It became painfully obvious fairly early.

Somewhere between overthrowing Donovan Peoples-Jones and taking one of his several unnecessary sacks, it was clear. If Michigan was going to beat Ohio State, it was going to be in spite of John O’Korn and not necessarily because of him. All afternoon, O’Korn made dumbfounding decision after dumbfounding decision.

Putting a loss on one kid isn’t fair. There are plays that aren’t made in every game, including the back-breaking touchdown run from Detroit native Mike Weber that ultimately sank Michigan against Ohio State. And if Michigan runs for more than three yards per carry, perhaps the offense wouldn’t have hit the brakes.

But you’d be hard-pressed to say the Wolverines would’ve lost that game with a capable quarterback. O’Korn, as we’ve seen throughout 2017, has not been capable. Filling in for the injured Brandon Peters and Wilton Speight, he was essentially Jim Harbaugh’s only option in the biggest game of the season.

My bad. He was Harbaugh’s only option in The Game.

By the time Harbaugh walked through the Michigan Stadium tunnel on Saturday, his third straight loss against Ohio State was in the books. In three years, Harbaugh rolled out three different quarterbacks.

Jake Rudock, Harbaugh’s best rebuilding project to date, couldn’t last the entire 60 minutes of a blowout loss in 2015. Speight, Harbaugh’s year-long starter who was playing at less than 100 percent, was stymied down the stretch in a devastating loss in Columbus in 2016.

And on Saturday, a guy who spent three years in Ann Arbor couldn’t get the job done, either.

Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

That, more than anything, had to be the toughest thing for Harbaugh to stomach in his latest OSU loss. His team was right there. It had Ohio State beat up front, in the secondary and it even held its own on the defensive side for the majority of that game.

The fact that Ohio State overcame its first 14-point deficit in The Game probably won’t sit well, either.

But this was about more dysfunction at the position that Harbaugh can’t afford to have dysfunction at. O’Korn’s line (17 for 32, 195 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) really wasn’t horrendous. The throws that he didn’t make, however, were all sorts of horrendous.

One can give the kid the benefit of the doubt for overthrowing a few receivers early and perhaps being a bit too amped up for a rivalry game. But on Michigan’s potential go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter, Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller could’ve fair-caught the ball that O’Korn threw. It was a miscommunication, and as usual, O’Korn didn’t make the right decision when facing pressure.

On the other sideline, Ohio State’s most-productive quarterback in program history went down…only to have a redshirt freshman enter and lead the go-ahead drive. Dwayne Haskins, the guy who Urban Meyer called the best quarterback prospect he’d ever recruited, looked calm, cool and collected in his first meaningful snaps.

That sequence is sure to be brought up by Ohio State assistants on the recruiting trail. In terms of quarterback development, that said a lot.

Would it have been a different story had Peters been healthy? Perhaps. Lord knows he handled Wisconsin’s defense like a seasoned veteran. He at least was able to execute intermediate throws, which Michigan missed badly from O’Korn.

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If Michigan was completely dominated at the line of scrimmage like 2015, one would be wrong to put so much blame on the quarterback. But Michigan had guys in the right position to succeed. On that masterful drive to start the game for the Wolverines, O’Korn had two awful overthrows. Harbaugh will lose sleep over how many open receivers O’Korn missed either by not even targeting them or by overthrowing them.

Michigan fans won’t have to lose their hair over O’Korn’s play after this year. What’s it going to take for this trend to change? Even as the hype builds for Peters throughout the offseason and into the 2018 regular season, the question will still remain.

“How is he going to play against Ohio State?”

He’ll likely be Harbaugh’s fourth quarterback to take on OSU. He’ll have the responsibility of getting the monkey off his coach’s back. As Harbaugh develops Peters and true freshman Dylan McCaffrey, he’ll inevitably keep thinking about the mistakes that doomed the Wolverines the last three years against Ohio State.

Harbaugh is going to get a chance to develop several more quarterbacks as long as he stays in Ann Arbor (which I think will be until he hangs up his cleats for good). But sooner or later, he needs to find a guy who can hang tough against Ohio State.

He certainly wasn’t on the field on Saturday.