The horse has been dead for a long time now. Yet we continue to beat it. Maybe it’s because the fifth year of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure at Michigan is the most important of his career.

Beating Ohio State is the to priority in Ann Arbor each and every year. There’s never an exception to that rule. But 2019 might be the year in which it’s most important.

Urban Meyer is no longer on the sidelines in Columbus. Michigan is projected to win the B1G East. Though he has an 0-4 record against the Buckeyes, a win over the bitter rival this year could be his saving grace.

Harbaugh hasn’t backed away from the expectations entering the 2019 season. He’s embraced the challenge of beating Ohio State. He understands that, this year especially, “The Game” will define the season in Ann Arbor.

“It defines the season,” Harbaugh said on the Pardon My Take podcast. “But there’s also 11 important games in front of that that dictate whether you win the Big Ten Championship and whether you go to the Playoffs and the last game defines the entire season.”

Michigan hasn’t won the last game of the regular season since 2011, dropping seven straight to the Buckeyes. And while the Wolverines have had their chances in recent seasons, they haven’t been able to get over the hump.

That’s what makes it such a crucial game this year.

Winning a division, a conference championship and reaching the College Football Playoff would all be nice, as well. At the very least, Michigan needs to beat Ohio State this year.

Harbaugh seems ready for the challenge.