It’s clear Michigan has a sharpened and renewed focus. Sitting at 3-0 after a 63-10 win over Northern Illinois, Michigan is in a good place heading into conference play.
Part of that renewed focus resides in a team Michigan did not play on Saturday, a team they won’t play until the final Saturday of the regular season — Ohio State.
Michigan now has a “Beat Ohio Drill”, they now have a banner in the weight room that says “What Are You Doing To Beat Ohio State Today?”.
And now opposing teams are taking notice of Michigan’s tactics. Northern Illinois head coach Thomas Hammock sees what Michigan did to give themselves a better chance to beat the Buckeyes.
“What I see, they built their team to beat Ohio State,” Hammock said. “You’re not going to out-athlete Ohio State and so they said, ‘We’re going to get dirty.’ And you know what? Credit to them because they stay committed to that. They have a good team.”
Michigan’s offense couldn’t be stopped on the air or through the ground, scoring on their first nine drives of the game. UM had 606 yards of total offense, 373 rushing and 233 passing.
“If they stay committed to the style that they play, they’re going to win a lot of football games,” Hammock said.
All is not well for Ohio State this season. The 2-1 Buckeyes lost to Oregon a week ago, which then led to head coach Ryan Day throwing his defensive staff under the bus. On Saturday OSU was in a tight 27-20 game with 0-2 Tulsa before pulling away in the final minutes to win 41-20.
The bottom line is it isn’t inconceivable to think that Michigan could in fact be closing the talent gap, execution gap, recruiting gap, coaching gap — whatever you’d like to call it. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said Michigan plans to beat Michigan State, Ohio State, everybody, “or die trying” and that message he proudly presented at Big Ten Media Days has resonated with his team.
“That’s motivating. We’re gonna get there, or we’re going to die trying,” linebacker Josh Ross said in July. “That’s our motive. We’re about to grind. We’re about to scrape and claw and scratch, and everything we need to do. I love it. For him to say that, I just love it.”