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Column: One win over Ohio State has Michigan feeling like they’re invincible

Since the teams met in Ann Arbor in November, Ohio State has certainly gotten a lot of bulletin board material for this year’s game.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

Nobody is ever going to confuse Taylor Lewan with a rocket scientist, or really with anything resembling intelligent life. Lewan must really love the taste of Tinactin since he is constantly sticking his foot in his mouth. Just chalk this tweet up as the latest in a long list of idiotic things that Lewan has said or done since he arrived in Ann Arbor in 2009.

It’s easy to understand why Michigan players and fans don’t know how to act after beating Ohio State. The Wolverines have won just four games against the Buckeyes since 2000. Prior to last year’s game in Ann Arbor, Ohio State had won eight-straight contests against Michigan. Had it not been for COVID-19 in 2020, that number likely would have been nine straight wins. So when the expression, “act like you’ve been there before,” is said, Michigan rarely makes it into the win column against Ohio State, so the Wolverines don’t have much to go off of when it comes to celebrate.

Some of the chirping and celebrating by Michigan fans was completely justified. The Wolverines took care of business in late November, running the football down Ohio State’s throat on the way to a 42-27 victory, earning Michigan their first trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game. After easily beating Iowa to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time, the Wolverines were humbled by Georgia.

Now the Michigan faithful seem to be under the impression that Ohio State is going tumble to the bottom of the Big Ten, while the Wolverines dominate the conference for decades to come. Desmond Howard was feeling so high and mighty a few weeks after Michigan won that he decided that on stage during the Heisman Trophy ceremony was a good time to crack a joke about Ohio State’s offensive line with quarterback C.J. Stroud standing just feet away from him.

The problem with what Howard said in New York in December wasn’t so much with the joke, what made it so polarizing was the moment it happened. Even through Stroud said he was fine with the joke, he was one of just four players to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony and sacked just 13 times the whole season. If you want to take shots at Ohio State, do it on your own time. Then again, it’s not like we aren’t used to acting like a clown.

Syndication: DetroitFreePress Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press

You want to know what was actually funny? Michigan’s “Revenge Tour” that Chase Winovich coined back in 2018. While the Wolverines were able to settle the score against Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State, the powers of Winovich and the Wolverines were useless against Ohio State. All the Buckeyes did in Columbus four years ago was drop 62 points on Michigan. Just to prove that scoring output wasn’t a fluke, Ohio State went up to Ann Arbor in 2019 and scored 56 points. No wonder Michigan needed to take a year off from playing the Buckeyes after losing by a combined 52 points in 2018 and 2019.

You would think that some of these Michigan cats would have learned from Mike Hart. The current running backs coach for the Wolverines is the program’s all-time leading rusher, can finally claim victory over Ohio State after the win in November, but all anybody remembers of Hart’s career is that he was 0-4 against the Buckeyes as a player. After Ohio State beat Michigan in 2006, Hart was campaigning for a rematch in the BCS National Championship Game and said he guaranteed that if the teams played again in January, the result would be different.

NCAA Football 2004 - Michigan vs. Ohio State Photo by Howie McCormick/Icon SMI/Icon Sport Media via Getty Images

Hart didn’t get the rematch that he wanted in the title game, but he did get one more crack at Ohio State in 2007. Hart’s career against Ohio State ended like a wet fart, as the Wolverines lost 14-3 in Ann Arbor. In the four games against the Buckeyes, Hart averaged just 3.85 yards per carry, scoring four touchdowns on 67 touches. The majority of Hart’s success against Ohio State came in that classic matchup in 2006 when he rushed for 142 yards and reached the end zone three times.

While I’m not saying that it’s wrong for you to be excited when your team beats a hated rival, it just might be wise for some of the former Wolverines and their fans to be careful on what they are saying. Since the loss to Michigan, Ohio State had a dramatic win against Utah in the Rose Bowl, with Stroud and wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba setting single-game school yardage records. The future at quarterback is bright after Stroud leaves Columbus, as the Buckeyes are stockpiling five-star quarterbacks.

On the other side of the football, head coach Ryan Day responded to the unacceptable defensive effort against the Wolverines by bringing in Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, who has coached one of the country’s best defenses over the past few years. Ohio State has talent on defense, they just needed leadership to fully maximize those pieces. With Knowles in the fold, expect to see more discipline from the Buckeyes this year.

Let’s not forget that it all hasn’t been smooth sailing in Ann Arbor since the end of last season. Many thought Jim Harbaugh was leaving to go back to the NFL when he interviewed with the Minnesota Vikings on National Signing Day. Can you imagine what would have happened to an Ohio State head coach if they took an interview for another job on NSD? Even though Harbaugh ended up staying with the Wolverines, offensive coordinator Josh Gattis made a lateral move and was hired by the Miami Hurricanes.

It feels like Michigan has peaked in terms of their success on the football field for the next few years at least, so why poke the Buckeyes even more? The rivalry is still heated, but the Wolverines shouldn’t start thinking the programs are on equal footing right now. If by some miracle Michigan comes down to Columbus and wins in November, then we can talk. Just enjoy the win since it might be a while before you get another.