Harbaugh: Hopes and Dreams or Smoke and Mirrors

The Michigan Wolverines lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes again last Saturday. It marked the sixth straight win in this rivalry for the team from Columbus. They have also accrued 15 victories in 18 chances since the start of the new millennium.

While “The Game” has been lopsided for quite some time now, U of M was hoping that the man they brought in three years ago, Jim Harbaugh, was going to change that. So far, he has not.

He is now 0-3 against Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes and 1-2 against Michigan State and Mark Dantonio. While these guys are both some of the best coaches in the country, they aren’t making over $9 million at their alma mater. Harbaugh is the highest paid coach in all of college football but has yet to lead the maize and blue anywhere in three years besides some good seasons record wise.

Now while I am not saying Harbaugh’s three years in Ann Arbor haven’t been successful, as he has racked up back to back 10-3 records in his first two seasons with a chance to go 9-4 record this year, but that’s not what Michigan envisioned when he stepped on campus in 2015.

With all the highly ranked recruiting classes and 5-star after 5-star walking through the doors of the Big House, Michigan has had high expectations since Harbaugh took over the reins. But each season, seemingly, has started, and ended, the same way. Filled with optimism and then ending in disappointment.

2015 started off with a loss to the Utah Utes but then the Wolverines reeled off five straight wins before losing to the Spartans at home. They also lost to the Buckeyes at the Big House before beating the Florida Gators in the Citrus Bowl to go 10-3.

2016 started off even better as they ran off a 9-0 record with a win over MSU before stumbling at the end of the year. The Wolverines proceeded to lose 3 of their next 4 games, including a loss to OSU, to finish with another 10-3 record.

2017 began similarly with the Wolverines beating Florida at Jerry’s World in Arlington and starting off 4-0 before facing off against Michigan State. Harbaugh and his team once again lost to Sparty to drop to 4-1. They also lost to Penn State and Wisconsin on the way to “The Game” against Meyer’s Buckeyes. And while Michigan had a good chance to win this past Saturday with 14-0 and 20-14 leads, they ultimately couldn’t pull it out and lost 31-20.

So while Harbaugh has had a rough go and winning big games against his rivals, I believe he is still the right man for the job at the moment. After three years, a 28-10 record is not too shabby. I also believe he has brought a different mindset to the university.

While he hasn’t won anything yet, the expectations are there and they have had their chances at returning to Indy to play for the Big Ten title. Under the leadership of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, it felt like this team wasn’t going anywhere.

One last comparison/point I’d like to make about Harbaugh is his connection to Bo Schembechler. He played and learned under the tutelage of the Michigan great. But for all the glory that he receives, he never brought home a national championship to U of M in his 21 years as the head coach.

His teams won 13 Big Ten Conference titles, of course, but he could never win the big one. I think Harbaugh could, at the very least, bring a Big Ten title to Ann Arbor in the next few years, but will that appease anyone? Also, if they do make it to the playoffs, is that successful or is nothing short of a national championship constitute success?

So while some people’s patience may be running thin with Harbaugh, I think they need to give him a little more time. Sure, his “Signing with the Stars”, satellite camps and sleepovers may not be endearing to all, but that’s just who he is and I don’t think he is going to change. Harbaugh is an old-school, ground and pound type of coach who wants to shove it down your throat. If that style can/will work in todays college football landscape is yet to be seen.

I believe fans just need to relax and let his plan come to fruition. It hasn’t worked out completely in his first three years, but it’s still a work in progress. Of course there are things he can work on, but what coach doesn’t have room for improvement?

In a couple more years, if Michigan is still floating around at 8-4 or 9-3, or heck, even 10-2 with no Big Ten titles or playoff appearances, then this conversation needs to be revisited. But for now, U of M has the coach they want.

After all, what other option do the Wolverines have other than their “Michigan Man”?

 

 

 

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Tale of Two Halves: Michigan @ Wisconsin Recap

Saturday’s only matchup of ranked teams lived up to its billing for the first half. Both defenses, ranked in the top five in yards allowed per game, were duking it out and not giving up an inch.

