By 2020, Michigan will...
Win the Big Ten East?
Win the Big Ten Championship?
Make it to the College Football Playoff?
Win a National Championship?
Have a new head coach?
So many questions that we would all love to know the answers to now. Am I right?
Now, let's all get in our time machines and travel into the future after three more seasons….
It's early Aug. 2020 and the players in Ann Arbor are reporting to fall camp. Michigan fans are getting their season tickets in the mail and new Jordan gear is hitting M Den shelves. You look around Schembechler Hall and gaze at the new banners hung with a buzz around the program that they're about to do it again.
But what kind of banner(s) is/are hung?
What are they about to do again based on the chatter around college football?
Is Jim Harbaugh still at Michigan for his seventh season or has he been replaced?
You jump back into the time machine and are back in the present…
We sit here today in 2017 after three years of Jim Harbaugh steering the ship in Ann Arbor and fans are grumbling — well, I guess grumbling more than normal — after another year of not playing this weekend in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship and losses to your two big rivals. I think about how the Michigan program has done a complete 180 the last few years with personnel changes, upgraded facilities, three consistent years with eight or more wins, in the AP Poll top-10 in 19 weeks over three seasons, and more players developing before entering the NFL.
Most importantly, Jim Harbaugh and the staff have changed the entire culture, just not as fast as some would like. I get it, fans have a reason to be frustrated, but you must quickly look past this season of missed opportunities against rivals and look ahead to what's in front of them in 2018 and beyond. I've moved past it quickly because I had expected this to be a three or four loss season and any less would mean they are progressing quicker. Four losses in a season may be the worst year under Jim Harbaugh, and the sweet victory over ranked rivals may be on the horizon very soon.
Wolverines are close to being great again?
Jim Harbaugh has kept Michigan close in the majority of games since he started coaching with a mixture of prior staff recruits sprinkled in with his own.
Here's a quick recap of the 10 losses in 38 games:
- All except three (Iowa 2016) were from a top 25 opponent at year’s end.
- All but two were within two possessions. (OSU 2015, PSU 2017)
- Lost three games in 2016 by a total of five points. (Iowa-1, OSU-3 in 2OT, FSU-1)
- Six have been by seven points or less.
Yes, many are losses to arch rivals and mostly Big Ten teams that shattered their chances of a Big Ten Championship game. Fans want more success and big wins against ranked teams to get back in the Big Ten Championship picture and national spotlight. That is clearly the next hurdle everyone in Schembechler Hall is focused on going forward.
2018 is the first season where Jim Harbaugh has the majority of his recruits with the final recruiting class of players that came in before him under Brady Hoke. Many questions about the next few years and what next direction this team will take may very well all be answered next year, starting in week one on the road against Notre Dame, with that renewed rivalry game back on the schedule.
What happens to the College Football Playoff in the next three years?
We are also in a time where I think college football is thriving more than ever. The NFL is a much different product that's hurting and I feel is getting passed more each year by college football. I think it would be even worse if fantasy football wasn't a thing because it seems more people watch what the individual players do each Sunday than a team.
It makes you wonder based on the success they've created since starting the College Football Playoff if they expand it soon or keep it at four teams. Each year has been a little different and unique based on the matchups. But one thing that has stayed consistent is the Big Ten getting shutout in a playoff game.
There seem to always be a few teams on the outside looking in that could possibly make that late surge and go on a winning streak through an expanded playoff to create utter chaos. The committee wants the regular season to still mean something, so they will do everything in their power to preserve that, and rightfully so. I want games from week one to still mean something, especially in those early key non-conference matchups.
This year may create a brand new and difficult situation for the committee to determine who are the four teams most deserving to get in based on what they've done to this point after the conference championships. Based on this year, not one team has been dominant and a handful still have a shot at getting in. They may decide to expand it, especially if we see a year or two where the same conference gets two teams in.
It seems the college football season comes and goes quicker each year, making fans want it back so bad when it's gone. It's difficult to predict what happens at Michigan or in the sport in the next few years.
Wolverine fans have not tasted a Big Ten or National Championship for two decades, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting that more than Harbaugh. He’s putting Michigan in the right direction to taste sweet victory very soon.
So who knows? Maybe it will be 2020 and Michigan has achieved everything, is at the top of the college football world and are favorites to win it all again in 2021.
If, when and how that happens are the biggest questions, and it all starts in 2018.