One Time, Blue
We've already forgotten the... Maryland game? I think it was Maryland. Anyway, Beat Ohio.
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Discount percentage chosen at random, of course.
8:50 remaining, third quarter.
When Hassan Haskins plunged into the end zone to put Michigan up 31-3 at Maryland, any remaining holdouts dropped the pretense of not looking ahead to Ohio State. The “Beat Ohio” chant from the visiting fans, who now appeared to outnumber the home partisans, became audible on the broadcast.
Conflicting emotions emerged: a sense of relief that Michigan hadn’t fucked it up and The Game would be for the Big Ten East title combined with dread that Michigan hadn’t fucked it up and The Game would be for the Big Ten East title.
Let us pause to remember Mike Sainristil’s touchdown catch before it’s lost in the excitement of 10-1 Michigan vs. 10-1 Ohio State.
It’s fair to look at ESPN’s FPI projection for this weekend with a jaundiced eye. Even as an optimist about this year’s Wolverines, a near-40% chance at toppling this edition of the Buckeyes feels high. I think most Michigan fans would happily take one-in-four odds.
That’s how Vegas sees it: Ohio State’s -320 moneyline implies a 76% chance at victory. They’re favored by eight points; I’d wager OSU fans will bet their side of that line more confidently than Michigan fans will theirs.
By any reasonable measure, this season has been a resounding success for Jim Harbaugh, who shook up his staff after getting his contract restructured so Michigan could easily move on and took a team most predicted would finish in the 7-5/8-4 range to, at worst, a 10-2 record.
But, well, the elephant is standing right over there:
While U-M is fourth in SP+, the Buckeyes are basically tied for first, more than eight points better than the Wolverines. By almost any standard, Harbaugh has done quite well in Ann Arbor, and he has engineered a wonderful rebound. But unless Michigan upsets the Buckeyes on Saturday, the narrative will remain about what he hasn't done as much as what he has.
The math and the recent history don’t favor Michigan. An increasing number of us cannot remember a reason for hope beyond a 2011 win that stands as an outlier for numerous reasons.