DETROIT – The takeaway from Michigan-Ohio State game is plain as day.
No, it’s not how bad the officiating was on Saturday. At least, that’s what most Michigan fans believe.
No, it’s not about how bad Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight played. He had three turnovers. All were very costly.
No, it’s not that Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett is a monster with the read option. He had 125 yards on the ground, including a long 41-yard run.
In reality, it’s that Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh was once again on the short end of a big game.
For all the talk, accolades and pomp and circumstances about Harbaugh, Michigan has nothing to show for it so far.
Harbaugh, the school’s former star QB, was supposed to be the savior. He’s being paid like a king despite an empty national championship trophy case. Did we mention that he’s the highest-paid college football coach in the country.
Pipe down, Nick Saban. Those five national championships, split between two schools – no less, apparently don’t matter to those writing the biggest checks in college football.
At some point, Harbaugh has to start winning the big games. Getting there is nice.
Think about it. You want to be at the doorstep of the Playboy mansion or do you actually want to go in?
Harbaugh gets so much play, so much respect. You would have almost thought he invented football.
But let’s face it. There were two big games in his first two years at Michigan. And in both cases, Harbaugh’s squad took the “L.”
Ironically, both were similar. Last season against rival Michigan State, Michigan dominated the entire game, only to lose on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown as time expired.
Some thought Harbaugh coached too conservatively. Instead of crushing MSU when he had the chance, Harbaugh played not to lose.
The same can be said about Saturday’s 30-27 double-overtime loss to OSU. Michigan dominated the ballgame. Instead of finishing the job, Harbaugh let the Buckeyes live.
Ohio State turned the tables and dominated in the fourth quarter and won it in overtime, the first overtime game in the 113-game history of the rivalry.
After the game, Harbaugh was a whiny baby. All he wanted to talk about were the officials. It’s an old, tired act, especially since his team had a 10-point lead in the third quarter and couldn’t seal the deal.
“I’m bitterly disappointed in the officiating,” Harbaugh said to the media after the game. “Can’t make that any more clear.”
It’s lame, too easy.
It’s never an easy task to go on the road and win a big game. But that’s what the great coaches do.
They, somehow, overcome the refs and the crowd and get their players focused to execute the plays right and ultimately win.
Does this mean that Harbaugh will never win? Of course not. Still, it’s hard to look at the trail of missed opportunities by teams coached by Harbaugh over the years in both college and the pros.
At Stanford, with QB Andrew Luck, Harbaugh was 19-6 with one bowl win and came within a game of a shared conference title. In 2010, his undefeated team collapsed to Oregon, basically giving them the PAC 12 title.
In San Francisco, Harbaugh got the 49ers to three straight NFC championship games, including a trip to the Super Bowl.
But Harbaugh’s team lost at the end to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a great chance to hold that big trophy over his head.
There’s no question that Harbaugh can coach. He’s had success everywhere he’s gone. Still, sports has a short menu: wins and losses.
And it’s in the biggest games that the best and brightest are judged.
Harbaugh is now 0-2 against OSU’s Urban Meyer. The Wolverines still haven’t won the Big Ten since 2004, an incredible drought given this school’s storied history in the conference.
Instead of a shot at a national championship, Michigan will have to settle for a Rose Bowl.
In years gone by, maybe, fans would be happy with that result and the season as a whole.
But Harbaugh came back to Ann Arbor to change all that, make Michigan winners again.
In reality, Harbaugh is who we thought he was – the coach that’s always close and never able to win the cigar