Harbaugh’s Win Against Ohio State Shows That Michigan Could Become A Bigger Obstacle For Penn State

Story posted December 2, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Nolan Wick

For the first time since 2011 and for the first time under head coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan defeated Ohio State, capping off an impressive 11-1 season for the Wolverines. Michigan’s 42-27 win in “The Game” is a statement win for both Harbaugh and the Michigan program, and it likely isn’t good news for Penn State.

With its win against Ohio State, Michigan is the Big Ten East champion. If the Wolverines defeat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game, they will almost certainly make an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Whether or not Michigan ends up in the top four, such a win against its arch rival justifies questioning whether or not it has become a significantly better program that will win more games and attract more top recruits in the future. It takes a lot to beat a team as dominant as Ohio State, which had not lost a Big Ten game under Ryan Day until now. Harbaugh’s legacy has changed, and critics that for so long labeled him as a coach that could not win big games or hold leads have been silenced.

Harbaugh may not be as good of a coach as Nick Saban or even Ryan Day, but he’s now a proven winner at the collegiate level. Beating Ohio State and finishing with just one loss, which was a 37-33 loss against ranked Michigan State, proves Michigan is the best it has ever been under Harbaugh.

Now that Harbaugh is a proven winner at Michigan and has what it takes to beat the likes of Ohio State, he has a much better pitch to give recruits when trying to convince them to take their talents to Ann Arbor.

That is not to mention the geographic advantage that the Wolverines have, as the state of Michigan is a hotbed for recruiting, nor the deep history and prestige of Michigan’s football program with tons of resources to lure recruits. By beating Ohio State and finishing 11-1, there is so much hope for Michigan football and it puts them in a very good place.

Michigan football clearly has the talent to be a top football team, and it will continue to do so given its success in 2021. After finishing under .500 in 2020, the Wolverines are trending upwards. This is bad news for Penn State football, which happens to be trending in the opposite direction with a combined 11-10 record over the last two seasons.

Michigan’s success has to be problematic for Penn State. Penn State frequently recruits players from the state of Michigan, including past standouts such as Allen Robinson II. Penn State is also believed to be in the mix for five-star 2023 quarterback Dante Moore, who is from Detroit. With Michigan taking a jump as a program, it becomes harder to recruit in that state.

Not only would recruiting take a potential hit, but Michigan is now a more formidable opponent than it used to be. The Nittany Lions had a two-game win streak against the Wolverines until a few weeks ago.

Michigan’s improvement is an even bigger obstacle in the way of the “next plateau” of college football where James Franklin hopes to take Penn State. Having to play not just Ohio State but Michigan every year will now be more difficult, and that’s not even mentioning Michigan State. Therefore, winning the Big Ten title becomes even more elusive.

Although Michigan has been very successful this season and Harbaugh’s legacy has drastically changed because of that and beating Ohio State, it remains to be seen how it will ultimately impact both Michigan and Penn State. Franklin has also proved a lot and will probably get Penn State back on track, but only time will tell how easy that will be.


Nolan Wick is a first-year majoring in journalism. To contact him, email nhw5046@psu.edu.