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Jim Harbaugh calls Michigan-Ohio State ‘the start of the playoffs’

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“It’s here. It’s happening.”

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked how often someone brings up beating Ohio State to him when he’s out and about in Ann Arbor — “as often as its on my own mind,” he replied with a grin.

10-1 Michigan vs. 10-1 Ohio State, the winner goes to the Big Ten Championship Game, the loser won’t be heading there nor the College Football Playoff. It’s a knockout game.

“Both teams have a lot on the line. It’s a true playoff in that sense, in the College Football Playoff world. This is the start of the playoffs,” Harbaugh said. “The team that wins will advance, the team that doesn’t won’t. It’s that, and it’s also the big game, The Game, the rivalry.”

A reporter wondered if Harbaugh tries to have his team even keeled heading into the tilt vs. the Buckeyes, or if he treats this week differently. He’s not denying or trying to escape from the reality that this is one heck of a big stage, and perhaps the most contentious rivalry in all of American sports.

“We prepare for it like it’s The Game,” Harbaugh answered.

Before the season, at Big Ten Media Days, Harbaugh said Michigan aspired to beat Michigan State, Ohio State, everybody — he said Michigan would “do it or die trying”.

Harbaugh was asked how that ‘do it or die trying’ approach comes to life this week.

“It comes all the way to life,” he said.

The follow up question was “in what way?”

“It’s here. It’s happening,” Harbaugh declared.

Happening it is. Michigan comes into The Game with momentum after a road win versus Penn State and whooping Maryland 59-18 on Saturday.

“We’re a confident team, we know what we’re capable of,” quarterback Cade McNamara said on Saturday.

Win or lose, Michigan heads into the showdown versus Ohio State knowing the magnitude of the looming moment. Excitement and preparation will be paramount, eliminating fear is just as important.

“Now that everything we’ve been working towards is right here in front of us we couldn’t be more excited, we’re ready,” McNamara said.