Michigan’s Revenge Tour may not have commenced all that long ago, but in the blink of an eye a month has gone by and they’ve rattled off impressive wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State.
Those victories have catapulted Michigan to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and changed the perception of the team nationally.
A lot of have jumped on the Wolverine bandwagon, media included.
But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, it’s been the opposite for quite some time.
There was talk about Jim Harbaugh not being able to beat his rivals, the masses criticized the offensive scheme, and the overall perception was the 2018 Michigan team would finish with at least a few losses.
Much of that banter is gone, the media is taking Michigan seriously, the fans are, and so are opposing teams.
However, it’s gotta feel weird for them to be getting love from some sources who have relentlessly ripped them throughout the past year.
Let’s take a look at what a handful of pundits have said about Michigan. Some have changed their tune, while others feel the same as they always have but have decided to stay mum while Michigan is on a win streak.
In September: “I think it’s probably Harbaugh who (hasn’t met expectations). I was flying up to Connecticut (ESPN) on Saturday and the only game that was on was Michigan-Northwestern. I watched the last quarter of that game. It was one of the worst football games I have ever seen.”
Saban vs. Harbaugh - the ultimate Christmas gift to all college football fans. https://t.co/diVR2CkMAN— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) November 4, 2018
Hours before Michigan played Wisconsin: “Everybody is talking about Michigan possibly in the College Football Playoff right now and I just don’t see it. Six out of seven times they’ve played vs. a Top 15 team, they’ve lost. Under Harbaugh, they haven’t won a ranked road game. You’ve got to be able to win big games for me to trust and they just haven’t been able to do that. And they have four big ones left on their schedule — today against Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and oh yeah, they’ve got to go play Ohio State at the end of the season.”
After loss to ND
Jim Harbaugh, the most overrated coach in college football history, is now 8-8 in his last 16 games at Michigan. Urban Meyer has lost eight games total in six years at Ohio State.— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 2, 2018
️@ClayTravis: “I’ve been critical of Jim Harbaugh but the worm has turned here on the seesaw with Ohio State... Urban Meyer is plummeting towards the ground and Harbaugh rising up to the sky. It’s gonna be a Michigan beatdown of Ohio State in that game.” https://t.co/FXqO1GY0nz— FOX Sports Radio (@FoxSportsRadio) November 6, 2018
After loss to ND: “Michigan looked vastly overrated on defense and confused on offense.”
Now: “The Wolverines aren’t just winning, but doing so in an impressive manner. Michigan’s defense, and justifiably so, gets most of the credit. But truth is, this has been a three-phase turnaround.”
It's almost like James Franklin, Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio are better college football head coaches than Jim Harbaugh. pic.twitter.com/L1HrjwnzWL— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 22, 2017
Michigan fans can voice their opposition all they want...Shea Patterson would have been Jordan Ta'amu's backup at Ole Miss in 2018 had Patterson not transferred.— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) May 17, 2018
Yes, it's an opinion...but an informed one
So Jim Harbaugh’s solution to not being able to beat Ohio State and Michigan State is a transfer QB who wears a number in the 20s? pic.twitter.com/wRiFCrD25X— Ben Axelrod (@BenAxelrod) December 6, 2017
Rivals- Ohio State
After loss to ND:
After loss to ND (Warning: The F-word is used)
Braylon Edwards is suspended indefinitely from the Big Ten Network after making harsh comments seen below about Michigan.— Larissa Liska (@LarissaLiska) September 3, 2018
Coach Jim Harbaugh responded, "I was disappointed a member of the Big Ten Network would choose to attack the character of our players. That's disappointing." pic.twitter.com/qB5KLRHHOF
Amani Toomer, December 2017
Even former Michigan football player Amani Toomer is turning on Harbaugh! Harbaugh is now being compared to Paris Hilton who was also popular, yet accomplished nothing. pic.twitter.com/sufs3GrP4o— Jason Parker (@NutzFordBucks) December 21, 2017
Why Michigan shouldn’t forget the naysayers
If any of the people above start singing Michigan’s praises consistently and call them a great team, the players shouldn’t listen to those words.
Maybe some of the pundits genuinely do an about face and really feel Michigan is the real deal.
But the other scenario is what the team is aware of, that the Paul Finebaum’s of the world are ready to pounce on them and rip them once again if Michigan slips and loses a game before they win the Big Ten Championship.
What’s better? A pat on the back, or playing with a chip on your shoulder?
Whether the preferred answer is the pat or the chip, what remains true is the Michigan team has a long memory, they don’t forget when people disrespect them.
Michigan didn’t forget Penn State ran up the score on them in 2017.
They didn’t forget Nebraska coach Scott Frost said his 2016 UCF team was more physical than Michigan. A beat-down of the Cornhuskers ensued in September.
They use the disrespect as fuel. They turn it into a positive; to study more in the film room, put up an extra rep in the weight room, in part because they are determined to prove everyone wrong.
Most who are giving Michigan praise don’t care whether they win or lose, words are just words more often than not.
It might be time for Harbaugh to re-introduce Freddy P Soft to the locker room, it would actually come as a surprise if he hasn’t already.
Who is Freddy P Soft?
“He’s a four-inch guy that wears a cape and a hat with a plume in it,” Harbaugh said in 2016. “He’s just tall enough to talk right into your ear and tell you, ‘You don’t have to practice today. Why are you working so hard? Get over there in the shade. No need to attack with enthusiasm unknown to mankind today. So take a break. Take a knee.’ He’s not a guy you want around. You want to get him off your shoulders fast as possible.”
Harbaugh used Soft as coach of the 49ers as well, and the players bought into the message, although it does sound funny at first.
“But when you think of it, that’s what happens in the National Football League,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said at the time. “That’s what happens in professional sports. You don’t want to get complacent.”
“Harbaugh has constantly preached to his players to tune out praise, deflect accolades and focus on the next game. He wants them on edge,” ESPN writer Doug Williams said.
That’s where we are at this season, it’s the stretch where tuning out praise and deflecting accolades will serve them will.
Keep doing what you’re doing, Michigan. Keep playing with that chip you’ve had on your shoulder ever since the Notre Dame loss. If you do just that, the naysayers will be forced to bite their tongue until the College Football Playoff kicks off on December 29th.