ANN ARBOR, Mich. — As the noise surrounding Saturday’s showdown between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan has reached deafening levels, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did his best to keep the focus on The Game and not on the outside drama.
“It’s all about our preparation for Ohio,” Harbaugh said Monday. “The days, the minutes, the hours, everything leading up to this game — that’s where our focus is, preparing ourselves and planning to practice and then execute. Anything else is irrelevant when you get into this kind of big game week.”
Harbaugh won’t be on the sidelines Saturday at Michigan Stadium as he serves the last of a three-game suspension imposed by the Big Ten as punishment for Michigan’s scouting and sign-stealing scandal. He compared the noise surrounding the program to a “high-pitched siren” but said Michigan’s players have learned to deal with it.
“After a while, you start to tolerate it, and before you know it, you just block it out,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh declined to comment on last week’s developments, including Michigan’s decision to drop its legal challenge against the Big Ten and the firing of linebackers coach Chris Partridge, who was dismissed Friday and replaced by analyst Rick Minter. Asked if he was confident that no further staff changes were coming, Harbaugh said: “We are in position to be in position. That’s what we know. (We’re) 11-0. They’re 11-0. Everything, all focus and preparation, is on this game, as it should be.”
Harbaugh said he watched Saturday’s 31-24 victory at Maryland with his brother, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh. If Michigan beats Ohio State this week, Harbaugh would be eligible to coach the Wolverines in the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa.
“It’s definitely been tough going into The Game without him,” running back Blake Corum said. “It’s kind of adding fuel to the fire. Not that we weren’t going to play hard at all, but we might play a little harder for him and make sure at the end of the game we give a game ball to him.”
What else Harbaugh said
“It’s like the Ted Lasso show. What comes out of that is, ‘Believe.’ I’m so proud of our team. Despite that noise, our locker room is in one piece. Like Ted, for me, locker rooms are a lot like my mom’s bathing suits. I like to see them in one piece. We’ve got that, and it’s amazing.”
Michigan came away from the Maryland game with a few injury concerns, but acting head coach Sherrone Moore said wide receiver Roman Wilson and offensive tackles LaDarius Henderson and Myles Hinton “should be good to go” against Ohio State.
Wilson left the game after taking a big hit in the first half. Hinton started at left tackle in place of Henderson, who was ruled out before kickoff, but went down with an injury of his own.
“We’ll see further and we’ll check with doctors as we go as far as all three of them,” Moore said.
The health of quarterback J.J. McCarthy also was a topic of discussion after he played through an apparent leg injury against Penn State and Maryland and had two of his least-productive passing performances of the season.
McCarthy said Saturday’s game was “a little bit rough” from a health standpoint but said he’s feeling better this week.
“I’m doing fantastic right now,” he said. “Treatment’s been great. We’ll be ready to go.”
(Photo: Rick Osentoski / USA Today)