Michigan still a work in progress


ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Not yet. It’s not over yet.

Some people thought Ohio State’s dominance of Michigan in the football series between the Big Ten’s two biggest rivals was in jeopardy this season with the Buckeyes coming off a devastating 17-14 loss to Michigan State last Saturday.

That was hardly the only reason being suggested. There were several more being thrown around.

Michigan (9-3, 6-2) had exceeded expectations in Jim Harbaugh’s first season as its coach.

Harbaugh has turned teams around everywhere he has gone. The game was at Michigan. The Wolverines’ defense was leading the Big Ten in several categories. Nothing lasts forever.

And the Buckeyes’ mental state after the Michigan State loss was, of course, the biggest question of all.

It turned out none of that mattered. Just like it has been almost every year since 2001, Ohio State was the better team and played better than Michigan again.

Ohio State has won 11 of the last 12 times it has played Michigan, with the only interruption coming in the tumultuous 2011 season when Brady Hoke’s best team squeaked out a 40-34 win over a struggling OSU team that finished 6-7.

Michigan’s only other win over the Buckeyes since 2001 was in 2003 when it beat defending national champions 35-21, which, like the 2011 win, came in Michigan Stadium.

Some day soon, when Harbaugh gets his own recruits and his own system in place, he can get Michigan into the neighborhood where Ohio State now resides.

He worked minor wonders this season with a team that lacks depth, had a 5-7 record last year in Hoke’s final season as coach, and has a quarterback, Jake Rudock, who did a graduate transfer after he was told he wasn’t good enough to start at Iowa.

The Wolverines accomplished this turnaround with a running game that was very thin. So thin that Harbaugh’s most impressive runner against Ohio State was one of his defensive stars, Jabrill Peppers.

Michigan came into the game in the same position as Ohio State in terms of the standings in the Big Ten’s East Division. If it won and Michigan State lost, it would have played in

the Big Ten championship game against Iowa, which would have provided an interesting match-up between Rudock and his replacement at Iowa, C.J. Beathard.

Harbaugh said he wouldn’t make any excuses for his team on Saturday, but was “proud of the way they’ve worked and the way they’ve progressed.”

“We’ve closed a lot of ground. There’s more ground to make up. But, knowing our team, we will keep working hard,” he said in his postgame press conference.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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