Wisconsin struck first with an impressive punt return TD by Nick Nelson. They took that 7-0 lead into the second quarter when Michigan answered back with a 1-yard plunge by fullback Ben Mason. The Wolverines would’ve seized momentum even more with a chance to go up 14-7, but a nice play by the Badger defense caused QB Brandon Peters to fumble near the end zone.

This led to the teams heading into the second half all squared up at 7-7. Michigan led the total yards battle 169-99 and had to feel pretty good heading into the third quarter. The defense was also doing more than holding their own against the stellar young running back, Jonathan Taylor, holding him to 45 yards on the ground through two quarters.

The second half started off pretty favorably for the Wolverines as well as they took a 10-7 lead on a 39 yard field goal by Quinn Nordin halfway through the quarter. But the Badgers responded, led by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, on a 24 yard TD strike to A.J. Taylor to take a 14-10 lead.

Then on the next drive, Peters went down with an injury and Michigan looked lost and out of sync, both offensively and defensively. The Badgers next drive after the injury to U of M’s QB resulted in another TD and a 21-10 lead. Backup quarterback John O’Korn completed only two passes out of eight attempts and the ground game was no help. Chris Evans was the leading rusher with 25 yards on 11 totes.

Once the Badgers took the lead, it allowed them to feed Taylor to eat up clock and he ended the game with 132 yard rushing on 19 carries. The Badgers ended up kicking another field goal to end the game 24-10.

As for the implications this game had for both teams, the Wisconsin Badgers ran their record to 11-0 and a battle with Minnesota for Paul Bunyan’s Axe next week in Minneapolis. The Wolverines dropped to 8-3 and return to Ann Arbor for The Game against Ohio State.

The Badgers added a quality win to their resume and are still in line for the College Football Playoff if they beat the Golden Gophers next week and the Buckeyes in Indianapolis in the Big Ten Championship game.

The Wolverines head into next week trying to beat their biggest rival at home and will be trying to reach ten wins if they can beat OSU and win their bowl game.

A tale of two halves and a tale of two different seasons for these Big Ten foes.

 

Michigan Fan Expectations

The University of Michigan, the Wolverines, the Maize and Blue, the Winged Helmet, the Big House, the ‘MGoBlue” banner, the Victors, Desmond Howard’s “Hello Heisman”…it’s a national brand, a true college football treasure.

Michigan’s football program has a history to be quite proud of, one full of tradition, and such excellence that has allowed them to be well-known as one of the more successful programs from an all-time standpoint. These fans are very proud of their program which has 11 national titles, 42 Big Ten titles, 3 Heisman trophies, and not to mention the most wins of all time.

The most recent history of Michigan Football has been colorful, full of ups and downs, much like a roller-coaster. A lot has changed in Ann Arbor since 2008, but one thing that hasn’t changed would be the fan-base’s expectations for the program year in, year out.

Last Saturday, Michigan was upset by their in-state rival, MSU, in the Big House and fell to 4-1 on the season. Judging from the initial reaction to the loss on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, etc. you’d think that Michigan hasn’t won a game this season. Was it an ugly loss? Absolutely, this team, primarily the offense, evidently has work to do. I think the bizarre reactions would be ones that include fans calling for Harbaugh’s job.

As of late, Michigan hasn’t been the “leaders and best”. After seven seasons of mediocrity, three with Rich Rod, four with Brady Hoke, it’s no secret that Michigan fans are becoming inpatient with not beating their rivals, not winning Big Ten titles, not making the playoffs, and not winning a national title.

Michigan hasn’t won a conference title since ’04, and also hasn’t won a national title since ’97. The Wolverines have beaten their arch-rival, Ohio State, just three times this millennia (2000, 2003, 2011), current Buckeye head coach, Urban Meyer, is 5-0 in this rivalry game. MSU head coach, Mark Dantonio has beaten Michigan in eight out of eleven meetings, 2-1 against Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan program.

