Odd auras at a Jim Harbaugh press conference are nothing new.
The coach has always had an off-kilter persona in dealing with the media, but things got off to an especially awkward start on Monday when Harbaugh was asked what his level of respect is for Ryan Day and Ohio State's coaching staff.
"It's all about our preparation for Ohio," Harbaugh said after a long pause. "The days, the minutes, the hours, everything leading up to this game. That's where our focus is, preparing ourselves and planning. Going to practice and then executing. So anything else is irrelevant when you get into this kind of big game week."
An active dodge of respect for the Buckeyes' head coach through a tangential answer. That set the tone for a press conference in which Harbaugh referred to the distraction of Michigan's sign-stealing allegations as a "high-pitched siren" and compared the Wolverines' season to the Apple+ TV show “Ted Lasso.”
The coach didn't have anything to add about the firing of linebackers coach Chris Partridge amid the NCAA's ongoing investigation into alleged sign-stealing via illegal advance scouting orchestrated over the last three seasons by staffer Connor Stalions.
Acting Michigan head coach Sherrone Moore also touched on what he sees as Ohio State's strengths and said that left tackle LaDarius Henderson, right tackle Myles Hinton and wide receiver Roman Wilson are all expected back this week. J.J. McCarthy touched on his friendship with Kyle McCord and updated his own health status after being limited in recent weeks.
On how he prepares his coaches for his absence from Michigan's sideline
"Empowering people, it's really about that. Empowering our coaches, empowering our players and just an amazing job that they've done. ... I just think back over the last five, six weeks especially, it's just been like a high-pitched siren. Like a deafening, ear-piercing noise, and after a while, (you) start to tolerate it."
On Partridge's firing
"I think that statement was put out by our university and describes the situation. I don't have anything to add about it."
A statement from the University of Michigan following the Chris Partridge firing: pic.twitter.com/5M5QaDZ9BJ— CJ Mangum (@cjmangum_) November 17, 2023
On the challenge of dealing with off-field distractions going into The Game
"It's like the Ted Lasso show. Believe. What comes out of that is believe, and I'm so proud, just so proud of our team. Despite that noise, our locker room is in one piece. Like Ted (said on the show), for me, locker rooms, a lot like my mom's bathing suits. I like to see them in one piece. We've got that and it's amazing."
On whether more staff changes could be on the way after Partridge's firing
This was another question that wasn't directly addressed by Harbaugh, who reiterated that his team's focus is on Ohio State.
"We are in position to be in position, that's what we know. 11-0, they're 11-0, and everything, all focus and preparation, is on this."
Harbaugh also fielded questions about the long-term outlook for Michigan's program and whether he's been given any "assurances" about his future in Ann Arbor by the Wolverines' administration but redirected focus back to the Buckeyes again on both occasions.
"All the focus is on Ohio State. I can say that as many times as – that's where we're at. That's the focus, and that's part of the life lesson, to focus on the task in front of you."
On Marvin Harrison Jr.
"He reminds me a lot of his dad. Great player. You've got to be covered. You've got to slow him down, probably the better word. (We'll) do our best to do that, and everything works together. Pass rush, the faster, the more pressure they can put on the quarterback, the better the coverage is going to be and same with the coverage, the better the coverage is going to be then that allows the pass rush to get home."
“All the focus is on Ohio State.”– Jim Harbaugh on His and the Program's long-term outlook
On Ohio State's offense
"They're electric. They're balanced. TreVeyon obviously gives them the ability to run the football very effectively. O-line is doing a really good job gelling at the right time. And then, obviously, skill-player wise with Marvin and Emeka (Egbuka) and Cade Stover and those guys, they've got guys that can make plays on the outside lanes and feel like (Kyle McCord) is playing his best football. So definitely a challenge that our defense is going to be up for."
“They're electric. They're balanced. ... (Kyle McCord) is playing his best football. So definitely a challenge that our defense is going to be up for.”– Sherrone Moore on Ohio State's offense
On how his life has changed since becoming acting head coach
"A lot more text messages. A lot more Facebook messages, which I don't really get on Facebook, so I see them pop up on my phone, and just like, 'OK.' ... But other than that, I'm the same person doing the same things. When I go home, I still get yelled at, so it's all good. And my kids still run the house. So for me, seeing more interviews, more things, that's the bigger thing for me than managing the game situations during the game."
Moore expects starting left tackle LaDarius Henderson, starting right tackle Myles Hinton and top wide receiver Roman Wilson to all make their return this week for Michigan, but added that the team will be checking with its doctors as the week progresses.
On J.J. McCarthy's lack of production recently and how to get him involved again
"I think we've just got to do a really good job of the plan and executing the plan in all phases. Protection, route running completions, all that. So we'll get there for sure."
On the biggest difference for him on gameday
"The biggest thing is probably the game management stuff and then talking to the refs where I usually don't talk to the ref at all. And Coach (Harbaugh) wants me to make sure that I'm doing it. So that's probably the biggest thing for me. Usually, I have no association with the refs at all."
On contextualizing the importance of a win over Ohio State
"We all know what it means. It's The Game. It's the one you practice, you play for, you've worked for all year. So we all know the stakes, and that will give us a chance to go through three-peat on the Big Ten title. So the words, the prep, that will come out a little bit more later on down the week. Try to keep it on a low boil this week, because it can get pretty high really fast. So the kids are as prepared mentally and physically as they'll ever be to get ready for this week."
“We all know what it means. It's The Game. It's the one you practice, you play for, you've worked for all year. So we all know the stakes.”– Sherrone Moore on the importance of Saturday's matchup
On his familiarity with the rivalry and rooting for both teams growing up in the Midwest
"I grew up first being an Ohio State fan, I won't lie, I did. But God had different plans for me. And he showed me the way and I'm very blessed and appreciative to be here. That's for damn sure."
On his health status
Though he hasn't missed any time, McCarthy has been dealing with a leg injury in recent weeks after limping off the field following Michigan's first drive against Penn State two Saturdays ago. He's improving, however, he feels.
"(I'm) doing really good. Last week was a little bit rough but I'm doing fantastic right now. Treatment has been great."
On his relationship with Kyle McCord, a fellow five-star from the recruiting class of 2021
"Kyle is my guy. Ever since growing up and going to all these satellite camps and all these Rivals (camps), 247, all that, we were always there together and we just kind of meshed. We have two alike personalities and it's going to be really cool, it's going to be really surreal to see him out there in this environment, this game and just going out there and wish him safety. ... He's going to give our defense some trouble at times and we've got to respond."
“We have two alike personalities and it's going to be really cool, it's going to be really surreal to see him out there in this environment, this game.”– J.J. McCarthy on his friendship with Kyle McCord
On Ohio State's offense
"They definitely have a bunch of talent all across the board, and that's what Ohio State's offense is known for, a group of guys that can make plays all across the board. It's going to be a great opportunity, great challenge for this defense to go against a highly-rated offense."