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The Cockles Are Warm

Michigan is 7-0, the players are all in and Jim Harbaugh is charged all the way up.

Michigan is currently 7-0, which nobody saw coming. After a very disappointing 2-4 season during a strange pandemic year, most people, including myself, had U-M finishing behind Ohio State, Penn State and maybe even Indiana in the Big Ten East. Teams like Wisconsin and Iowa also looked to be in better shape than the Wolverines entering the 2021 campaign.

Boy have things changed.

Michigan State is also surprisingly 7-0 and in the mix in the East and we're going to learn a lot about the Spartans and Wolverines this weekend when the two rivals square off in East Lansing. Obviously Saturday's matchup is significant, but the bigger story here is Michigan's bounce back and Jim Harbaugh's improved outlook and energy.

Sports Illustrated senior writer Pat Forde recently spent time with Harbaugh inside Schembechler Hall and came away with several pieces of evidence that prove that this year is indeed different.

"With a roster full of 'players who like football,' the Wolverines and their coach are putting a dismal 2020 behind them in their quest to write a legacy in Ann Arbor," Forde wrote. "This is vintage 'Who’s Got It Better Than Us' Harbaugh—engaged, energetic, eccentric, occasionally loud for emphasis. Loud and proud of what his 7–0 team is doing."

Forde's story is filled with quotes from Harbaugh, Aidan Hutchinson, Cade McNamara, Biff Poggi and others that point out why this season has played out like it has, and might predict how things will go moving forward.

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"I like the guys that like football,” Harbaugh told Forde. “And the guys that like football, they all like me back. And the ones that don’t like me? They’re the ones that know that I know that they don’t like football. They tend to avoid me. You want to get better at football? This is a fun factory."

A fun factory. I almost can't imagine Jim Harbaugh saying something like that, but that's where we are heading into U-M's eighth game of the season. 

If you're a Michigan fan, Forde's story is a MUST READ, just like this weekend's game is a must watch. If Michigan can beat the Spartans on Saturday, Forde's story becomes even more on-point and almost prophetic. Things are different in Ann Arbor this fall, for now. If U-M wins this weekend, they'll be different moving forward and for good, at least on some levels as Harbaugh checks a few more boxes and changes a couple more narratives. He knows that and so do his players. The veteran head coach finished his chat with Forde in a familiar way when referencing how hard his players are working and how excited they are about getting better.

“Kind of warms the cockles of your heart,” Harbaugh said. “Pretty sweet.”

He paused, eyes shining, smile spreading.

“They like football.”