The thought of Harbaugh, the former Michigan quarterback, leaving the NFL to come back and coach his alma-mater was something for this fan base to dream about. Well, that dream is now a reality, and the reality is that whether you like what he’s done thus far or not, the man is a helluva football coach, and that’s not a question.

Through 31 games at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh is 24-7 with two ten win seasons, 1-1 in bowl games, 1-4 against rivals. Clearly the rivalry record isn’t ideal, and I’m sure that Harbaugh and his staff would agree.

Michigan has entered the 2017-18 season as the least experienced team in the nation based off losing over 40 seniors, and 11 NFL draft picks. Of course they’ve recruited well, Michigan is one of the easiest recruiting jobs in the country, but this is a young team, a talented young team, but still a young team. This is not an excuse by any means, it’s just a hard soil fact.

It’s fair to be critical over Harbaugh’s play-calling, the tenacity his teams bring to rivalry games, and the incompetence of the offense in year three. I’ll be the first one to tell you that if Jim Harbaugh doesn’t start winning these rivalry games, his seat is eventually going to get hot.

Right now, through 31 games, after he’s been the biggest reason for Michigan becoming nationally relevant once again, it’s not fair to say that his job is on the line. We’re allowed to have high expectations, but we need to have patience because building an NFL-machine, national title-winning, powerhouse of a program takes time.

The wins will come, and hopefully so will the conference/national titles. As a fan-base, let’s not run Jim Harbaugh out-of-town, criticize him when he may deserve it, but we can’t throw our coach under the bus. Any team in the country, college or pro, with an open slot at head coach would be thrilled to take Harbaugh off our hands, and that’s not what we want.

Michigan fans will always have high expectations, but keep in mind how bad their recent history has been, and also keep in mind that this program is trending upwards in terms of national relevance, recruiting, and winning. Patience is everything.

 

Honeymoon Over, Time to Win

In late December of 2014, Michigan fans had just suffered through, yet another, head coach’s tenure which consisted of mostly unwatchable, non bowl-eligible caliber football. The fan-base of the winningest program in college football history needed a change.

Bring in Jim Harbaugh: former Michigan quarterback, lengthy playing career in the NFL, the guy who resurrected the Stanford football program, the Super Bowl 47 runner-up, respected name in the coaching carousel.

Doesn’t get any better than Harbaugh, right? He’s been keeping Michigan in the headlines, he’s hysterically obnoxious on the sidelines, recruits in very unique ways, and he’s a Michigan man.

The head coach’s first two seasons with the program were simple: put UM back on the national relevance map, make waves on the recruiting trail, build a powerhouse program. 20-6 in the first two seasons, 1-1 bowl record, 1-4 in chief rivalry games (only win over a 3-9 MSU team), and back-to-back top ten recruiting classes.

You won’t find a head coaching job in America that expresses the importance of beating your rivals the way Michigan does.

Jim Harbaugh is 4-1 in early October for the 2017-18 season; after an ugly loss to in-state rival, MSU, some of the fan-base has officially began to give constructive criticism on their beloved head coach. Play-calling was a big issue in the eyes of many: the decision to throw the football as much as they did in a monsoon, failing to target Zach Gentry in the passing game, or giving Karan Higedon just 12 touches despite being the most productive back for Michigan (5.4 YPC).

On the defensive side of the ball, there really isn’t much you can ask for. When your offense turns the ball over five times and your defense only allows 14 points, that’s a championship defense.

In Jim Harbaugh’s third season, wouldn’t you think that Michigan should have, at the very least, a quarterback and an offense who can give enough ‘run support’ to win a football game if your defense shuts out a team in the 2nd half?

Michigan was out-coached, outplayed, and flat-out did not deserve to win this football game. Jim Harbaugh, and his staff get paid far too much money to lose a game like this one, there is no excuse to justify what happened in the Big House on Saturday.

For me, it wasn’t just that they lost, the way they lost is what really stung. Repeatedly shot themselves in the foot offensively, and could not capitalize on the opportunities given to them time after time. Michigan is a team that is evidently more talented that Michigan State — it’s obvious, look at the recruiting classes. Michigan isn’t a poorly coached team, but they were simply out coached by Mark Dantonio and his staff.

