Urban Meyer has had a three-year head start on Jim Harbaugh and it showed on Saturday.
But Harbaugh has still had three years to put something together that would have been better than what we saw in Ohio State’s 31-20 win on Saturday.
A win that ended with a 31-6 OSU run after a 14-0 start by the Wolverines.
Sure, you can blame the loss on Michigan quarterback John O’Korn, but his performance wasn’t all that different than the UM quarterbacks in the previous two losses.
Michigan’s passer rating on Saturday was 108.38. Their rating in 2016 was 122.21 with twice as many interceptions, including a pick six (and a fumble at OSU’s 1-yard line), and in 2015 it was 110.82.
This wasn’t a John O’Korn loss, this was a Michigan loss.
It was the Wolverine defense that allowed 147 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter.
It was the Wolverine defense that gave up a 66-yard touchdown drive on three rushes after O’Korn’s terrible interception in the fourth quarter. At the time of the interception, the Buckeyes were only leading 24-20. The game was still in doubt. Most of all, the game was still in the hands of the Michigan defense.
At least until the Ohio State offensive line and running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber took it from them.
The Buckeyes won this game as a team and the Wolverines lost it as a team.
Let’s not forget that it was Ohio State who was losing when starting quarterback J.T. Barrett went down.
Michigan was leading 20-14 at that point, and as Barrett limped off the sideline and into the tunnel leading to the locker room, Ohio State’s chances in this game could have limped off with him as well.
But they didn’t.
In came Ohio State’s backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins — a redshirt freshman who may have been OSU’s third-string quarterback this season had redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow not broken his hand in fall camp.
What did Haskins do?
On his first drive, he led the Buckeyes 69 yards for a touchdown to take the lead. He completed both of his passes for 31 of those yards, and ran twice for 24 more. He never looked out of place, even under pressure.
And that was only his first of two touchdown drives in this game. He led the Buckeyes to 17 points on three of his four drives, and the fourth ended in a missed field goal.
Haskins finished 6-of-7 passing for 94 yards and rushed three times for 24 yards. It was the best performance of his career, in an environment that is not conducive to such things.
Michigan had the momentum, but Haskins took it, kept it, and now it resides in Columbus for yet another year.
This was not a John O’Korn loss. This was a program loss for Michigan.
This is three years of Jim Harbaugh, for better or worse.
The quarterback situation continues to hold this program back, and that was supposed to be Harbaugh’s golden touch.
Look at Ohio State as a comparison.
Cardale Jones enrolled about six weeks after Urban Meyer got the Ohio State job. Four-and-a-half months after Meyer was hired, he landed a commitment from J.T. Barrett. Together, Jones and Barrett were able to help the Buckeyes overcome the loss of Braxton Miller in 2014. And on Saturday, a redshirt freshman with just five games of middling Big Ten experience went up and down the field on Michigan’s defense because they didn’t have the depth to really do anything about it.
And that’s on Jim Harbaugh too.
The last two weeks, the Michigan defense fought and fought and kept the Wolverines in games against better opponents, but they eventually crumbled after three quarters of getting pounded.
They were simply exhausted.
Or at least Michigan fans better hope it was due to exhaustion, because if it was due to anything else — such as frustration with the lack of offense, then they’ve got an entirely different kind of problem.
I can see why some will want to pin this loss on John O’Korn, but he gave the kind of performance that everyone expected. Actually, it was probably better than most Michigan fans expected.
Jim Harbaugh had no other options this week. O’Korn was his healthiest quarterback and best chance at winning, which is why this wasn’t a John O’Korn loss, it was a Jim Harbaugh loss.
Ohio State had three better options than O’Korn ready to go when Barrett went down on Saturday. And they always have.
But maybe we should stop expecting Urban Meyer things from Jim Harbaugh.
And maybe we should stop expecting Ohio State things from Michigan.
These two programs are separated by much more than just a border, and on Saturday that separation proved to be the difference in Ohio State’s sixth-consecutive win over that team up north.