Head coach Jim Harbaugh to get boost if Michigan Wolverines can beat Ohio State
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ANN ARBOR — Jim Harbaugh’s job is safe at Michigan whether his team finally beats Ohio State or he falls to 0-5 in what has become a one-sided series.
But a victory over Ohio State on Saturday at the Big House would sure provide a boost for Harbaugh and college football’s winningest program — even if he won’t say it.
“It would mean a lot to him,” Wolverines linebacker Khaleke Hudson acknowledged Monday. “It would mean a lot for Michigan going forward with all aspects — with recruiting, with going forward to the next season and to have some confidence to just keep this thing going. It would be a great win for him.”
It would also be a surprising upset.
No. 2 Ohio State (11-0, 8-0 Big Ten, No. 2 CFP) is favored to beat No. 10 Michigan (9-2, 6-2, No. 13 CFP) by about 10 points to continue a trend that Harbaugh has been unable to overcome. OSU has won seven in a row, including a 62-39 rout last season, to match its longest win streak in the series set from 2004-10. The Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 15 in the series.
After they poached a pair of Harbaugh’s coaches to work for first-year coach Ryan Day last winter, Harbaugh made a major move of his own that is starting to pan out.
Harbaugh hired former Alabama assistant Josh Gattis to be his offensive coordinator a year after Michigan didn’t have an assistant with that job. He has allowed Gattis to call plays in a no-huddle spread offense that is clicking well enough — finally — for the Wolverines to average nearly six touchdowns over the last four games.
If Harbaugh can help the Wolverines win a fifth straight game with their first victory over Ohio State since 2004, it might prove to be as pivotal a moment for the program as it was 50 years ago when Bo Schembechler beat one of Woody Hayes’ best teams.
Harbaugh seemed at ease Monday at his weekly news conference. He didn’t guarantee a victory over the Buckeyes as he did as Schembechler’s quarterback in 1986, a boast he helped to back up with a 26-24 win at the Horseshoe, but did say a win would be very significant.
“It’d be big,” he said. “It always is.”
Harbaugh, who is 47-16 with the Wolverines, is in the fifth year of a seven-year contract with a compensation package that gives him more than $7 million per year. He returned in 2015 to the school where he was a star after going 44-19-1 with the 49ers.