Michigan has everything needed to be a national powerhouse: a top-tier coaching staff with years of NFL experience, multiple top ten recruiting classes, endless hype and publicity that most programs strive to have. What is the missing recipe? Why can’t Michigan win these big games?

The seat isn’t hot for Jim Harbaugh, but how long before it starts getting warm? Beating Ohio State in November would change the picture, but a loss would mean Harbaugh’s rivalry game record falls to 1-5. When you’re paying a coach nine million annually, you expect them to win more than one rivalry game per every three seasons.

Maybe I’m part of the fan-base that’s overreacting, and maybe I just need to give Harbaugh’s program more time and have patience. Michigan fans demand a lot, they have very high expectations and standards; we’re all growing at least a little impatient after watching Michigan football from 2008-2014.

Bottom line is that pressure to win is more real than it’s ever been for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan. I won’t be able to stomach another off-season of Harbaugh making headlines for doing weird, quirky, recruiting tactics if he’s 0-3 against the Buckeyes. If you want to go to Rome, climb trees, sleep at recruit’s houses, jump off a diving board into a pool fully clothed, have a podcast, and to separate yourself from the other CFB coaches in the media…beat a rival, win a big game, win a Big Ten championship, make the playoffs.

 

Michigan Stadium Best Venue in CFB, According to Fan Poll

On Thursday, USA Today Sports released a College Football Fan Index Poll that resulted with Michigan Stadium, “The Big House”, receiving 33.33% of the votes, taking first place. Ann Arbor’s top venue holds a capacity of 107,601 seats, but holds records for the most people to attend a football game (115,109), a hockey game (105,491), and even a soccer game (109,318).

Ohio Stadium, and Kyle Field tied for 2nd place in this fan poll, receiving 16.67% of votes each.

The original capacity of “The Big House” was around 72,000, but of course there have been numerous renovations, and upgrades to enhance the stadium’s atmosphere, expanding most recently in 2010.

Michigan has hosted just three prime-time slot games at the “Big House”, 2011 vs. Notre Dame, 2013 vs. Notre Dame, and 2014 vs. Penn State. The Wolverines have satisfied their home crowds with three wins whilst playing under the lights. Rumor has it that 1-2 night games are in the works for the 2017 regular season.

To this day, college football fans recognize Michigan Stadium as a top atmosphere for college football, and crowds of 100,000+ will continue to pack the seats for many years to come.

 

Harbaugh’s Fake Quarterback Competition Part 3

Jim Harbaugh is somewhat of a great football mind, and he’s proven that time after time. The former Michigan QB’s football IQ is off the charts, and that’s normally the case for a vast majority of head football coaches. He’s known to primarily specialize in quarterback play, and is credited with the emergence, and the success of multiple quarterbacks in the NFL.

The third fall camp for the Harbaugh era at Michigan features a very familiar headline — a quarterback battle. It’s a good thing though, right? In my own opinion, competition brings out the absolute best in everyone. I also believe that there has never been a real competition at Michigan under Harbaugh yet to date.

I personally believe that the Wolverine head coach knows exactly whose job it is to lose going into every season, and he likes to make them feel like their job isn’t secure, so that they have motivations to up their level of play. I would go as far as to say that if you asked Jim Harbaugh who the 2017-18 starting quarterback was going to be on December 31st of 2016: he would’ve said Wilton Speight.

Speight is, and has been the clear-cut, obvious, most-experienced, candidate for the starting job this coming season, and the prior talks of RS-freshman Brandon Peters taking on the starting role were ridiculous. Peters is talented, great potential, likely one of Michigan’s future, down the road, starting field generals; he’s not ready for the spotlight just yet, Speight will be the starter this season, and depending on draft stock — the redshirt junior will be back for 2018-19 to start.

