Jim Harbaugh spent 37 seconds on Monday saying 75 words about Rutgers’ kickoff coverage team.
He wasn’t even asked about it; in fact, he wasn’t asked about the Scarlet Knights at all. I’d like to presume Harbaugh said he wouldn’t go out for his regular availability until some dutiful intern fed him a team strength of Rutgers to talk about. And the only thing said dutiful intern could find was their second-ranked kickoff coverage in the nation.
I didn’t bother including the quote, at risk of readership boredom. I will say, Harbaugh added, “It’ll be a good challenge this week,” and he did so without even cracking a smirk.
Michigan will head to Piscataway next week to take on the doormat of the Big Ten. The betting line opened with the Wolverines favored by 39.5; you’d still have to be delusional or a degenerate to take those points.
The week after, Michigan will play Indiana (1-5 Big Ten, 4-5 overall) at home. The Wolverines will be heavily favored in that contest, too.
The truth is, we’re all just biding our time until the ball kicks in Columbus at noon on Nov. 24. Nineteen days until we find out if this season brings a fairy-tale ending or if it’s another example of the same false hope that has plagued this program for more than a decade. Nineteen days until the biggest game since the loss to Ohio State in 2016. Nineteen days.
Until then, Harbaugh and his players will have to pretend not to be thinking about what that Saturday after Thanksgiving could mean. They won’t say a word about it right now, nor should they.
“We’re going into each week the same way we’ve been going into each week,” said junior linebacker Devin Bush. “Just keep the same intensity, the same focus, you don’t ever change nothing.”
Since Bush turned three years old, Michigan has beaten the Buckeyes twice, neither of which has been while he was playing. In that same span, Ohio State has won eight conference titles. The Wolverines have two.
Still, he’s right to say that. This team has embodied that week-to-week mentality better than most, and there’s no reason to stop now. An unforseen slip-up over the next two weeks brings it all crashing down.
But you’re telling me this team — the one dripping in “swag and confidence,” as Devin Bush calls it, and oozing with edge — isn’t counting down the minutes until noon on Nov. 24? You’re telling me Chase Winovich, parading around his “Revenge Tour” mantra like a candidate running for public office, isn’t just biding his time for that moment?
Sure seemed like it after Saturday’s game.
“A couple weeks ago, when we first beat Wisconsin, I think the Revenge Tour, we kind of had a bandwagon there,” Winovich said after dominating Penn State. “I think we’re rolling through these last couple games and eventually into Columbus like a battleship.”
What, no love for the hostile confines of Piscataway?
Michigan’s goals the next two weeks should be as follows: keep everyone healthy, make sure nobody gets hurt, prevent injuries. It should show no wrinkles beyond its base offense. It should keep junior quarterback Shea Patterson in metaphorical bubble wrap. It should use these weeks as two de facto tune-ups.
Because right now, this is a team firing on all cylinders — on a level no Harbaugh team has during these last four years. Michigan leads the NCAA in yards per game allowed (216.2) by nearly 50 yards. It just beat three ranked opponents consecutively by a combined score of 101-27. It has everyone aside from redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffery back to full health. This is absolutely the “team to beat in the Big Ten,” as Chase Winovich declared Saturday. The College Football Playoff has gone from unthinkable to possible to borderline likely at this point in the span of four weeks.
And the Wolverines have this searing edge that makes all of that seem possible, if not inevitable.
“When we dominate our opponent,” Bush said, “we’re going to do whatever we want because we’re feelin’ ourselves and we want y’all to know that.”
This has the makings of a team that not only could go to Ohio State and win, but make a statement doing so. But alas, we wait. Nineteen days.
In the meantime, I look forward to monitoring Rutgers’ kickoff coverage.