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The Stage Is Set: No. 5 Michigan, No. 2 Ohio State Set For Epic Matchup

The stage has been set for what promises to be one of the most consequential games of the 2021 college football season.

The stage has been set for what promises to be one of the most consequential games of the 2021 college football season. 

Following the latest College Football Playoff rankings, it will be No. 5 Michigan vs No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday for a trip to Indy and beyond.

With just four days left until 'The Game', here's what a win or a loss on Saturday would mean for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.

What a win would mean

Although Jim Harbaugh has compiled an impressive .720 winning percentage during his first seven seasons at Michigan, it's been the 0-5 record against Ohio State that has caused waves within the fan base. While some are still fully on board 'Team Harbaugh', others have hopped off and refuse to return until Harbaugh proves he can get it done on that final weekend in November.

Saturday's matchup between No. 6l5 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State will provide Harbaugh with his seventh opportunity to produce a breakthrough season in Ann Arbor. Not only would a win send the Wolverines to Indy for the first time since the inception of the Big Ten Championship game, it would also destroy the narrative that Harbaugh can't succeed at Michigan.

The Wolverines are staring at the type of defining win that could change the trajectory of the program for the foreseeable future - and guys like Aidan Hutchinson know it.

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"One of the reasons I came back was to change this culture because I knew I was going to be a big part of it," said Hutchinson at Big Ten Media Days back in July. "I know guys see me as the leader. If you see a guy that's invested as much as me - and I'm the leader of the team - good things are only going to come out of that. That's why I've tried so hard this spring ball and this offseason to be this leader - its because I'm the leader of this team and I've got to set the example for these guys, and build a better foundation of culture just to get these guys fully invested in themselves and in the team."

What a loss would mean

The expectations may have been relatively low during the preseason, but Michigan has proven itself to be a formidable championship contender through the first 11 weeks of the season. As the Wolverines spend the final week of the regular season preparing for Nov. 27, the expectations have changed - and in a very big way.

Michigan is just one win away from it's first shot at a conference title since 2004 and quite possibly a spot in the college football playoff. The problem, of course, is that one remaining win will need to come against Ohio State - a team that Harbaugh has yet to beat through his first six seasons. Not only have the Buckeyes beaten Harbaugh's Wolverines year in and year out, they've done so convincingly. In fact, the last two meetings between Michigan and Ohio State resulted in the two worst consecutive losses in rivalry history - with Michigan surrendering an historic total of 118 points and 1,144 yards in both contests.

As a result, Harbaugh completely restructured his coaching staff during the off-season and accepted a near 50 percent pay cut - with specific incentives related to Ohio State - to remain in Ann Arbor through 2025.

Saturday will provide Harbaugh with his sixth opportunity to do what he was brought to Ann Abor to do. While a win against the Buckeyes would likely change everything, a loss changes absolutely nothing. A loss would mean the same old narratives, the same old talking points and the same old questions about whether or not Harbaugh is the right man for the job - and it will all be justified.

Put simply, a loss this Saturday would be devastating for Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Football program.

Who's ready for Saturday?