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How Has Ohio State Gone 5-0 Against Michigan Since Harbaugh Took Over? An Analytical Look

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You can't spell chump without UM's picture
June 24, 2020 at 6:56pm

No coach in the history of The Game on either team had begun 0-5 against the other side—that was until Jim Harbaugh lost his fifth in a row last November. With as much hype as Harbaugh’s return to his alma mater was generating, why hasn’t he been able to score a single win against the Buckeyes? Well, obviously it’s because he’s an overrated coach that doesn’t recruit as well as OSU and doesn’t take The Game as seriously, right? I mean, sure, maybe, but that’s boring. I want to see an analytical explanation—so I decided to make my own. 

Stat OSU Mich
Points Per Game 44.2 25.2
Yards Per Game 461.2 353.2
Rushing Yards Per Game 247.2 100
Passing Yards Per Game 214 253.2
Rush Attempts Per Game 47.6 34
Pass Attempts Per Game 24 39.2
Penalties Per Game 7 6.4
Penalty Yards Per Game 67.2 58.2
Turnovers Per Game 0.6 1.8

You can see just how dominant OSU has been on the ground compared to Michigan. It’s not like Michigan’s an air raid team either. Harbaugh wants his offense to be a run-first unit. Two things that are wrong with that approach though: Michigan can’t run the ball effectively enough and they fall behind so often in The Game that they’re forced to throw the ball.

Michigan does average more passing yards per game, which may be a surprise to some, but that stat is less impressive considering they average 15 more pass attempts per game than OSU. Getting the Wolverines out of their comfort zone early an often leads them prone to more mistakes, which leads to more possessions for OSU, which leads to more points, which leads to a 19-point average margin of victory.

Now for the combined stats.

Combined Stats
Stat OSU Mich
Rushing Attempts 238 170
Rushing Yards 1,236 500
Pass Attempts 120 196
Passing Yards 1,070 1,266
First Downs 122 102
Third Down Efficiency 32-71 (45%) 35-81 (43%)
Red Zone Efficiency 21-25 (20 TDS, 1 FG) 18-20 (12 TDs, 6 FGs)
Turnovers 3 9
Penalties 35 32

Michigan has turned the ball over at least once in every game under Harbaugh. They average nearly two turnovers per game. The Buckeyes take care of the ball to an almost flawless extent. Ohio State has as many red zone touchdowns as Michigan has red zone trips.

Take a look at the scores:

2015: 42-13
2016: 30-27 (2 OT)
2017: 31-20
2018: 62-39
2019: 56-27

The ability to adapt and win in numerous versatile ways is what may be the most impressive fact of all this. They can win by rushing for nearly 400 yards (2015) while also winning via an air raid (2018). They can win a defensive slugfest (2016) while also winning a track meet (2018). They can win a nail-biting overtime thriller (2016) or when via blowout (2015, 2018, 2019).

Combine all this together, and you get a half-decade of bitter disappointment; winless trash-talkers like Kyle Kalis, Jabrill Peppers, Jourdan Lewis, Chase Winovich, and Karan Higdon; and an endless supply of MGoBlog woe and despair.

This is a forum post from a site member. It does not represent the views of Eleven Warriors unless otherwise noted.

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