Jim Harbaugh will be barred from the sidelines for Michigan's biggest game of the season, but he was chipper at Monday's press conference previewing the latest installment of The Game. It's No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan in a battle of two unbeaten teams, with a spot in the College Football Playoff likely on the line.
Harbaugh is allowed to coach his team at practice this week amid his three-game suspension for Michigan's alleged sign-stealing scheme and said the sole focus is preparing for Ohio State. Asked about his level of respect for Ryan Day and the Buckeyes, the rival coach with whom he's traded barbs in the past, Harbaugh said, "It's all about our preparation for Ohio."
"The days, the minutes, the hours, everything leading up to this game, that's where our focus is, preparing ourselves and planning. Practice and then execute. Anything else is irrelevant when you get into this kind of big game week," Harbaugh said.
The Wolverines are 5-0 without their head coach on the sideline this season, the last two wins coming on the road against Penn State and Maryland. Harbaugh, who started the year serving a separate three-game suspension self-imposed by Michigan for various NCAA violations, praised his players for blocking out the rising noise.
"I just think back over the last five, six weeks, especially, it's just been a high-pitch siren. A deafening, ear-piercing noise. After a while, they start to tolerate it. And before you know it, you just block it out," Harbaugh said. "Just stay on course, that's what our team has done. Keep the priorities right and keep the priorities straight, which is faith, family and football."
To describe the unity of Michigan's team, Harbaugh invoked the motto of fictional soccer coach Ted Lasso: "Believe." And then borrowed a line from the TV character made famous by Jason Sudeikis.
"I'm just so proud of our team. Despite that noise, our locker room is in one piece. Like Ted, for me, locker rooms are a lot like my mom's bathing suits: I like to see them in one piece," Harbaugh said. "We've got that and it's amazing.
"There's so many lessons to be learned, life lessons that our young guys are learning at this age. It's how the world works. Keeping those priorities straight: faith, family, football. We're battle-tested and ready to go."