I went into 2016 hoping to see finally eligible, Houston, transfer QB, John O’Korn, take the field against Hawaii in the season opener, after-all he was more experienced, had entertaining highlights from his freshman season, seemed poised to win the job. After watching every game a season ago, including the Indiana game, I have not a doubt in my mind that Coach Harbaugh made the right call with his man, Wilton. A lengthy, strong armed, 240 pounded quarterback with elusive, smart, pocket escape ability is the exact type of guy that a pro-style offense, which Harbaugh runs, needs. Jim had his primary eye on Wilton from the get-go if you were to ask me.

The 2015-16 “quarterback competition”, between Jake Rudock, and Shane Morris, was about as fake as it gets. The talent, and experience deficit at the time between the two was massive, but if it weren’t for Rudock’s transfer decision: Morris would have started in 2015, and potentially could have saved his career at Michigan. Nothing against the former 5 star quarterback, very talented, and I’m very happy that he’s found a new-home in Central Michigan with the expectation of winning the starting role. Jake Rudock came to Michigan with a great deal of experience to work with, I compare his playing style to a certain former Michigan QB named Tom Brady. Shane Morris will only be remembered at Michigan simply for this mess. There’s a reason Jake Rudock chose to come play for Michigan, he knew he’d be the starter, and so did Jim Harbaugh.

This tactic isn’t exclusively to heighten the play of his quarterbacks, but it’s also done for the media, and to cause uncertainty in the week one match-up preparation.

It’s done for the media to simply keep Michigan in the headlines — to keep his program in the minds of recruits.

Lastly, it’s done to stir up the week one preparation, in other words: he’s playing mind games. Why let Florida know who to prepare for? Instead, let them prepare for a possible 2-3 quarterbacks, and keep them guessing. It’s not exactly a standout tactic, but it’s just genuinely smart, and I have a hard time understanding why teams are so quick to reveal their starter.

A majority of the seasons in Harbaugh’s tenure will very likely feature a supposed “QB competition”, and this is not a bad thing by any means. You’ll find out who Jim Harbaugh’s starter is after Michigan’s offense takes the field. Wilton Speight will be the starter in 2017 because the best quarterback will always take the field for a Jim Harbaugh coached football team.

Just keep in mind next time you’re in a Michigan Football blogger chatroom, a twitter thread, or a Facebook comment section arguing who you think the starting quarterback will be: Harbaugh’s likely known for months, and the competition that you’re so educated on, is all smoke and mirrors.

Michigan Football 2017-18 Game-by-Game Predictions

Year three of the Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor will officially be underway in less than a month. After back-to-back 10-3 seasons, a vast majority of analysts, reporters, and fans have developed an assumption that Michigan will regress due to a heavy loss of talent to the NFL draft, and to seniors’ eligibility expiring.

Michigan will be the least experienced team returning in any college football power-5 conference, only returning 5 starters total (4 offense, 1 defense). Most preseason polls keep the Wolverines either in, or near the top ten; after losing 3 out of the final 4 games of 2016, losing over 40 seniors (11 NFL draft picks), the sole reason people are speaking so highly of Michigan in these polls is solely due to Jim Harbaugh: people respect him, and understand that he’s a helluva football coach.

The Wolverines’ schedule is no cake walk in 2017, taking on four heavy hitters in Florida, Penn State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State (two on the road, one neutral, one @ home). Road struggles defined the collapse of Michigan’s 2016-17 campaign, and you have to imagine that they’re hoping for a very different outcome for this season.

 

WEEK ONE: Saturday, September 2nd (vs. Florida)

Jim Harbaugh & Jim McElwain’s 2nd meeting, and let’s just go ahead with saying that the first meeting was a tad lopsided. The funny thing about this particular matchup is that both of these teams are arguably two of the biggest question marks entering the season, mostly because nobody knows if either team can be a true contender or not. It’s either a blessing or a curse for Michigan’s youthful, inexperienced roster for them to be thrown into the national spotlight in week one.

Florida’s offense adds ex-Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, and he is expected to be the starter. Zaire gets the golden opportunity to test out Michigan’s brand new secondary, and unless Michigan’s hyped up front seven is able to lay down the pressure, the Gator QB might be able to have a field day with this youthful defensive backfield.

