The head coach of the University of Michigan football team has two jobs: beat Michigan State and Ohio State. And after a surprisingly successful season last fall, head coach Jim Harbaugh has finally done his two jobs.
He’s just never done them in the same season. Last year, Harbaugh finally caught the white whale and trounced the Ohio State Buckeyes on his home turf. The win secured a place in the Big Ten Championship Game and all but assured the team a place in the College Football Playoff final four. Very few can criticize their performance in 2021.
But the Michigan State Spartans can. That’s right, the Wolverines may have bested the Buckeyes in November, but they choked away a game at Spartan Stadium a month earlier. Though Michigan was ahead by 30-14 with about 4 mins remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Spartans ultimately prevailed 37-33.
The Spartans haven’t forgotten that, and neither has Harbaugh.
Harbaugh, who flirted with the idea of pairing up with former Spartan QB Kirk Cousins and the rest of the Minnesota Vikings during the offseason, made the Spartan and Buckeye games a priority during interviews with new defensive coordinator prospects.
Per The Athletic via The Michigan Insider, Harbaugh insisted that all candidates have “some early game-plan thoughts, specifically for Michigan State on first and second downs and Ohio State on third downs.”
Not a bad idea since Michigan State star RB Kenneth Walker III scored four of his five touchdowns against Michigan on first down last October.
— Saturday Gameday (@SaturdayGameday) February 11, 2022
Back then, the Michigan defense, which had a solid year except for the Michigan State and Georgia games, was still under the care of former DC Mike Macdonald, who has since returned to coach under Harbaugh’s brother John Harbaugh with the Baltimore Ravens.
Now, the new Michigan DC Jesse Minter hopes to continue the rivalry-oriented mindset that Macdonald left behind.
“It’s beat Ohio — I think we talk about it every day,” Minter said this spring. “We do drills that are dedicated toward trying to win that game, and I’m excited just to be a part of it. … The rivalry is a huge piece of college football and you don’t back down from it. So there’s a couple on the schedule that we’ve got to make sure we handle our business.”
“There’s a couple (games) on the schedule” that the Wolverines have to be sure to “handle,” Minter says. He’s exactly right. Those are literally his and Harbaugh’s two jobs.