Back in July, Jim Harbaugh stepped onto the stage inside Lucas Oil Stadium and talked about climbing mountains.
A reporter from Columbus asked Harbaugh about the elusive goal of beating Ohio State and winning the Big Ten championship. Harbaugh talked about hiking up a mountainside with his daughter and gave an answer that would become the headline from his appearance at Big Ten media days.
“I’m as enthusiastic and excited as I ever am, always am, even more, to have at it,” Harbaugh said. “To win the championship, to beat Ohio — your hometown, there. Our rival Michigan State, everybody. That’s what we want to do. And we’re going to do it or die trying.”
Michigan was coming off of a 2-4 season that ended in bitterness after the cancellation of the Ohio State game. Many outside the program thought the Wolverines would be fortunate to have a winning record, make a bowl game and finish in the top half of the Big Ten East, but Harbaugh remained stubbornly focused on reaching the summit. Four months later, the Wolverines are exactly where he hoped they would be, playing Ohio State for a trip to Indianapolis.
“It’s here,” Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s happening.”
The last step is the hardest one, of course. Harbaugh’s Wolverines have been here before, once in 2016 and again in 2018. The first time they lost by a few inches. The second time they lost by a mile. Speaking to reporters Monday, the Wolverines made it clear they weren’t there to talk about the past, whether it be Harbaugh’s 0-5 coaching record against the Buckeyes, Michigan’s streak of 15 losses in 16 years or Ohio State’s blowout victories in 2018 and 2019.