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Harbaugh History: Win No. 17 vs. Illinois (2016)

The train kept rolling as Michigan crushed the Illini on Homecoming.

NCAA Football: Illinois at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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: 6-0 (3-0 B1G)

It is difficult to grab any attention when beating an overmatched team like Rutgers, but Michigan managed to do that with an absolute obliteration in New Jersey. After a bye week the team returned back to the Big House to face another lesser foe, and while less gory, the result was similar, as the No. 3 Wolverines took it to Illinois, 41-8.

Three takeaways

1. Wilton Speight was decent in the first half of 2016, but he only had a few instances of complete performances for the whole game. Against Illinois, he did everything he needed to, throwing for 253 yards and two scores. Jake Butt continued to be a reliable target for the quarterback, and the duo connected to open up the scoring. He looked solid in throws downfield as well, an area that had not always been consistent in the past few weeks.

2. The defense was again lights out, allowing just one garbage time touchdown after the game was well decided. The Illini did not total 100 passing yards on the day, and quarterback Jeff George did not complete a pass in the first half. Dymonte Thomas nabbed his first career interception, and the whole secondary was in lockdown mode when challenged.

3. This win was completely one-sided, but felt a little...boring? Michigan took a 31-0 lead into halftime and went on cruise control in the second half. After a narrow top-10 win over Wisconsin, a thrashing of the Scarlet Knights, and a date in East Lansing coming up, it seemed like fans had their attention elsewhere. The players were engaged, however, especially a rushing attack that yielded 279 yards and three scores. Harbaugh had the power run game right where he wanted, and putting away overmatched opponents was all too easy.

Standout performer

De’Veon Smith got the bulk of the carries, but it was Karan Higdon who looked the flashiest. The sophomore found the end zone for the second week in a row and stole the attention of the crowd on an exciting 45-yard touchdown run, helping him on his way to 106 yards. Michigan had a whole stable of capable rushers, but Higdon was setting himself up for a bigger role in the future.

Highlights