Michigan vs. Michigan State matchups at the Big House have often been a house of horrors for Jim Harbaugh. Coming into last Saturday’s game, Harbaugh had a 1-3 record as head coach at home against MSU. All of those losses occurred when Michigan was the favorite. However, Jim Harbaugh succeeded this past Saturday in defeating the Michigan St. Spartans 29-7 at the Big House.
Where Jim Harbaugh Previously Failed
Michigan was having a strong season in 2015, Jim Harbaugh’s first year as Michigan head coach. However, Michigan lost to Michigan St. in the infamous “Trouble with the Snap” game. That was the beginning of Michigan’s struggles vs. MSU at the big house. Moreover, in 2017 Michigan lost to State 14-10 when UM quarterback John O’Korn infamously threw three interceptions in the rain. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season Michigan was favored by more than 20 points. However, Michigan let previously unknown MSU wide receiver Ricky White catch eight passes for 196 yards and a touchdown in a 27-24 MSU victory. As you can see, Michigan State has spoiled a number of Michigan seasons.
Where Jim Harbaugh Succeeded on Saturday
Michigan came into Saturday’s matchup 7-0, with Big Ten Championship and National Championship aspirations. Conversely, MSU was having a disappointing season at 3-4 and looking to play spoiler. But Michigan took care of business and beat Michigan St. handily. It was the type of win Michigan and Jim Harbaugh needed, and they did it with the running game and defense.
At this moment, two things are true:
- Michigan has the best offensive line in the country.
- Blake Corum is a Heisman Trophy candidate at running back.
The Michigan offensive line dominated the Michigan State defense. Furthermore, Michigan rushed for 276 yards on the ground at 5.3 yards per carry. This is the type of domination that makes Michigan impossible to beat. Blake Corum individually was absolutely dominant, rushing for 177 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. Michigan’s running game also helped them control the clock, with a time of possession advantage of more than 2-to-1. Jim Harbaugh has figured out Michigan has the most dominant run game in the country, and that they can beat any team by just running the football down the opponent’s throat.
Michigan has also won this season with a dominant defense. That was no different on Saturday, when the Wolverines held the Spartans to a paltry 7 points. Holding any opponent to single digits in scoring is phenomenal, and it almost guarantees a victory. Michigan allowed just 39 yards rushing and they forced two critical turnovers on downs. Linebacker Junior Colson had 10 tackles, Mike Morris and Mazi Smith combined for a sack, and safety Rod Moore intercepted Payton Thorne. It was a complete and dominant defensive performance by Michigan.
Michigan was clearly the better team, and they proved it on Saturday. Michigan State is always going to give Michigan their best shot, and UM withstood the surge and imposed their will on MSU. The Wolverines are now one step closer to the showdown in Columbus against Ohio State, which will be for all of the marbles. However, I’m going to enjoy Jim Harbaugh finally beating Mel Tucker for at least this whole week.
Photo Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports