Jim Harbaugh spoke to the media head of the matchup with Northwestern and had some pretty good things to say. Some of it was about his team, some was about the opponent and some was about David Ojabo.
"They came back Sunday and we had as good a practice in terms of guys moving around, knowing what they were doing. They're locked in. They're as focused as I’ve ever seen a team come back after a two-and-a-half day break. That was really exciting."
I believe that 100%.
This team has been talking the talk since spring ball. They've also been walking the walk, which to me says every word spoken was legitimate. You don't get to 6-0 overall and 2-0 on the road by simply saying good things. You have to show up to practice and the weight room and The Big House and take care of business, and through six games, that's exactly what U-M has done.
The senior and captain leadership on this team also seems to be operating at an extremely high level. Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Ross on defense, along with Andrew Vastardis and Ronnie Bell on offense, have this team marching to the same beat. Throw in experienced, veteran players like Brad Hawkins, Andrew Stueber and Hassan Haskins and you have enough players in key roles doing things the right way that makes a return like Sunday's possible.
"You just see the Northwestern team and they just get better every single week. This year, last year, the year before that, the year before that — when you play Northwestern in the middle of the season or later in the season, they’re really formidable.”
I call that the Pat Fitzgerald effect.
The dude knows what it takes to improve and knows how to get the most out of his players. Northwestern is never overly talented but they play smart, disciplined football and will jump up and beat teams that they shouldn't. Michigan definitely seems to be well aware of that and is working toward not letting that happen this weekend.
Look no further than last week. Two weekends ago, Northwestern was drubbed 56-7 by Nebraska. Instead of folding up and going into a shell, they came back and beat Rutgers 21-7 last week. The transitive property obviously doesn't work in football, but that's worse than Michigan beat Rutgers. Just sayin...
Michigan needs to be ready to roll on Saturday and based on Harbaugh's statement about yesterday's practice, they're on their way.
"[David Ojabo], before our eyes, is evolving into that prototypical edge pass rusher that makes the ball come out quick, makes the quarterback come off his spot and creates turnovers."
And man, has it been fun to watch.
Ojabo joined us on our livestream a couple weeks ago and talked about being an F- as a true freshman. Now, he's busting off spin moves against future offensive tackles and putting regular pressure on quarterbacks. He's got great size and length and is extremely athletic. Everyone who recruited him knew that if it clicked, he could be special.
It appears to have clicked. Ojabo currently has 16 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
"If there’s some small competitive edge there with me not saying exactly what we’re going to do this week — there probably is. I’ll just hold those cards closer to the vest, just in case. It seems like there might be.”
Jim Harbaugh has always been this way, and I never really understood why. He's always been pretty secretive, which is fine if what you're doing works all the time and legitimately gives you an advantage, but I haven't seen much evidence of that. Plus, what Michigan does, especially on offense, isn't really founded in misdirection, deception or creativity. They want to run the ball, take deep shots when they're there and rack up time of possession. We're six games into the season now, so there really isn't going to be any surprises.
If your team is well prepared, you have talented players and all 11 guys execute their job, whatever you try to run is going to work in the heat of battle. You know Harbaugh believes that, because they routinely call and run plays that don't surprise anyone. Harbaugh had a sly smile while saying the above line and I found myself thinking, "I really don't think you're fooling anyone." I also don't really think Michigan needs to do much fooling against Northwestern. Show up, execute and play mistake free football, and U-M rolls to 7-0 with ease.