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Michigan’s loss to Ohio State was humiliating, but Jim Harbaugh isn’t a failure

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I don’t know if this goes for most sports fans, but I never feel sillier as a human being than when one of my teams takes a really bad loss. (A visit from my little nieces provided a quick and very welcome change-up that prevented me from spending the rest of the afternoon in a dour stupor.) Man, was I evaluating my choices in life after Ohio State annihilated Michigan on Saturday, 62-39.

Though I believed this was the year when the Wolverines would finally break the chokehold the Buckeyes held them in during the past 14 years, feeling that Michigan was the better team and Ohio State was reeling, I was prepared for the possibility of losing. The game was in Columbus. Urban Meyer always has his team ready to play Michigan.

Yes, I would’ve been upset, given what was at stake for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. This was the year that Harbaugh lived up to his hype, showing the nation why it was such a big deal for him to return to Ann Arbor. If Michigan couldn’t beat Ohio State this year, when was it going to happen? Yet I told myself I could’ve lived with a close loss — after getting over the disappointment.

But to lose by 23 points (with the Buckeyes once holding a 30-point lead)? To be outmatched in every aspect of the game?

Where was the offense that dominated with the power running game and quarterback Shea Patterson making big throws and surprising runs? How could a dominant defense not put any pressure on Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins? What happened to Chase Winovich, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush? Why does this coaching staff never seem to make adjustments on either side of the ball? It often feels like Harbaugh and his staff decide on a game plan — run the ball up the middle, play man-to-man defense — and stick to it, no matter how the game is developing.

Considering that Michigan was poised to qualify for the College Football Playoff and contend for a national championship (OK, they would’ve lost to Alabama), it could certainly be argued that this was the most disappointing defeat the program has ever suffered. Yes, the 2007 loss to Appalachian State was worse because Michigan wasn’t expected to lose and never should’ve lost such a game. But 11 years later, I think the gap has closed between the elite and lower-tier college football programs.

Saturday’s disaster was certainly the worst loss of the Jim Harbaugh era. Any delusions Michigan fans held about finally reaching Ohio State’s level among the top teams in the country were demolished. If it wasn’t already clear that Meyer is a better coach than Harbaugh, this game proved so emphatically. Meyer gets Ohio State prepared for this game and puts them in a position to win. Harbaugh coaches conservatively, as if he’s afraid of losing, and that makes his players tight.

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