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Why is this news?: Jim Harbaugh won’t guarantee a victory over Ohio State this week

Plus, Michigan is ending its controversial Legends program, and men’s soccer advances in the NCAA Tournament.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

"Quarterbacks are a special breed. They need to be cocky, and the cockiest I ever had was probably Jim Harbaugh."

-Former Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler in his autobiography, Bo, via Mark Schlabach, ESPN

Nearly 30 years ago, during Michigan week in 1986, then-Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh promised his team that they would defeat Ohio State to win the Big Ten title and go on to the Rose Bowl. Then, five days later, they did.

Now, a similar turn of events would be unlikely. With Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State Saturday, neither Ohio State nor Michigan are in control of their destiny to win the Big Ten East. However, if Michigan State were to lose to Penn State Saturday, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan matchup would be the champion of the Big Ten East.

Given that two-loss Michigan would not have a prayer of making it into the College Football Playoff, even if they did beat Ohio State and follow-up with a Big Ten Championship win over Iowa, the Rose Bowl could be a likely scenario for them--again assuming Michigan State was left out. But all of those cases are big "ifs," and it is unlikely that history would repeat itself in that regard.

Still, three decades ago, Harbaugh recognized the gravity of what winning over Ohio State would mean. Now, the season is not over for Michigan, and a win over Ohio State would be more than just a moral victory for the team, which has surprised most of the college football community with just how well it has played in Harbaugh’s first-year at the helm. A two-loss Michigan, if it defeated even a down Ohio State squad, would be a formidable power heading into bowl season.

Ohio State fans and players still remember Harbaugh’s words from 1986, remembering his cockiness and how, in many ways, he resembles famed coach Bo Schembechler on the sidelines. But perhaps Harbaugh has learned. Saturday, following Michigan’s win over Penn State, Harbaugh did not make a similar guarantee of victory over the Buckeyes.

"At one end of the spectrum, they are awed by the legacy of the men who wore them, and at the other end of the spectrum, as part of a team sport, they wondered why we would call attention to one of our team members."

-Interim Michigan athletic director Jim Hackett, via Brendan F. Quinn, M Live

After a short-lived stint in which five legendary Michigan numbers were re-worn by current Michigan players, those five numbers will be re-retired Saturday during the Ohio State game, alongside former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard’s No. 21-jersey.

Former Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon began the practice, known as the Legends Program, in 2011, when he distinguished Howard’s No. 21 jersey as a"Michigan Football Legend" as Howard was being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Though the jersey was not formally retired, the "Legend" distinction was seen as an equivalent honor.

However, over the next four years, the team began to bring Michigan’s only five retired numbers back into circulation on the current team, with then-head coach Brady Hoke selecting the players to be honored.

The program was critiqued by many from the start, who questioned both the concept of bringing the numbers back and the process by which they were given to current players. At one point, the family of Tom Harmon, who wore the once-retired No. 98 jersey, delayed the process of awarding the jersey to Devin Gardner for an entire season.

Those presented with one of the honored numbers received a special-colored locker in Michigan’s stadium, as well as a patch on the jersey itself commemorating the honor.

Coming into the season, fifth-year linebacker Desmond Morgan was the only player wearing a Legends jersey, with Gerald Ford’s No. 48. Morgan has worn the No. 3 jersey this season.

The full list of numbers being retired Saturday includes:

  • No. 48: Gerald Ford
  • No. 98: Tom Harmon
  • No. 87: Ron Kramer
  • No. 47: Bennie Oosterbaan
  • No. 11: Albert, Alvin and Whitey Wistert
  • No. 21: Desmond Howard

Interim athletic director Jim Hackett explained the change over the summer when he announced the end of the program, stating that he had spoken with the current team, families of former players and current head coach Jim Harbaugh about the program.

The six retired numbers, including Howard’s, will be displayed in the Towsley Museum inside of Schembechler Hall, as there is no place in the stadium itself to showcase them.

"Sweet 16 sounds a lot better than round three. I just hope we could keep this going whether its a trip to California or playing at the Jesse."

-Ohio State forward Danny Jensen, via The Ohio State University

The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s soccer team will continue its excellent season after defeating Dayton in Columbus in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Following a 1-1, double overtime draw, the Buckeyes won 4-3 in penalty kicks. After going down 0-1 early in the second half, junior forward Danny Jensen scored in the 72nd minute to tie the game back up. The score remained through two overtime periods, leading to the need for penalty kicks. Senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer had two saves during the five rounds of penalty kicks, and a total of seven saves on the night.

Head coach John Bluem said that the team had practiced penalty kicks heavily leading into the tournament. The situation was a familiar one, given that the Buckeyes had advanced to the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament following a 15-round series of penalty kicks against Akron.

Dayton won in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Oakland, also on penalty kicks, with a final score of 4-3. Ohio State had earned a first-round bye leading into the 48-team tournament.

Following a loss in the Big Ten Tournament finals to Maryland, Ohio State entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 11 nationally, and was the No. 9 seed in the tournament. The team is scheduled to play eighth-seeded Stanford in Palo Alto Sunday. Stanford, who is also ranked No. 8 nationally, is coming off a 3-1 win over Santa Clara yesterday. Fellow Big Ten schools Indiana and Maryland have also advanced to the third-round of the tournament, which will be played this weekend. The Buckeyes are now 13-6-3 overall, having finished the regular season with a 5-2-1 conference record.