What was expected to be a convincing win for the Michigan Wolverines over the Michigan State Spartans last year in the Big House became an utter embarrassment. By the time the clocks at Michigan Stadium had hit 0:00, the Spartans would earn 27-24 victory over the 21-point favorite Wolverines.
It was a stunning loss given the current outlook for both programs. On one side, a seasoned head coach was entering his seventh year with a program that routinely out-recruits its counterpart in East Lansing by a comfortable margin. On the other side, a first year head coach was looking to rebound from an embarrassing week one loss to Rutgers - with some already calling for his job.
Then, following that brutal afternoon in Ann Arbor, everything changed...by staying exactly the same.
Just when it looked like the departure of Mark Dantonio would give Harbaugh the edge in the rivalry he needed, Mel tucker made clear that he had no intention of playing the role of "little brother" anytime soon.
For Michigan, that brutal loss in 2020 is something that sticks with this team heading into Saturday's matchup.
"They ruined our season last year, so we’ve got a good chance to ruin their season this year," said redshirt sophomore cornerback Vincent Gray.
"We were rolling last year, and we kind of looked past them a little bit. Shoot, what happened, happened. So we’ll never look past them again. We just can’t wait to get our get-back this Saturday."
Putting aside the fact that it's a bit alarming to hear your veteran cornerback admit to looking beyond a major rival, it appears as though the Wolverines have learned their lesson from 2020.
Of course, as the old adage goes - the proof is in the pudding.
In order to walk out of East Lansing with a victory, Harbaugh and the Wolverines will need to do something they've never done - beat an AP top 15 opponent on the road. Under the leadership of Harbaugh, Michigan is 0-8 since 2015 on the road against AP top 15 opponents. In fact, the Wolverines haven't had a win on the road over a top 15 opponent since Lloyd Carr did it against No. 2 Notre Dame in 2006.
Given all that's at stake when the two programs meet on the gridiron at noon this Saturday, it's impossible to overstate the importance of getting a win - particularly if you're Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines.