INDIANAPOLIS — The Ohio State writers swarmed the Michigan contingent’s tables like locusts in search of bulletin board material at Thursday’s Big Ten Media Day, but they didn’t get much from head coach Jim Harbaugh. While players Aidan Hutchinson, Hassan Haskins and Josh Ross did their best to dance around the subject, Harbaugh did tackle the OSU talk head on.
Harbaugh, of course, is 0-6 against the Buckeyes, having had a victory stolen from him in 2016 and not coming close in three of the other games. He understands he was hired to beat the Buckeyes and knows the task at hand … and that it won’t be easy.
“They’re at the top. We’ve got to knock them off their perch,” Harbaugh said when asked if there was added emphasis on the Buckeyes in the building, as has been reported. “That’s on our mind every day. Also, what you’re doing that day to get better today than you were yesterday; to be better tomorrow than were today.
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“If both of those things are on your mind, then you go into the season and have that mindset of getting good enough at football to win that championship. That will be the strategy of being the best in the Big Ten. That’s where we’re coming from.”
It’s not a knock on any other opponent, Hutchinson noted. But if they’re good enough to beat the program that’s been riding high for the last decade, they should be good enough to beat anyone else on the schedule, too.
Part of it, Harbaugh said, is “just working and not worrying.”
“If you go to bed at night and your muscles are sore, they ache, you’ve sweated, you’re tired — as soon as your head hits the pillow you fall asleep — then you know you did everything you could have that day,” he said.
The mental part, meanwhile, is also imperative. It takes a group of guys, not just one or two, to be the crew that says, ‘we’re not taking this anymore.’
Part of it is talent, of course, but worse Michigan teams have given Ohio State squads better battles than some of Harbaugh’s better teams.
“It’s something in you. You’ve got that gene in you that says you want to do your best, to the the best of your God-given ability,” he said. “Then you want to actually compete to be the best, and then you want to be the best. That’s something that drives you in that way. Those guys you’re talking to [Hutchinson, Haskins and Ross] — they’ve got that gene.
“For better or worse, whether it’s a blessing or a curse, you just have that gene in you. You’ve got to do your best … give your best at all times, and eventually you’ve got to be the best. We’re capable of that.”
There are plenty of coaches and players on the team that feel the same, he added.
“I see them on our staff, guys that have to get that done. Then the players — it starts with three of the guys that are here today,” he said. “Josh Ross has been with us going into his fifth year. He had a brother who played here, coached here. I know how important it is to him to do his best and get to the top.
“Hassan has that gene. Cade [McNamara] has got it. There are other guys, too. Ryan Hayes, Zak Zinter, Blake Corum, Cornelius Johnson, Ronnie Bell. A group of outside linebackers — I see it in them, what they’ve done over the summer.”
And Harbaugh insists he has it, too, as much as people would like to say he doesn’t.
“People are trying to discourage you. It’s almost like propaganda; ‘let’s discourage him.’ Almost like World War II propaganda machines … ‘quit, no need to try, you’ve got no chance, don’t even try any further.’
“We don’t subscribe to that at all. We’ll try to get to the top. We’re either going to get there, or die trying.”
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