Michigan’s offensive potential is huge, if you were to ask me: Wilton Speight is the starter, plain & simple, no question. An experienced, healthy, Speight is good news for this young receiving core featuring Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black, etc. Florida’s defense, like Michigan’s, lost some big names to the draft, and now look to serve their talented youth. Maurice Hurst, Michigan Senior d-tackle, took to the media in saying that Michigan’s offensive line is the “most improved unit”, which is very good news considering how subpar Speight’s protection was a season ago.

Like most games, the team that makes the fewer mistakes will win this game very easily. In other words: this is the type of game where coaching will serve a monumental role in the outcome, and if it’s ever a game of coaching between Harbaugh & McElwain, you’d better believe that I will take Harbaugh every time.

28-17 Michigan starts 1-0. 

WEEK TWO: Saturday, September 9th (vs. Cincinnati) 

The home opener is always a highly anticipated game, which never fails to fill up the Big House. Returning home after a big signature win on a national stage, this young team will have nothing but confidence. Luke Fickell will likely be leaving Ann Arbor with an 0-2 record as a head coach against the Wolverines.

This Bearcats team has a newfound energy, and is currently undergoing a culture change for the better under Fickell, but it will not be enough to take down Jim Harbaugh’s team in the Big House.

31-10 Michigan is 2-0.   

WEEK THREE: Saturday, September 16th (vs. Air Force)

Air Force came to Ann Arbor back in 2013, and gave Michigan fans a scare when they were able to take Brady Hoke’s Wolverines to the wire. The offensive attack that the Falcons feature can be very dangerous if you let your team lets their guard down. This is definitely a game that Michigan should be able to win easily, but not a game to look past, and to prepare for any differently.

45-14 Michigan is 3-0, comfortably in the top ten. 

WEEK FOUR: Saturday, September 24th (@ Purdue)

Conference opener, first true road game. Short and sweet: let’s just say that Purdue is better than Rutgers, fair?

56-7 Michigan is 4-0, 1-0 in conference play. 

WEEK FIVE: BYE WEEK

The longest week of football season for Michigan fans. Extra week of preparation before they take on their in-state rival.

WEEK SIX: Saturday, October 7th (vs. MSU)

Michigan is expected to be a heavy favorite going into this rivalry game. After a 3-9 season, rape investigations, and a not-so-impressive recruiting class, people aren’t giving Mark Dantonio’s once playoff bound program any love. It’s been going downhill for the Spartans, and there has been zero reason to believe things will get any better. However this game will be competitive to an extent, Mark Dantonio has yet to lose in this rivalry by more than two possessions, he understands the importance of this game, and not a lot of people want to win it more than he does.

35-21 Michigan is 5-0 overall, 2-0 conference.

WEEK SEVEN: Saturday, October 14th (@ Indiana)

The Hoosier’s new head coach Tom Allen looks to take this program in the right direction, but a program like Indiana usually doesn’t respond well to a transition season like this one. Home-field advantage can only help out so much in against a bigger school like Michigan. These schools have had a trend in recent history of keeping it tight, and putting on a show for the fans, ending in the same outcome annually though.

Very important for Michigan to stay focused, and not look ahead to the big game one week after.

34-13 Michigan is 6-0 overall, 3-0 conference. 

WEEK EIGHT: Saturday, October 21st (@ Penn State)

Prime time white-out in Happy Valley, scary situation, and it never sounds appealing to any team. After James Franklin’s banged up, early season, Penn State team was routed in the Big House in 2016, they ran the regular season table, won the Big Ten, and lost the Rose Bowl. By week eight of this season, Michigan’s underclassmen should be in mid-season form at full swing. Franklin is 0-3 against Michigan, and you have to imagine that he has the Wolverines right where he wants them this season.

Saquon Barkley is Penn State’s big man on campus this season, and many are projecting him to be a Heisman Trophy finalist. Despite a quiet day in Ann Arbor last season (15 carries, 59 yds), Barkley was a mere 4 yards shy of cracking 1,500 yards, 5.5 YPC, and 18 scores on the year. #26 is the X-factor in every big game for PSU this season, and if he’s not playing well, then that’s bad news for Penn State. This will be as true of a test as it can get for Michigan’s front seven, and if you ask me: they will impress you.

