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ESPN analyst pegs Michigan to win The Game

Is this the year Harbaugh finally beats Ohio State?

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

“I just can’t wrap around my mind that Harbaugh is going to lose to Ryan Day. [...] You bring in a first-year head coach and a transfer quarterback that hadn’t seen a lot of time? You lose this game, Harbaugh will be on the hot seat at Michigan.”

- ESPN’s Marcus Spears on Get Up!

Urban Meyer’s absolute domination of the Michigan Wolverines has been well documented. After taking over the head coaching job in 2012, Meyer went a perfect 7-0 in college football’s biggest rivalry. On the flip side, Jim Harbaugh has gotten the short end of the stick since taking over the TTUN job in 2015, losing all four of his matchups against the Buckeyes.

Now, a new challenger has entered the ring, as Ryan Day takes the reigns as a first-year head coach at OSU. With an inexperienced signal caller, as well as a first-year starter transfer quarterback in Justin Fields, many believe this to be the year Harbaugh finally gets the better of his division rival. The latest to hop on this bandwagon is ESPN college football analyst Marcus Spears, who thinks this is the year Michigan defeats the Buckeyes.

Spears, who says Harbaugh has gotten a pass for losing to Ohio State solely because of Meyer’s presence and not because of the players, can't foresee the fifth-year head coach losing to Day in his inaugural season. Spears believes that a strengthened coaching staff, a returning senior QB in Shea Patterson and an improved offensive philosophy will be the key to Harbaugh turning things around and finally getting the better of the boys in Scarlet and Gray.

While Spears thinks it is Michigan’s time to shine, he is also putting Harbaugh’s job security on this year’s rendition of the game, stating that another loss to the Buckeyes could put the Ohio-native on the hot seat.

Ohio State has owned the rivalry for the past two decades, owning a 16-2 record since 2001 — with both losses coming in Ann Arbor. Overall, Michigan still holds a narrow lead in the series, 58-50-6.

“Last year he had more of the special teams feel, but this year he’s been getting into things. He’s more engaged. You can see the look in his eye. He’s not a freshman. He’s got to go.”

- Linebacker Pete Werner on the emergence of K’Vaughan Pope

Ohio State’s linebacker room has been a big point of contention throughout the offseason, and will likely continue to be even early into the regular season. Most of the talks have been around who will take the field with the ones come the first game of the season. Guys like Tuf Borland, Pete Werner, Malik Harrison and Baron Browning have seen their names thrown around time and time again, but there is one guy turning heads at practice that many may have never even heard of: K’Vaughan Pope.

A member of the 2018 recruiting class, Pope came to Ohio State as a four-star recruit, the No. 9 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 4 player from his home state of Virginia. At 6-foot-1, 231 pounds, Pope has spent most of his time with the Buckeyes thus far on special teams, playing in 11 games with the unit last season recording just one lone tackle. However, Pope is beginning to really make a name for himself in preseason camp, and may be close to earning himself a more prominent role on this year’s squad.

While Pope has been far from perfect in practice, the coaching staff has really liked what they have seen from the sophomore linebacker in terms of recognizing his mistakes and making quick recoveries to correct them. Pope is extremely athletic, rushing for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in his final year in high school. His athleticism as well as his clear improvement from a year ago has really stood out in camp. With the ability to lineup at either inside or outside linebacker, position coach Al Washington really likes what he sees from Pope.

Don’t be surprised to see No. 36 out there on defense sooner rather than later.

Ohio State’s photo of its new team captains has gotten some traction on social media recently, specifically with a focus on Chase Young. With shades of the famous photo of Shawn Oakman at Baylor and D.K. Metcalf’s shirtless pic before this year’s NFL Draft, Young looks like an absolute monster.

For reference, J.K. Dobbins, who had the misfortune of standing next to Young in the photo, is a very respectable 5-foot-10, 217 pounds. Young makes Dobbins look tiny, listed at 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and looking every bit of it. The Buckeye defensive end is projected by many to be an early first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft. The man affectionately nicknamed “The Predator” will look to feast on opposing offensive lineman all season long as he leads a hungry defensive unit at Ohio State looking to rectify an underwhelming 2018.

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