Last year for Michigan Football was defined by the “Revenge Tour,” a term coined by defensive end Chase Winovich as the Wolverines tried to get back at some of the teams that bullied them during the rough 2017 season.
The Revenge Tour ended with a whimper at the end of the season and fans, media and haters alike cranked up their criticism heading into 2019, which is completely deserved. Now, Michigan has a chance to go on a Narrative Killing Tour (still working on that phrase) this year where they may have a chance to finally take things to the next level in year five of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Here is a look at the five most popular criticisms of the state of the program and how they can kill them this season.
Jim Harbaugh is stubborn with his offense
Harbaugh came to Michigan looking to bring back and establish that signature Bo Schembechler-style of football. For the most part, he was able to do that through four seasons and bully the teams that they should bully. But in games where the opponent could physically match up with them, the Wolverines were stuck in the past and were not able to give much of a different look to throw defenses off.
It took four seasons, but Harbaugh finally realized this and took steps to address it by not only hiring a younger offensive mind with new ideas to coordinate the offense in Josh Gattis, but by also completely handing over the playcalling reins to him. This does not mean that the Wolverines suddenly become a Big-12 offense and Shea Patterson becomes Baker Mayfield incarnate, but there is much more of an emphasis on attacking and explosive plays as opposed to clock control and grinding this out. Michigan has recruited some extremely athletic and dynamic offensive playmakers and finally appears to be making an effort to find ways to get the ball in their hands in space.
On paper, that is exactly what the doctor ordered. You will still see the power run concepts and some of the stuff that Harbaugh has been famous for, but it seems like they finally have the right idea. The lone concern is what happens in a big moment and if Harbaugh gives Gattis the licence to make his own decisions, but for now, we will have to take their word for it.
Don Brown’s defense crumbles against equal talent
Now that the issues on offense have been seemingly addressed (in theory), all eyes are now on Don Brown and his Michigan defense, who have ranked highly nationally and have been among the nation’s elite units, but have struggled in big moments and fallen apart at times in the biggest games. Whether it has been lack of preparation or stubbornness or a bit of both, things like what happened in the opener at Notre Dame last year and especially in the finale at Ohio State cannot happen.
I mean, generally speaking, giving up 62 points is not a great idea on any given week.
Brown maintains there will not be much, if anything, changing about the way he handles his defense coming into this year and actually has doubled down on what he believes they will look like. This will continue to be an aggressive, attacking defense. And good teams will use that against them, so they need to be ready to adjust if/when that happens because it did not happen at the end of last year. If not, we may be having a conversation at the end of the year about the Josh Gattis-esque defensive coordinator that Michigan needs to find.
Mark Dantonio owns Michigan at the Big House
It is not much of a hot take to suggest that Harbaugh should be 4-0 (at least 3-1) against the Spartans. The botched punt in 2015 was a cruel punishment from the football gods, but the 2017 loss at home was a major missed opportunity for a variety of reasons. Regardless, the numbers are what they are and Mark Dantonio currently has a record of 4-1 against Michigan in Ann Arbor. Two of those wins were against putrid teams, one took an act of God (despite Spartan box score truthers’ thoughts) and the third was a flat-out pants pooping on the act of Michigan and deciding to go four-wide in a monsoon with John O’Korn at quarterback.
Whether or not Michigan State winds up being any good this year outside of their defense remains to be seen, but we know they will be ready to play and they more often than not play up for this game. Sometimes they have a way of lulling fans into a false sense of security, as teams like Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State have found out in the past. One must always be weary, but with the shenanigans between MSU and U-M the last few years, the Wolverines will not be overlooking them.
There will be many more of these matchups moving forward, one would assume, but this one feels like a rubber match of sorts and with a win, the Wolverines will have won three of the last four. That is called “taking a rivalry back,” which is something that can apply to our next topic.
Michigan is Ohio State’s punching bag
The Buckeyes have won 14 of the last 15 games in this series with the lone win coming against the 6-6 Luke Fickell team back in 2011. Maybe that is still a sore subject for the now-Cincinnati head coach?
Regardless, OSU has a new quarterback in Justin Fields and a new coach in Ryan Day and both on paper, at least as far as the stats go, are likely downgrades from Dwayne Haskins and Urban Meyer. With as talented as Michigan is and the fact that it is a home game, this has to be the year. It feels like we have said this two or three times now in the Harbaugh era, but if they cannot win this game, what are we even doing here anymore?
Michigan fans love to throw around the term “Little Brother” for MSU, but the same could be said for OSU fans towards Michigan. Even Buckeye recruits are talking about how it is not a rivalry anymore and how they expect that to continue. The Wolverines need to go out and make them pay for that hubris in 2019.
The Wolverines have not win the Big Ten since 2004
This one is tied in with the one above, as beating Ohio State probably means that you win the East and are going to Indianapolis. First they must survive and surpass the gauntlet that awaits in the always-tough Big Ten East. If they are able to do that, there is no reason they should not be able to finish the deal. The competition in the West is much improved and those teams are starting to catch up a bit, but nobody on that side of the conference is nearly as talented.
Fans want and expect the Wolverines to be a national title contender, but they cannot do that until they take care of business at home first. You can do all the mental gymnastics you want about how there are ways they could still get in with a loss somewhere on the schedule, even to Ohio State. But to truly earn respect, take care of the things you can control first and let the chips fall where they may.
What are some narratives you are tired of hearing that you hope Michigan can kill this year? Sound off in the comments below!