Jim Harbaugh says Ohio State hurt Michigan with a lot of ‘speed plays,’ and ‘we take responsibility’ for the 62-39 debacle, Nov. 24, 2018.
Nick Baumgardner, Freep
Michigan’s football team officially got back to work Monday in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines have a bowl destination (the Peach Bowl). They have a new opponent (Florida). They have a new goal (11 wins).
But the Ohio State cloud isn’t going anywhere.
Speaking with reporters Monday, Michigan co-captain Ben Bredeson was asked about Ohio State. About what his response would be to those who have suggested Michigan may never pass the Buckeyes after a seventh straight loss and 14 in the last 15 tries.
Right now, there is not much to offer.
“I don’t read the news, really,” Bredeson said. “But to each their own. If you want to write that, freedom of the press. You can do whatever you want.
“But we’ll find out in a year.”
Michigan is not going to spend the next month talking about getting blown off the field at Ohio State. Right now, it’s not productive.
The Wolverines, believe it or not, can accomplish plenty before and during the Peach Bowl against Florida. Roster development is always critical this time of year. Good vibes don’t hurt anything, either, especially recruiting.
But this cloud isn’t going anywhere. And right now, Michigan’s program seems to be at a point where little else truly matters.
Jim Harbaugh’s program, as of today, appears to be close to establishing itself as the second-best outfit in the league. Penn State has recruited very well under James Franklin and will have a say in that conversation. Maybe Mark Dantonio can circle the wagons again at Michigan State. Maybe Wisconsin gathers itself after a bad year or something unexpected happens elsewhere.
But Harbaugh has won more than he’s lost against the Nittany Lions and Badgers. He’s pulled even at 2-2 against the Spartans. Michigan is in its second New Year’s Six game in the past three years. There’s only one dragon left.
It’s the biggest one. And while Michigan’s final push through the Peach Bowl is to clinch an 11-win season for the first time since 2011, the big question will be sitting there for the next 12 months.
And everyone knows it.
“We’ll learn from it, it is what it is,” Michigan safety Josh Metellus said. “It didn’t go our way, we know that. We know we have to fix certain things, things we didn’t have to fix earlier because they didn’t happen before. Now we know.”
Michigan sophomore receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones was asked what went wrong in Columbus.
His answer was simple.
“We didn’t win,” he said.
As he often does, Harbaugh had a prepared line Sunday night when asked about how the program will respond after the Ohio State collapse.
He talked about Michigan’s improved ability to respond to adversity. He praised his coaches. He praised his players. With one caveat.
“It just means the work isn’t done,” he said, twice.
It’s not done in the grand scheme. It’s not done this season either.
Michigan has dropped its last two bowl games after deflating losses against Ohio State. The 2016 team fell behind early against Florida State in the Orange Bowl, came back to grab a lead but ultimately fell apart late.
The 2017 team jumped on South Carolina early in the Outback Bowl, but slowly collapsed — leaving with an embarrassing loss at the end of a deflating season.
The theme, of course, is finishing. Michigan hasn’t been able to finish its regular seasons against Ohio State. Hasn’t been able to finish the last two bowl games.
Someone has to start finishing.
“We’re really sick of losing the last game of the year. Ohio State or the bowl game. We’re trying to change that right now, trying to finish things out,” Bredeson added. “This team’s handled adversity better than any team I’ve been on since I’ve been here. If there’s one group that’ll bounce back and get a big win at the end of the year, I think it’ll be this one.”
A win over Florida in Atlanta would be a positive for Michigan entering the offseason. Returning players feel better about themselves. Recruiting can finish strong. The overall vibe won’t be as sour.
But even so, the Ohio State loss is going to linger.
It’ll linger for a full year. Probably every day. And it probably should.
Michigan will now focus on putting one foot in front of the other with the biggest mission firmly planted inside its mind.
“We’ve had a hell of a year here. We lost to two rivals and everyone tries to make it out like we’ve had a bad year, we finished 10-2. It’s not the year everyone wanted, but it’s a great year,” Bredeson said. “Just the vibe some of the guys get from you guys, the media. Around ourselves, too. We had all these high hopes. Those were taken away.
“So you want to finish out the year with something great.”
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickbaumgardner.