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What did Michigan HC Jim Harbaugh say about the Buckeyes?

Andy Backstrom11/21/22
Article written by:On3 imageAndy Backstrom

andybackstrom

Jim Harbaugh by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media Monday afternoon about this week's top-three showdown at Ohio State. (Matt Parker/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State will host Michigan for the first time since 2018 this week. It will be the first time the programs are facing off with undefeated records since 2006.

The Buckeyes are No. 2. The Wolverines are No. 3. Both are 11-0.

The winner of Saturday’s highly-anticipated matchup will take home the Big Ten East and likely book its ticket to the College Football Playoff.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh met with reporters Monday to answer questions about the rivalry showdown. Here’s what he said about The Game and this year’s Buckeyes.

Q: You said that you and the team spent months preparing for Ohio State. What does that entail? What kind of preparation have you been doing on a weekly basis for this game?

HARBAUGH: “Keeping track of them. There’s things we do in practice to prepare for them. We know Ohio State’s our toughest competition. This will be our toughest test to date.”

Q: The running game, even with a couple guys banged up, how key is that — both ways — to establish the running game?

HARBAUGH: “I think it’ll be important. Stopping the run, being able to run the ball. Always key factors in a football game.”

Q: With this being the first game in Columbus since 2018, how are you telling your guys who haven’t been in that environment of Ohio Stadium to prepare to go into that stadium this week?

HARBAUGH: “Yeah, it’s going to be great. I’ll be grateful for that experience.”

Q: Numbers say they’ve improved as a run defense. When you watch them on film, what do you see there?

HARBAUGH: “I see the defense is really good — 17 takeaways: 10 interceptions, six recovered fumbles, 16 forced fumbles, three defensive touchdowns. Yeah, I think it’s a very strong team defensively.”

Q: Any update on running backs Blake Corum, Donovan Edwards and tight end Luke Schoonmaker — any of the guys?

HARBAUGH: “No. No update.”

Q: Ohio State made some changes in the offseason on defense and other things. Are they appreciably different in how they attack you, either offensively or defensively?

HARBAUGH: “I think they’re a really good team, an improved team. It’s a tremendous team. And we’re very grateful to be in this position to play in this game. Winner takes the East. Winner takes all right there. So, strong opponent. And it’s the kind of situation that gives you the opportunity to display how strong our team is. There’s no need to hate. Be grateful for the opponent. It’s like superheroes — it’s through a strong opponent that you get to find out who you are. They have a lot of players who are really good. They’ve got great players, we’ve got great players. They have great coaches, we have great coaches. They have players with Heisman habits, we have players with Heisman habits. Congratulations. Be grateful to have the opportunity to play in this kind of big game.”

Q: This series has been kind of cyclical. Big domination by Michigan, Ohio State turns the tide, etc. What did last year’s win do for you or the program?

HARBAUGH: “It’s where we’re at now. It’s just a real honor. It’s a real honor to be in this position to be able to test yourself physically, mentally, emotionally. We know it’s our toughest test of the year. And I think that we’re going to find that we’re made of the right stuff.”

Q: You said you were going to take about six hours Saturday before you got down to thinking about Ohio State. What time did you actually get down to it?

HARBAUGH: “It was actually just a couple hours. Because by the time I got home I was watching the Ohio State-Maryland game. So my mind switched over pretty quick.”

Q: For a quarterback making his first start in this game, what do you tell J.J.?

“Have at it. It’s pretty cool coming off the game he had. Fourth quarter comeback, win in the last minute, game-winning drive. That doesn’t happen to quarterbacks that often. And to be in that situation for the first time and win it, he’s got it. Talk about turning water to wine. I think I made that comment back in the summer that he had that ability. Shouldn’t have dropped the snap, but drops the snap and goes down on a knee, has the presence before he touched the ball to lift his knee off the ground, pick it up, get out of the pocket, pick up a critical first down. He’s got it. So glad that he’s on our team. He’s fearlessly protective of the team. He’s a tremendous teammate. He’s got that grit and determination, too. All into one package.”

Q: You’ve mentioned the past couple of weeks that your players are on a happy mission. How important is that joy and gusto in a week like this where the pressure and stakes are about as high as they can get?

HARBAUGH: “There’s no need for hate or anxiety or anger or anything like that. It’s about being grateful. It is Thanksgiving week. Grateful for this opportunity. These circumstances. Grateful to be tested against this opponent at this time.”

Q: You’ve had some very complimentary things to say about your upcoming opponent. Coming out of the game last year in the media there were a lot of comments that called into question their toughness. In reviewing Ohio State, do you see a tougher team?

HARBAUGH: “I didn’t — that wasn’t me.” (in reference to the first part of the question, i.e. last year’s toughness comments)

Q: But coming out of Ann Arbor, there were some comments out there. Do you see a team that’s tough?

HARBAUGH: “Yes, I mean absolutely. I think you got two teams that are — it’s like two superheroes going at each other. That’s why we’re so excited about being tested, find out what we’re made of.”

Q: You’ve mentioned the “right stuff” a few times. What is the “right stuff,” and why are you sure you have it?

HARBAUGH: “Got a great group of players who are happy warriors. And they’re on a happy mission. It’s a tight-knit team that’s paid the price. They’ve take on every challenge to this date, and they’ve attacked it. They’ve been ready to play every single game for 60 minutes. I love this team. I think they’re made of the right stuff.”

Q: There’s always talk that goes back and forth between both sides. Ryan Day supposedly saying that he’s going to hang a hundred. Your comment last year about [Day] being on “third base,” thinking he hit a triple. Is that good-hearted rivalry talk?

HARBAUGH: “I guess. Kind of irrelevant is what I think. I think it’s irrelevant.”

Q: With C.J. Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr., what in particular makes each of them tough to stop?

HARBAUGH: “I talk about players that have Heisman habits. They have players that have Heisman habits. We have players that have Heisman habits. No question that C.J. Stroud and Marvin Harrison Jr. have Heisman habits. Tremendous players.”

Q: Given what’s at stake — a potential return to the Big Ten Championship, the Playoff on the line — what’s the message to the team to try to balance what’s in front of you?

HARBAUGH: “Do everything in our preparation to get ready for this game. It’s all about this game. It’s all about going 1-0 this week.”

Q: 11-0 vs. 11-0. That doesn’t happen very often. Is there any danger in making it too big for your players and being overwhelmed by the talk and everything that’s at stake?

HARBAUGH: “When both teams are 11-0, and I know our 11-0 really doesn’t mean anything now. It’s all about going 1-0.”