The 2020 season just didn’t feel the same for many football fans in the state of Ohio and from that state up north.
That will change in 2021. At least on paper it will.
Barring any unforeseen issues, the Ohio State football team will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., on Nov. 27 to play the Michigan Wolverines to end the regular season like it has for most of the program’s history.
Annually one of the biggest games on the college football schedule, not just for Ohio State or Michigan, “The Game” wasn’t played in 2020 due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Michigan football program.
Michigan was supposed to travel to Columbus but never made it. And it sent the Buckeyes and the Big Ten conference into a tailspin as the canceled game left the Buckeyes short of a then-required game to qualify for the Big Ten Championship Game.
Cooler heads prevailed and the undefeated Buckeyes went to the game and beat Northwestern 22-10 before advancing to the College Football Playoff.
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It was a frustrating year for coach Jim Harbaugh and Michigan, one that left the coach taking a pay cut. The Wolverines finished 2-4 with their last three games canceled due to COVID-19.
Michigan leads the all-time series 58-51 but Ohio State has won eight straight games, its longest such streak in the series. A win this season would have Ohio State matching Michigan’s nine-game winning streak over the Buckeyes, the longest streak of the series.
Here’s what you need to know about the Michigan Wolverines.
What Michigan football did in 2020
If it could go wrong, it went wrong for Michigan in 2020.
The Wolverines actually began the season ranked No. 18 when Big Ten play began in Week 8. They dropped three spots after beating then-No. 21 Minnesota.
It was all downhill from there.
Michigan lost its next three games, including a 27-24 loss to rival Michigan State. The Wolverines were blasted by Wisconsin, 49-11, in Ann Arbor and nearly lost to Rutgers on the road in triple-overtime before winning 48-42.
A 27-17 loss to Penn State would be the final game of the season on Nov. 28.
In just six games, Michigan’s 2020 team was the worst defense in school history, allowing 434.3 yards per game and 34.5 points per game.
What the Michigan Wolverines are expected to do in 2021
The Wolverines will likely start the season outside the AP top 25.
Michigan finds itself in a transition. Harbaugh enters the season as perhaps the coach with the hottest seat in college football. Many assumed his job was in jeopardy last season, but instead of replacing Harbaugh, the program opted for numerous staffing changes.
Former Baltimore Ravens coach Matt Weiss, who worked for Harbaugh’s brother John, is the new quarterback coach. He’ll work with returning coordinator Josh Gattis. Defensively, Don Brown is out and Mike MacDonald, another former Ravens coach, takes his place as defensive coordinator.
There will be a new starting quarterback for Michigan. The program landed Texas Tech transfer Alan Bowman, though Cade McNamara was expected to start following spring football. Dan Villari and 5-star recruit J.J. McCarthy are also options.
Defensively, the program hopes former 5-star linemen Daxton Hill and Christopher Hinton lead the way for a unit that couldn’t get much worse in 2020. Aidan Hutchinson was also named to the Bednarik Award watchlist.
Who is Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh?
Harbaugh, a true “Michigan Man,” might have been the most celebrated hire in the long, rich tradition of Michigan football. Just a few years removed from coaching the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, Harbaugh became the head coach in 2015, replacing Brady Hoke.
He has gone 47-18 since, but has never defeated Ohio State and is 6-6 against rivals Michigan State and Penn State.
Before he was at Michigan, where he played quarterback in the 1980s, Harbaugh was 49-22-1 from 2011-2014 with the 49ers. He was 29-21 while rebuilding Stanford football from 2007-2010 and was 29-6 at the University of San Diego from 2004-2006.
He is the brother of Super Bowl-winning coach John Harbaugh and his son Jay is the special teams coach at Michigan.