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Ranking Harbaugh’s 25 Games At Michigan

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And here’s to another 125.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
#1. Michigan’s win over Florida in 2015, 41-7

Crushing somebody back to the 1900’s has never felt so good. Jehu Chesson embarrassed Vernon Hargreaves, De’Veon Smith looked like a brand-new man, and Jake Rudock threw for 278 yards and 3 touchdowns with no picks.

"I would say this was the best game we've played all year," said Harbaugh. "I don't think I've ever seen our offense play better. Our defense was magnificent. ... It was really good.”

#2. Michigan wins with a goal-line stand over Minnesota, 29-26

This was another classic. Last-minute drama. High emotions on both sides - thanks to Michigan coming off the Michigan State loss and Minnesota reeling from Jerry Kill leaving his team mid-season to care for his health.

Jake Rudock went 13/21 for 140 yards before getting injured, while Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner threw what felt like a hundred crazy completions and ended up with 317 yards and a touchdown. Wilton Speight stole the show, however, with a fourth-quarter comeback drive.

#3. Finally toppling the Spartans in 2016, 32-23

I’m sorry to say there’s only one of these rivalry wins on here right now, so the top of this list definitely has some space to get filled out.

Still, it was a great win, and even if it was gut-wrenching and strangely disappointing at the same time, I think it helped put a lot of things to bed. So, a toast.

#4. Starting a three-game shutout party against BYU, 31-0

31-0 over #22 BYU in Week 4. 28-0 over Maryland in Week 5. 38-0 over #13 Northwestern in Week 6.

There are a lot of good arguments for that Northwestern win to be ranked higher, but it was only the climax and the denouement of the festivities. BYU started it all - there was something downright magical about that game, quite possibly because De’Veon was disappearing through walls of players and coming out the other side, or because Amara Darboh was making one-handed grabs like Odell Beckham.

This was the game when everyone looked at Michigan and said, “Huh... wow.” And you always remember a moment like that.

This video is functional, by the way, despite the gray screen:

#5. Shutting out Northwestern in 2015, 38-0

#13 versus #18. An epic showdown of ... well, never mind. That was short-lived.

Jehu Chesson got it all started with a 96-yard kickoff return, and Michigan followed that up with two more touchdowns on their next two possessions. Northwestern amassed a total of 95 yards in the first half, and then 73 in the second half. Jourdan Lewis capped it off with his official Houdini Interception of 2015.

#6. Michigan topples #8 Wisconsin, 14-7

Now, on to Jourdan’s Houdini Interception Game of 2016. This one fell short of being a classic game, in my mind, but it was one that both sides will look back to often as we square off in the future.

Michigan, of course, dominated in total yards, time of possession, and turnovers, but only Kenny Allen kept it close. Tight, tense, and enjoyable game.

#7. Beating the eventual Pac-12 South champs, 45-28

This one started like a train wreck but ended up being one of Michigan’s best resume-builders for the 2016 playoff. Sefo Liufau threw for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns before getting injured in the third, and Wilton Speight was solid but not a game-winner. This ultimately came down to defense and depth - and a Jabrill Peppers punt return touchdown (finally!!) didn’t hurt, either.

#8. Michigan vs. Penn State back in November of 2015, 28-16

This might not be on fans’ radar, but it was actually a sneaky good game on both sides. For the Nittany Lions, neither Christian Hackenberg (13/31, 137 yards, four sacks) or Saquon Barkley (15 carries, 68 yards) could do anything against Michigan’s defense, but they still found a way to stay in the game until Michigan’s touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

"Every time the momentum was shifting or about to shift, our offense responded with a big drive, touchdown drive," Harbaugh said.

Amara’s reception at 2:12 of the above highlights is a thing of beauty. NFL star, anyone? And Lewis’ return at 5:56 is another must-see. This was quietly a terrific game.

#9. Michigan’s win over Penn State in September 2016, 49-10

Fans of both sides could look back at this one and say that, if it were to be played later in the season, they would have fared much better. And both sides would have a point. Penn State, notably, had a lot of linebacker injuries that they would figure out after this game that really helped start the engine.

And, what a rebound it was: nine straight wins to claim a Big Ten title after losing to the Wolverines.

I do have to take away points, though, for Jabrill stumbling and losing his balance before the end zone, taking away another touchdown chance. It felt like that was the end of his Heisman hopes, in a way, and there’s always a small ‘what if he keeps his balance’ that nags me.

#10. Pulverizing Maryland in 2016, 59-3

Let me point out that Maryland would end up 6-7 at the end of the year. But Michigan looked like they were teeing off against an FCS school in this one; Wilton Speight went 19/24 with 362 yards and 2 touchdowns, De’Veon Smith had 19 carries for 114 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Jehu Chesson got off the mat to complete 5 catches for 112 yards. Beating D.J. Durkin probably felt good for Harbaugh, as well.

"That's the best half of football I've ever seen a Michigan quarterback play," Harbaugh said, after watching Speight throw for 292 yards in the first half.

#11. Michigan smushes Maryland in 2015, 28-0

This was brutal on one side of the ball: Maryland had just 105 yards, matching the BYU game one week earlier, and their quarterbacks went an abysmal 10/36 for 76 yards (!!), no touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Caleb Rowe and Daxx Garman had quarterback ratings of 2.5 and 2.0, respectively.

