ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Was Michigan’s 42-27 win over Ohio State on Saturday a game changer or just a game?
Michigan’s players certainly were talking as if the second of those two choices is what it will be. They believe it means something about the future of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry.
“We knew we could beat them. Now we know what it takes. Now we have to do it every single year. We’re not done yet,” Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara said.
Looking back at Ohio State’s win over Michigan in 2001 in Jim Tressel’s first season from the perspective of 20 years later it does seem that it changed the rivalry much to Ohio State’s benefit.
It came after the Buckeyes went 2-10-1 from 1988 to 2000 against their biggest rival and found ways to lose to less talented Michigan teams more than once.
It’s hard to argue with eight straight wins, 15 wins in 16 seasons and 17 wins in 19 years.
But, after another win over Michigan in the 2002 national championship season, the 2003 OSU squad, which probably had as much talent as Michigan, lost by two touchdowns to the Wolverines.
So, maybe it didn’t change everything forever. Maybe it’s not infallible.
This year’s win over Ohio State can change the narrative about Michigan football. It might change some opinions about its coach Jim Harbaugh.
But can it change the outcome of future games against Ohio State? That remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure. Saturday’s game would have been gleefully welcomed by Michigan’s players, coaches and fans if it had been by only one point. That it turned into a bit of a butt kicking late in the game made it even better for them.
The last time Michigan beat Ohio State by at least 15 points was a 28-0 win in 1993.
Ohio State players were also talking about using this year’s game as motivation next season.
Safety Bryson Shaw, whose interception in the first half was one of the few defensive bright spots for OSU, said, “It left a really bad taste in our mouths. We just have to learn from it. The team is really down on ourselves right now. No one is harder on ourselves than us. We just have to learn from this.
“I know how motivated I’ll be in the next season and the next days. It’s going to fuel us, it’s going to light a fire. We’re going to attack it (next season) with fire.”
Harbaugh will undoubtedly find ways to try to use this win as motivation. Any coach would.
But in his post-game press conference he wasn’t looking any farther ahead than Saturday.
“It’s a beginning. There will be a lot of joy in Ann Arbor tonight. Let them enjoy it. They’ll be celebrating long into the night,” he said.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.