The maize n’ blue offense will be lining up against a very different defense rather than the one that Penn State brought to town last season, however the linebacker depth still runs thin on this roster. At this point in this season, Michigan should be averaging a little over 30 points a game, and I do not see that trend continuing for this one.

I see Penn State with a two possession lead headed into the 4th quarter. Wilton Speight nearly leads a late, comeback win, but falls a possession short of the big win on the road.

27-24 Michigan falls to 6-1 overall, 3-1 conference.

WEEK NINE: Saturday, October 28th (vs. Rutgers)

Rutgers has ways to go before they’ll be able to compete in the Big Ten conference. Perfect week to beat up on a bad team, and build some confidence moving forward to November.

63-7 Michigan is 7-1 overall, 4-1 conference. 

WEEK TEN: Saturday, November 4th (vs. Minnesota)

P.J. Fleck has a lot on his plate at Minnesota for year one, whether it’s his quarterback, his offensive line, his secondary, you name it. He’s just looking to establish his program, they won’t be ready to come to Ann Arbor. Michigan wins by a large margin, keeps the Little Brown Jug. Harbaugh & P.J. Fleck share some sort of light hearted, verbal exchange that’ll make a headline, just a fun prediction that is more likely than you’d think.

38-14 Michigan is 8-1 overall, 4-1 conference.

WEEK ELEVEN: Saturday, November 11th (@ Maryland)

Jim Harbaugh’s former defensive coordinator has been doing an exceptional job on the recruiting trail, and in establishing a winning mindset going into his 2nd season as the head coach of Maryland. DJ Durkin & company didn’t exactly impress in the Big House a season ago after they left Ann Arbor without scoring a touchdown.

The Terps’ 2016-17 campaign went better than some expected, and they don the talent to showcase a solid, talented, defensive unit this season. I believe this Maryland team has a potential to make some plays, and give Michigan a nail-biter in the first half on their home turf, but in the long run: I see the maize and blue pull away to win by at least 3 or more possessions.

42-24 Michigan is 9-1 overall, 5-1 conference. 

WEEK TWELVE: Saturday, November 18th (@ Wisconsin) 

This looks like a game for the playoff committee to keep a close eye on; I have Michigan with one loss going into this, and I see Wisconsin potentially going into this unbeaten, given that they’re able to take down Nebraska on the road.

The 14-7 final score of last season’s meeting between the teams truly doesn’t do it justice. Michigan dominated the game in the trenches, Wisconsin couldn’t get first downs, but the Wolverines simply had a what you could call a dysfunctional kicking game (missed 3 very kickable field goals).

This is a game for Wilton Speight to prove that he can be of use in the clutch, up to this point he’s had zero ‘down to the wire’ wins against any team of quality talent. I see another low-scoring defensive slug fest that will be taken to overtime. I feel as though the Badger offense lacks the competence to be able to keep up with a superb, talented, defensive roster like Michigan’s in an overtime situation like this one. Michigan will survive, and take down a top ten Wisconsin team for the 2nd season in a row; Harbaugh gets his first signature win on the road as Michigan’s head coach.

24-20 Michigan is 10-1 overall, 6-1 conference. 

WEEK THIRTEEN: Saturday, November 25th (vs. Ohio State)

Here’s the game that the fan base has been clamoring for ever since J.T. Barrett converted the double overtime, controversial, 4th down conversion. I have both teams going into this game in a spot worthy of cracking a trip to Indy for the Big Ten Championship game, and very possibly the CFB playoffs. Worth noting that I have Ohio State handling Penn State at home very easily, thus putting Michigan in a position of controlling their own destiny with a victory in “The Game”.

Jim Harbaugh, and the rest of this Michigan team have an unresolved, bad taste in their mouths from what happened in the horseshoe in last year’s game. Home-field advantage didn’t serve Harbaugh’s first Michigan team very well in 2015 after getting routed 42-13.

