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Jim Harbaugh talks significance of new Michigan/Northwestern George Jewett trophy

“We’re tremendously proud and excited that we’re playing for a trophy.”

NCAA Football: Michigan at Nebraska Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Despite not playing this past weekend, the Michigan Wolverines find themselves two spots higher and ranked number six in the AP poll ahead this weekend’s matchup with the Northwestern Wildcats. This game will be different than any matchup between these two teams in the past as this is the first battle for the George Jewett trophy.

Jewett was the first African American player in the Big Ten and played for both Michigan and Northwestern in the 1890s.

“We’re tremendously proud and excited that we’re playing for a trophy. Just the magnitude of the trophy and the life of George Jewett. That was someone who was the first African American player at the University of Michigan in 1890 and the 1892 season,” Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said. “A halfback, a fullback, had all the kicking duties for the team. All while pursuing a medical degree here at the University of Michigan and then eventually went to Northwestern in 1893. The first African American player to play for Northwestern before he went to medical school. Then became a doctor.”

The importance of the trophy is not lost on Harbaugh. “It is of great significance. First trophy in (FBS) history that is a trophy for an African American student-athlete. It has tremendous depth to it and we’re very excited to be playing for this trophy. It’s a combination, something significant,” Harbaugh said. “Not disparaging other trophies but this is of great and high significance.”

Michigan comes into the new trophy game as heavy favorites with the line currently sitting at Michigan -21.5. However, matchups like this can be tricky. Northwestern is a well coached team coming off of arguably their best game of the season (21-7 win against Rutgers) and all of the talk seems to be on Michigan’s next opponent on the schedule — Michigan State. It’s important for Michigan to stay focused on the task at hand.

After winning the Big Ten West and going to the Big Ten title game a year ago, it has certainly been a disappointing season thus far for Northwestern. The Wildcat’s offense ranks 8th in the conference while their defense ranks 13th and allows more rushing yards per game than any other team in the Big Ten (206). Look for Michigan to work through the run game this weekend and try to get back to the dominance they had in the ground game during non-conference play.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald had high praise for Michigan when he discussed the upcoming matchup on Monday, saying the Wolverines will by far be the best team the Wildcats have faced this year, which is saying a lot considering Northwestern has played another top ten team in Michigan State.

“From what I’ve seen on film this year, it’s not even close.” Fitzgerald said.

Michigan returns to the Big House this Saturday at noon for the first time in nearly a month as the Wolverines look to improve to 7-0.