In less than 24 hours, the No. 5 Michigan Wolverines will host the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes in a top five showdown in Ann Arbor. All week we have discussed the magnitude of this game and pondered what it would take to win. This is likely one of the biggest games in the past decade for this rivalry. It is the second time in 10 years both Michigan and Ohio State are ranked in the top five, and this iteration of The Game decides everything.
Everyone knows what’s on the line for Saturday, as it is the third time in five years that The Game has been what determines the postseason for both programs. Whatever team wins earns a trip to Indy for a chance at the Big Ten Championship game. They also remain for a bid to the CFP. For Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, unable to make the mark in seven seasons, this game means arguably more.
After having to cancel The Game last year in 2020, the Wolverines have been sitting with the loss of 2019 for over two years, which has hardly made the pressure to win easier for them. However, despite their 2-4 record last year, Michigan has climbed up the proverbial mountain once more. Michigan has had major turnarounds before, but will this year finally end differently? Something in the air feels different which is in part due to the vocal focus on this game that the team has had all season.
The Wolverines have placed a heavier emphasis on this game, much like Ohio State does every year. They brought up the “Beat Ohio State” drill earlier this season and the noted mentality shift has been welcomed with open arms by Wolverine fans everywhere. Beating Ohio State has become a mantra and a way of life, reinforced in Schembechler Hall with “What are you doing to beat Ohio State today?” hanging on the wall for all to see. Will this shift in prioritizing The Game all year work in Michigan’s favor? What’s at stake for the Wolverines if it does? What does it mean if it doesn’t?
Aside from the obvious, getting a win on Saturday sets the Maize and Blue in motion to achieve what other Michigan teams haven’t. The Wolverines would make their first appearance in a Big Ten Championship and the opportunity to make their first CFP appearance. Ohio State’s eight game winning streak would come crumbling down. Arguably the most rewarding thing would be a graduating class finally being able to see a win against Ohio State. I went to Michigan for six years and I am one of the six graduating classes that didn’t see the Wolverines beat their rival during their time in school. The numbers keep piling and the stakes keep rising for Michigan. Can this be the team to break the streak?
I feel like the magnitude of this game is reminiscent of the 2016 season. It was Harbaugh’s second year with the program and somehow we were contending for everything after going 5-7 two years prior. It was a time to finally picture a postseason on the biggest stages in college football. Then it ended in a close, contested 30-27 game and we wondered what would have happened if things went differently.
I think we allowed ourselves to wonder again in 2018. Michigan was set in the CFP rankings and looked like they had everything going their way. We looked forward to Indy and maybe even looked into venturing to the CFP. That of course ended in a brutal 63-39 loss and it’s almost been hard to imagine anything past Ohio State since. Can we allow ourselves to indulge in the what if’s this year? What is it about this team that makes this year feel different?
Improving to 10-1 in the span of a year has made me realize anything is possible with this team. It would only be fitting for this regular season to end with a win in Ann Arbor on Saturday. We have speculated all season whether or not Michigan has what it takes. Honestly, we have been speculating since last year’s cancelled game. The game we have been waiting for is finally here and tomorrow we get our answers to all the what if’s that have been piling up for two years. Will Michigan give us a win to talk about? What has to happen to get over this final hurdle? Does this team have what it takes to do that?
Michigan has the chance to prove they can take this game and do what no Wolverine team has done since 2011. The Buckeyes have the chance to solidify their dominance over the Wolverines by tying the longest win streak in the rivalry. It all comes to a head tomorrow at noon eastern. Will this Michigan team be the one their fans have hoped for? Any last minute takes before then? Let us know in the comments below!