a secret either. The Wolverines went into the Ohio State game with hate in their hearts and violence on their minds. The result was 297 yards rushing for the Wolverines and just 64 yards rushing for the Buckeyes.

Michigan won the line of scrimmage and never had a doubt that they would.

Doubt is now very difficult to find in Ann Arbor, and it has nothing to do with a supply chain issue.

The question is whether or not there is doubt now residing in Columbus.

Doubt is an easy seed to plant and can be very difficult to kill. The more a team tries overcome it, the more they can be consumed by it. That seed of doubt can become fertilized by the very attempt to destroy it.

And if things went poorly once before, they can go that way again.

What has happened the past two weeks is the kind of spark that can really set a rivalry ablaze.

A game between Ohio State and Michigan should have never been a sure thing. It should only be questions. But questions don’t necessarily mean doubts, provided you have the answers.

This time out, the Wolverines had all of the answers and the Buckeyes had nothing but slumped shoulders and regret.

Stuff like that can really affect the posture of a program, provided it doesn’t get straightened out immediately.

Ohio State has finally been reminded what a loss to Michigan feels like. And it doesn’t feel good. Nobody in the program has ever experienced this feeling before. It won’t be something that they get over easily or quickly. Nor should it. Wounds this deep don’t heal quickly, especially if Jim Harbaugh keeps sticking his finger down to the bone asking “does it hurt when I do this?”

When the Wolverines beat the Buckeyes nine days ago, a sleeping giant was awakened.

But we won’t know until next year if that giant was Michigan or Ohio State.