Jim Harbaugh has completed five seasons in charge of the Michigan Wolverines with consistent but not exciting results. He has amassed a .723 winning percentage with each year ending between eight and 10 wins. Though the maize and blue faithful may be hoping for something more, this is not the time to dwell on the negatives!
With plenty of time to kill during the offseason, join us as we review each of Harbaugh’s 47 wins as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. While the losses do exist — and are often more memorable than the victories, unfortunately — they are not very fun to relive so I am skipping them because this is supposed to be a happy exercise!
Setting the stage: 4-1 (1-0 B1G)
At this point, Michigan had only given up two touchdowns over the past four games and zero points during the past eight quarters. Conference play opened up with no problem on the road against Maryland, but the now No. 18 Wolverines were hosting a No. 13 Northwestern side with a defense just as impressive as their own...or so it seemed. One 38-0 murder later and it was clear that Harbaugh had already made vast improvements to this program.
1. No other way to put it: three straight shutouts is extremely impressive, especially with two coming against ranked opponents. Michigan smothered Northwestern from the start and again allowed virtually nothing on the ground (38 yards). Jourdan Lewis had an interception for the second time in two weeks, this time ripping the ball out of the receiver’s hands and racing down the sideline for the score. Almost everyone on defense was making plays and the Wildcats had no chance to get anything going.
2. De’Veon Smith returned and led the way, trucking a few defenders who got in his path. The entire backfield seemed to contribute in the blowout, with Joe Kerridge gaining 34 yards on a fullback dive and Derrick Green carrying the ball 12 times in garbage time with a score. Michigan jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and really did not need to throw much, so seven different rushers got multiple carries against Northwestern.
3. Jake Rudock put up comically consistent stat lines during the middle stretch of the season, always throwing just under 200 yards with no more than one touchdown and one interception. He recorded neither in the air against the Wildcats, but did find the end zone again with his feet. More importantly, though, was his 73.9 percent completion percentage, which came against a good defense. It took a couple more weeks for him to truly break out, but this was the best performance yet by the grad transfer.
One way to set the tempo in a top-20 battle is to strike early, and Michigan made its intentions clear right from the get-go. Jehu Chesson took the opening kickoff all the way to the house, and the Wolverines never looked back. The junior receiver added a couple nice catches as well, and again took an end around, which was becoming a popular play for the offense.