“All the focus is on Ohio State,” Harbaugh said. “This is where we’re at. That’s the focus. That’s part of the life lesson, to focus on the task in front of you. When you got a task in front of you, it’s a big task, you got to use every day, every hour, every minute. Plan, practice, get yourself right. Get yourself in position to go out there and play to the best of your ability.”
Of course, Harbaugh can help his team prepare, but he can’t be with them on game days. Less than 24 hours before Michigan’s matchup against Penn State in Week 11, the Big Ten Conference handed Harbaugh a three-game suspension.
While Harbaugh can participate in practice throughout the week, he cannot be on the sidelines during the game. This week’s matchup against Ohio State will be the final game Harbaugh has to miss. Michigan is 2-0 since Harbaugh was suspended, comfortably defeating Penn State and Maryland.
Nonetheless, the Buckeyes will be Michigan’s toughest test yet. Ohio State is the No. 2 team in the country and the only other undefeated Big Ten program this season. Michigan has defeated OSU in The Game the last two seasons, but Harbaugh has led the charge.
The Game’s ramifications on Jim Harbaugh’s future
On Saturday, Michigan will be without its tenured leader. According to ESPN’s Pete Thamel, the outcome of the highly-anticipated matchup could significantly affect Harbaugh’s career path.
“The most interesting part of the stakes of this game, that makes it so unique amid this historic rivalry, is that the real stakes are it could send Jim Harbaugh back to the sideline,” Thamel said on Monday Blitz. “Look, obviously, if Michigan wins this game, it plays in the Big Ten title game against Iowa and then would go on to the third consecutive College Football Playoff appearance. If Ohio State wins in Ann Arbor, it would put Jim Harbaugh’s coaching career at a crossroads.”
What kind of crossroads? Well, Thamel described the potential punishment in 2024 that could have ripple effects.
“He already faces potential suspension to start next season from the NCAA for the recruiting violations that he’s essentially already admitted to that the school self-imposed a three-game suspension to start this year,” Thamel said. “Put on additional suspensions from the allegations, which the Big Ten has called facts, of the illicit sign-stealing scheme, and there’s additional potential suspension for Harbaugh.”
Michigan will face off against Ohio State at noon ET on Saturday. The game will be broadcast on FOX.
On3’s Nick Kosko also contributed to this article.