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Turning Points: Existential Crisis, Harbaugh, etc.

When I came up with the idea for this article, I knew this week would come: a week without a single 'turning point', let alone points. So, what's in the article instead? Read on to find out.

Jim Harbaugh wondering how anything could lack purpose or meaning when football exists.
Jim Harbaugh wondering how anything could lack purpose or meaning when football exists.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's Tuesday afternoon, this article is going out later than it's scheduled to go out, and I still don't really know what to write about. With the game against the UNLV Rebels never in doubt, there are no defined 'turning points' to analyze. Victory on Saturday was Michigan's Manifest destiny. Yes, perhaps the interception by Channing Stribling on the fourth play of the game could be considered a 'turning point.' Blake Decker had just ran for 16 yards and a first down on 3rd and 11. Maybe the idea of the Rebels putting up a fight existed for a second. But it didn't, and if you thought it did, I should remind you of HARBAUGH, the touchdown Michigan scored seven plays later, and the fact that the Wolverines now seems capable of shutting the door early on teams it should defeat.

So what's left to talk about in regards to 'turning points' for this week? Not much. Nothing really. But to honor the subjective nature of these articles, I'm going to make wild conclusions about the success Jim Harbaugh will have this season. How? By comparing his 2-1 start to every other Michigan head coach throughout history in their first year and deciding if Harbaugh or the other coach 'wins'. A win for Harbaugh means he will have a better season this year, and a win for the other coach means they had a better first season than Harbaugh will have this year. First up, the two-headed monster from 1891: head coaches Mike Murphy and Frank Crawford.

Round 1: Jim Harbaugh vs. Mike Murphy and Frank Crawford (1891)

Coming into this battle, Murphy and Crawford probably thought they had the edge since two head coaches are better than one, right? Wrong. Harbaugh laughs, uncaps the marker around his neck, and proceeds to write a 150-page thesis on how one is, in fact, greater than two. The Murphy-Crawford tandem in 1891 started the season 2-1, just like Harbaugh, but the competition doesn't compare. In the first three games, Michigan beat Ann Arbor High School (what?), lost to Albion, and won against Olivet. Oregon State and UNLV are bad, but nobody is mistaking them for a high school team. Murphy and Crawford also went on to win only two of the next six games. I see the 2015 Wolverines winning more than two games the rest of the year.

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 2: Jim Harbaugh vs. Frank Barbour (1892)

The Murphy-Crawford connection only lasted a year with Barbour replacing them in 1892. He led the Wolverines to back-to-back victories on the Michigan Athletic Association to start the year, followed by a win over Wisconsin. Chuckling at Harbaugh's 2-1 record, Barbour states that only the best coaches start a season 3-0. Jim argues that losses build character. Frank takes the advice and proceeds to lose five of the next nine games, including two blowout losses to Cornell. Harbaugh reminds Barbour that Ivy League schools are pitiful at football now and doesn't care if they were good 'back in the day.'

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 3: Jim Harbaugh vs. William McCauley (1894)

McCauley started his first season 2-0-1, finished 9-1-1, and beat Cornell 12-4 in a game that "marked the first time in collegiate football history that a western school defeated an established power from the east." This led William into thinking he's defeated Harbaugh. After searching his library for the Official 1996 NCAA College Football rulebook, Harbaugh points out that ties are not possible in college football and asks McCauley why he settled for such nonsense.

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 4: Jim Harbaugh vs. William Ward (1896)

In his one and only season as Michigan's head coach, Ward led the Wolverines to a 3-0 start and a 9-1 finish which included the first college football game played under a roof - a 7-6 loss against the Chicago Maroons in the final game of the season. Much like his predecessors, Ward thinks he's bested Harbaugh until the khaki clad coach reminds William of the importance of strength of schedule: "In your first three games, Coach Ward, you played Michigan State Normal - now known as Eastern Michigan University - Grand Rapids High School, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago. You followed this with a week four game against Rush Lake Forest. Unacceptable."

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 5: Jim Harbaugh vs. Gustave Ferbert (1897)

Again, like those before him, Ferbert believes he's bettered Harbaugh by finishing the 1897 season with a 6-1-1 record and a 2-0-1 start. He yells, "You've already lost one Jim, and I don't care what you said to McCauley, ties were a thing in the 1800s. Heck, they still existed when you played at Michigan!" "Very true coach, very true," Harbaugh replies, "But Gus, why do you claim your record is 6-1-1 when you actually lost an exhibition game against the Alumni, 15-0? A loss is a loss Gus. Own up to your mistakes."

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 6: Jim Harbaugh vs. Langdon Lea (1900)

After watching Harbaugh's destruction through the first five rounds, Lea decides to not even put up a fight. He realizes nobody remembers his single season as Michigan's head coach, especially since Fielding Yost succeeded him. "I may have started 3-0, but I lost to Iowa, Chicago, and tied Ohio. My 7-2-1 record is nothing special, so just take the victory Jim," he mutters to Harbaugh. Jim, always looking for a chance to coach, instructs Lea that his defeatist attitude may have led to Michigan's poor finish in 1900. He assigns Langdon 1,000 pushups and accepts the win.

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 7: Jim Harbaugh vs. Fielding Yost (1901)

Yost: "Jim, my boy, I know you'll do great things at Michigan."

Harbaugh: "Thanks coach."

Yost: "But call me when you go undefeated four years in a row and that offense of yours wakes up."

Harbaugh: "Yes coach."

Winner: Yost

Round 8: Jim Harbaugh vs. George Little (1924)

Who is George Little, you might ask? Well, he coached Michigan for one year in between Yost's two tenures as Michigan's head coach. He started his lone season 2-1, just like Harbaugh, and finished 6-2 with a 9-2 loss against Iowa in the season finale. It was an unspectacular season, but it wouldn't necessarily be called a disappointment. I have a feeling this year will be similar, save for potential victories over Michigan State and Ohio. Harbaugh coaches more games, will probably win more than six games, and therefore, rises above Little.

Winner: Harbaugh

Round 9: Jim Harbaugh vs. Elton Wieman (1927)

Wieman's first of two seasons at Michigan played out almost exactly like Little's only season, except for the fact that Wieman started 3-0. The Wolverines finished 6-2 in '27 but the wheels fell off in '28 as they stumbled to a 3-4-1 record. For the same reasons Harbaugh topped Little, Harbaugh beats Wieman.

Winner: Harbaugh


I'm going to stop at Wieman and leave the heavy hitters (e.g. Kipke, Crisler, Oosterbaan, Elliot, Carr, and a guy named Bo) and the others for next week. So far, Harbaugh leads 8-1. TO BE CONTINUED...