And the funny part is, Michigan’s offense still wasn’t really gelling yet. Jake Rudock went 16/32, and only Drake Johnson was effective on the ground.

Michigan v Maryland
It was great to see the brother in town, too.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
#12. Michigan wins a thriller over Indiana, 48-41 in 2OT in 2015

I know, it’s a close game against Indiana, but this was the kind of game that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s worth noting that Jake Rudock broke a Michigan passing record in this one with 6 touchdown throws, and he also ran for 64 yards, so he actually finished with a pretty crazy 506 total yards on the day. Did I mention this was an exciting game?

It was also a bit of a gut-check for Michigan’s run defense: Jordan Howard ran 35 times for 238 yards on the day, though to be fair, he is now running for 1,178 yards and 5.1 yards a carry in the NFL. So, yeah.

#13. Showing up against Rutgers in 2016, 78-0

Going through the box scores for these games, you see a lot of poor passing performances by opposing quarterbacks. This one, though, takes the cake: Chris Laviano went 1/8 with a 6-yard pass and an 8-yard sack, and Zach Allen went 1/10 with a -1 yard pass and 12 carries for -6 yards. Quarterback ratings respectively: 1.2 and 1.5.

Michigan also had two 100-yard rushers, a 99er, and Jabrill getting 74 on 3 touches. 481 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Decent? I’d say it’s decent.

#14. Michigan vs. Hawaii, an easy 63-3 win

It was a lot of fun watching this team take the field again. I’ll always remember this game for that. But, it turned out exactly how you would have expected (or at least, how I expected), and there’s only so much celebrating you can do while beating Hawaii.

#15. Michigan vs. UCF, a 51-14 win

“Another easy win,” said ESPN, and they were right.

"We're hungry," Jake Butt added as well. "We're up 30 points and we want to be up 40." Damn right, Jake.

#16. Michigan ekes out a win over Indiana, 20-10 in 2016

No Wilton Speight. Just waiting until the Ohio State game. This was forgettable through and through, even though they beat a very solid Indiana squad with their back-up quarterback.

Hats off to De’Veon for a resurgent performance, though: 23 carries for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.

#17. Suffering a close lose to Utah, 24-17 in 2015

Surprisingly, I’m taking this ahead of some 2015 non-conference wins/snooze-fests. The Utah game was exciting, it was painful, but ultimately it was an encouraging start to Jim Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor. The excitement leading into this one was memorably unique.

#18. Michigan takes down Gary Andersen and Oregon State, 35-7

Forgettable through and through... hats off to De’Veon... 23, 126 and 3 touchdowns... hey, didn’t I write this somewhere before?

#19. Win over UNLV, 28-7 in 2015

Impressive but not truly dominant. Ty Isaac had that 76-yard scamper, and that was fun.

#20. Michigan over Rutgers in 2015, 49-16

Oh my god, how many times are we going to have play Rutgers, anyway? Is this going to be a regular thing?

The one benefit that came out of this was Jim Harbaugh going for 2 with 11 minutes left in the third and a 43-16 lead. Yeah, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

#21. Michigan takes down Lovie Smith and Illinois, 41-8

Hey! What happened in this game? Stuff? Things? Who knows?! Even Michigan fans were thinking about Michigan State while this game was in progress.

#22. Losing to Iowa in 2016, of course

I think this is going to be a quick slide to the finish. Let’s see...

#23. Losing to Ohio State, 30-27 in overtime, in 2016

Yep. It may have been a classic game for neutral observers, but it sucked for us.

#24. Getting blown out by Ohio State in 2015, of course

At least in this one, I was numb by half-time. Which, considering how much I hate losing to the Buckeyes, was really wonderful.

#25. Aaand the Michigan State game in 2015, of course

I learned to really, really hate the Spartans after this game. So there’s that.

All In One Place: Harbaugh’s Games, Ranked

Result vs. Score Year
Result vs. Score Year
Win Florida 41-7 2015
Win Minnesota 29-26 2015
Win Michigan State 32-23 2016
Win BYU 31-0 2015
Win Northwestern 38-0 2015
Win Wisconsin 14-7 2016
Win Colorado 45-28 2016
Win Penn State 28-16 2015
Win Penn State 49-10 2016
Win Maryland 59-3 2016
Win Maryland 28-0 2015
Win Indiana 48-41 (2OT) 2015
Win Rutgers 78-0 2016
Win Hawaii 63-3 2016
Win UCF 51-14 2016
Win Indiana 20-10 2016
Loss Utah 17-24 2015
Win Oregon State 35-7 2015
Win UNLV 28-7 2015
Win Rutgers 49-16 2015
Win Illinois 41-8 2016
Loss Iowa 13-14 2016
Loss Ohio State 27-30 (2OT) 2016
Loss Ohio State 13-42 2015
Loss Michigan State 23-27 2015

So, where will Florida State fit in?

I know Michigan fans are looking forward to Florida State about as much as they’re looking forward to the next time sports writers talk about politics. Mainly, this game will just be a chance to see our boys in blue, and give them a heart-felt farewell.

If it’s a win, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. If it’s a good win, then I think it belongs in the top ten in the list above. A loss, with the carry-over from Ohio State and the way we’d go into the off-season, would be rough.