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Jim Harbaugh has more than just The Game on the line this weekend

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AKA his reputation.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Rutgers Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

“Michigan’s lost 13 of 14 in this series, which has come to resemble a ‘rivalry’ between a grizzly bear and a salmon.”

-Alex Kirshner, SB Nation

Jim Harbaugh has a lot on the line this week. In fact, the pressure might be even greater since it would appear that this might be Michigan’s best shot to beat Ohio State in a very long time. It also presents an opportunity for Harbaugh, in his fourth season at Michigan, to change the narrative on his reputation as a coach.

Before this season, Harbaugh was widely critiqued--and rightly so--for his record in big games, rivalry games, road games and conference championships. The fact is that Ohio State has had a lot to do with that. Harbaugh is 0-3 versus the Buckeyes, and look to in-state foe Michigan State (whom Harbaugh was 1-2 against prior to this season) for additional data points when it comes to rivalry matchups. However, the rivalry-related labels might not tell the whole story for Harbaugh, who was .500 against both Notre Dame and Cal while at Stanford, and won 3-of-4 against USC. And now, with a win over the Spartans this season, Harbaugh is 2-2 against one of Michigan’s chief rivals. That win also broke a streak dating back to 2006, which featured 17-straight losses versus ranked teams on the road. That streak continued through this season, with Michigan’s season-opening loss to Notre Dame. It also didn’t help that Harbaugh had Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez as his predecessors, who made the rivalry and road matchups that much more lopsided.

It’s also easy to point out that, under Harbaugh, Michigan hasn’t finished higher than third in the Big Ten East (to clarify, that’s seven teams). He also never won the Pac-10 in a time that it was still just 10 teams with no conference championship game. In fact, with the exception of making a Super Bowl with San Francisco, Harbaugh has minimal postseason experience or success, and has gone just 2-3 in collegiate bowl games.

“You can give up on the style. But you can’t give up on the idea that, whether they ‘deserve’ it or not, the Buckeyes might survive.”

-Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

There is little doubt that, if nothing else, Ohio State’s play since basically September has been questionable at best. While the offense has at times hummed, at others it has struggled to establish the run or connect on passes. And frankly, the defense hasn’t been elite all season, and took a further knock with Nick Bosa’s injury. Realistically, they don’t look remotely like a playoff team. Many of their wins--especially their overtime victory over Maryland Saturday--show some grit, but lack the luster that one might expect from a team dominant enough to make the College Football Playoff. With three clear “in” teams (Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame) who simply have to win out a doable schedule, Ohio State looks even further behind.

But that’s the thing--three teams do not a playoff make, and that’s where the Buckeyes do control their own destiny. With Michigan currently slated in the fourth spot, a loss would almost certainly eliminate the Wolverines from contention. Georgia and LSU would likely not have a shot at the playoff with Alabama taking the SEC, West Virginia all-but knocked themselves out this weekend and chaos is still possible in both the Pac-12 and Big 12 where Washington State and Oklahoma currently hold the highest rankings. Both have big games upcoming and conference championships to contend with. With some key losses (or maybe even without--who knows?), Ohio State would be in prime position for a playoff spot with wins over Michigan this weekend and Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship game next weekend. Even if they lack the signature win or style points the likes of Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame have shown so far this season. Of course, UCF could come in and take the final spot regardless.

There’s a long way to go until the Buckeyes have to worry about that, though. First things first: Beat Michigan.

Ohio State wrestling didn’t need its full lineup in order to earn a decisive win over Arizona State Sunday. The second-ranked Buckeyes overcame the 10th-ranked Sun Devils on the road by a score of 22-17, winning six-of-10 bouts. With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 3-0 in dual matches on the young season. This match marked Ohio State’s sixth-straight win over Arizona State.

Individual wins for the Buckeyes came from:

  • Luke Pletcher (133 lbs)
  • Joey McKenna (141 lbs)
  • Micah Jordan (149 lbs)
  • Ke-Shawn Hayes (157 lbs)
  • Kevin Snyder (197 lbs)
  • Chase Singletary (285 lbs).

The dual match in Arizona was a quick turnaround for Ohio State, who recorded a dominant, 42-0 win over California Baptist University Friday in Riverside, California. The Buckeyes won all 10 bouts against Cal Baptist, earning bonus points in six.

Myles Martin and Kollin Moore were both absent from the team as they competed for Team USA in the U23 World Championships in Romania over the weekend. Moore, competing at the 97 kg weight cass, earned a silver medal for his efforts. Martin, at 86 kg, was knocked out in the quarterfinals.

Next up, the Buckeyes are scheduled to head to the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational at the end of the month. Ohio State won the tournament last season with 155.5 total points. After the invitational, the Buckeyes open up conference play with a dual meet against Wisconsin at St. John Arena.

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