The Best of the Rest

Michigan loses to Ohio State 56-27

Photo: Zoey Holmstrom
One of my closet obsessions that has emerged over the last few years is watching Formula 1 races. It all started when I was a new dad years ago, and I would wake up early with the baby on the weekends to let mom get much needed extra sleep. On those early mornings, I'd naturally search for any good sports to watch, but being so early in the morning, it was usually slim pickings.

But F1 races mostly take place in Europe and Asia, and ESPN would carry them live which happen to typically take place in the wee hours in the US. So, I started to watch...and I love it. I've always liked racing but just something about F1...the speed, the technology, they're not turning left the whole time...just all of it really interested me.

The more F1 I watched, the more I noticed the three same teams always finished at the top...Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. There are 10 teams in total, but those three are the big dogs. F1 is a spending war. The more cash you can drop into the car, driver and team, the better you'll's really that simple. And the money in F1 is insane! For any team but those 3 to win a race would be shocking to anyone who follows the series closely.

The remaining 7 teams are just that...the rest. Even on the broadcast, you'll hear the phrase "best of the rest" because honestly, none of them will ever really compete with the big 3 unless something drastic happens or they start to spend a lot more money. Williams, McLeren, Renault...they're all good teams that have a strong history of racing success...but they'll likely never win a race or even far more unlikely a championship because the system is designed against them.

Yesterday, after Michigan's 56-27 loss to Ohio State, their 8th in a row and 15th in the last 16 years, Jim Harbaugh was asked by a reporter from a Toledo TV station if he could address the talent gap that clearly exists between Michigan and Ohio State. Harbaugh responded by telling the reporter "I'll answer your questions, not your insults". It wasn't meant to be an insult, I'm sure. I thought it was a fair question that Jim Harbaugh obviously can't answer because how can a coach publicly disparage his own players who are playing their best?

Everyone who watched that game knows a talent gap exists. Jim Harbaugh certainly knows. Ohio State is a football factory. Michigan is not. They're playing a different game with different talent. And when it comes to Michigan, they're far more prepared because it's their program's benchmark for success every year. They live and breathe this rivalry. They prepare to overwhelm Michigan. Michigan meanwhile, just hopes to make it close...and if all of the bounces to right, maybe find a way to win. That's not going to cut it against one of the winningest programs in the country.

All of the "fire Jim Harbaugh or fire Don Brown" talk is nonsense to me. These are two of the best coaches in the country. What do you want from them? It sucks that Ohio State is in our division during this stretch of domination. If Michigan was in the Big Ten west, I think we'd all feel very different about things. But it is what it is. Ohio State is dominating Michigan right now (and everyone else, btw) because they're getting the best of the best talent to come play football there. Recruiting clearly matters. I won't say what I think about how they're getting all of this elite talent, but let's just say it's probably not the same way Michigan is getting theirs. I'm not making excuses, but I'm not denying the impact of 5 stars vs 3-4 stars.

Another thing Ohio State really has going for them is their rock solid identity as a program. While Michigan has been busy trying to reinvent itself year after year after year, Ohio State has been doing what they do best...being elite and dominating their biggest rival. Ever since the 2006 matchup of #1 Ohio State and #2 Michigan, these programs have gone on very different journeys. I don't know how Michigan gets back to the level of playing championship football again. It's frustrating to consistently lose to better teams. But it's becoming the new normal.

I'll wrap this up by copy/pasting what I wrote after the Wisconsin game earlier this year...

I don't know how you go from where Michigan is now to where everyone wants or expects them to be. There's no easy fix. I do think, for better or worse, Michigan has Harbaugh until he can figure it out...if that ever happens.

For almost 15 years now, everyone's asked "When will Michigan be back?"

It won't.

This is the new normal.
Maybe at some point we'll turn a game on and it'll be a nice time. If it's not, oh well. It's time to adapt to the temperature of the water. -MGoBlog
A good program with flashes of greatness every once in a while is what Michigan is now. They'll win some games...probably 6-10 per year. They'll continue to lose big road games. They'll struggle mightily against better teams. And they'll get destroyed by Ohio State with persistent regularity. But hey, they should beat Rutgers this week so that's nice.

This is Michigan Football now.

Not terrible. Not great. Certainly not "back".

It just is what it is.

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