The Buckeyes are expected to be, and likely will be the popular favorite almost unanimously in my personal opinion, but why wouldn’t they be? Michigan has only beaten their archrival a singular time since 2003. Urban Meyer’s playoff bound team from a season ago is returning a gruesome amount of top-tier talent, just look at the recruiting classes.

This game will be two great teams, two great coaches, throwing heavy punches at one another, in other words they’ll both be playing their best brands of football. In the first half I believe that the Buckeye rushing attack featuring J.T. Barrett, and Mike Weber will make Michigan’s top front seven look silly, but the second half will be a different story after certain halftime adjustments. Speight will be playing sharp with his home crowd behind him, little to no mistakes, getting help from his young receivers, and veteran Grant Perry, all making plays.

Michigan kicks a late, game winning, field goal, and they snap the losing streak, the underclassmen show out, and the veterans fight hard for this long-awaited victory over a very, talented Ohio State football team.

My hot take is one that will make me appear biased, and delusional, so please allow me to explain: a Jim Harbaugh football team defying statistical odds is not a far-fetched thing by any means considering it’s happened before. By this final regular season game, inexperience isn’t huge, the young guys have gotten their fill, and are in full-go. I simply see this as a Michigan team that displays plenty of upside potential, and I compare them to that sophomore studded 2014-15 Ohio State football team that was supposed to be ‘a year away’ from winning the big one. There’s plenty more motivation for Michigan to win this, rather than Ohio State, who has dominated 21st century of the rivalry, and it hasn’t even been close.

34-31 Michigan is 11-1 overall, 7-1 conference, and is headed to Indianapolis.

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK: Saturday, December 2nd (vs. Wisconsin)

Two weeks after the overtime thriller that delivered Wisconsin their one & only loss on the season, they will receive their shot for redemption, and both teams will be playing for their first CFB playoff berth. Michigan will be not only be playing in their first Big Ten title game, but for their first conference title since ’04.

There isn’t much to say about what I think will happen in this rematch game, I’ll put it this way: Jim Harbaugh & his coaching staff are a top five staff in America college or pro. They are smart, football minds, and they know exactly what they’re doing. When you’ve played a team already earlier in the same season, you know exactly what to expect, what to prepare for, what works, what doesn’t work, how to stop what, their strengths, and their weaknesses. That is not in any way a shot at Paul Chryst’s staff, and program, clearly they’ve been successful in what they’re doing. There just aren’t a lot of football programs in the nation that feature as many years of professional experience as Michigan does.

35-21 Michigan finishes the regular season 12-1 overall, 8-1 in conference play. Big Ten Champions, and taking their first trip to the CFB playoffs. 

SUGAR BOWL PLAYOFF SEMIFINALS: New Year’s Day (vs. #1. Alabama)

Jim Harbaugh and his Michigan team have exceeded everyone’s expectations, and made it to their first playoff ranked at #4. My final four is Bama, USC, FSU, and Michigan.

I believe this big game between the two big name schools won’t exactly go how it went in 2012, but a very similar result may occur. Michigan will be able to keep it close going into the half, they’ll keep it within a score or two, and may even be able to keep it close headed into the fourth quarter. Nick Saban’s experienced team is able to pull away from Michigan, and take care of them quite easily by two scores.

31-20 Michigan finishes their season at 12-2 overall, 8-1 conference. Jim Harbaugh is now 32-8 at Michigan in just three seasons, and will be a bigger favorite for the national title come 2018-19.

At a first thought, I honestly did not think that Michigan was capable of cracking the playoffs, then I took an in-depth look at their schedule, the possibilities, and potential scenarios that can very well go down. I really don’t believe that I’m going out on a limb in making a prediction like this one, but yes it is bolder than most predictions will state. This is just my opinion, and it doesn’t have to be yours — I look at how good of a developmental, experienced coaching staff Michigan has, and how much talent has been flooding into Ann Arbor. This also comes down to if Michigan can find a way to overcome his team’s road struggles.