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Harbaugh History: Win No. 18 at Michigan State (2016)

Michigan did what it needed to do against a struggling rival.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-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: 7-0 (4-0 B1G)

The Wolverines kept climbing up the polls, reaching the top two after seven straight wins, just one really that competitive. A trip to East Lansing saw a team on the other end of the spectrum, losers of five straight, but records must be taken with a grain of salt in a rivalry game. It was a chippy affair as to be expected, but No. 2 Michigan took home a 32-23 victory over Michigan State that was not as close as the final score indicates.

Three takeaways

1. While there was definitely a gap in quality between the two teams, the game did not turn into a blowout. Part of this was due to Michigan State putting forth its best effort in its biggest game during the middle of a lost season, but the Wolverines struggled to capitalize, scoring just three offensive points in the second half and surrendering over 400 yards. It is always difficult to go on the road and completely shut down a rival, but Michigan did enough to win, including holding the Spartans to 1-for-4 on fourth downs.

2. Amara Darboh did not find the end zone, but he was easily the most dynamic Michigan player on offense. The senior receiver nabbed eight balls for 165 yards and converted some key third downs and made some impressive grabs in tight spaces. Wilton Speight did not have an amazing day, but things went well when looking toward his favorite target.

3. The Spartans were able to limit the run game, but the Wolverines did enough to keep their offense operating. De’Veon Smith mustered just 38 yards, but he reached the end zone twice in the first half to build the Michigan lead. To add a little wrinkle, Eddie McDoom was featured on a couple jet sweeps, averaging over 25 yards a carry.

Standout performer

At this point in the year it was becoming more realistic to call Jabrill Peppers a Heisman candidate. He was always a long shot to actually win the award, but each week he seemed to grab more headlines. Michigan was not afraid to feature him in East Lansing, giving him multiple wildcat snaps. Peppers turned these into 24 yards and a touchdown, while adding seven tackles — including a fourth down sack — and running back a two-point conversion attempt at the end of the game.