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: 9-1 (5-1 B1G)
So, a lot of things happened. Michigan lost its perfect record against Iowa and had its starting quarterback get injured in the process. The Wolverines obviously still controlled their own destiny, but that is not how it played out. As such, a tight victory over Indiana was the last victory of the 2016 season, as it would be two more times in our journey. A 20-10 win by No. 3 Michigan felt unsatisfying at the time and feels a bit empty in retrospect as well.
1. This game was incredibly important for the Wolverines, who kept a top-three ranking and still had every opportunity to win the conference and make the playoff. However, it played out exactly as one would expect coming off a disappointing loss, without the starting quarterback, and with a huge game looming next week. The offense could not really get it going, but the defense was up to the task and helped secure a gritty win.
2. John O’Korn had not seen much action outside of mop-up duty, and his first action as the starter went pretty poorly. The transfer completed under half of his passes and threw for just 59 yards in total, missing some open throws and not reading the defense well. Understandably, Harbaugh opted to lean on the running game instead, which accounted for both of the touchdowns.
3. While Michigan entered halftime down and did not regain the lead until late in the third quarter, it is hard to fault the defense too much. The Hoosiers only tallied 255 total yards and never really threatened to do a whole lot more. The Wolverines logged 12 TFLs and six pass breakups, and the vaunted punt unit was at it again, blocking a couple punts and clearly winning the special teams battle.
With nothing really working on offense, De’Veon Smith decided to take over. In his typical fashion, the power back bullied through defenders to find the end zone twice, both times from over 30 yards out and with little regard for those in his way. Smith logged 158 yards on a cold afternoon that turned into a heavy snow by nightfall in a game that seemed perfect for his skill set.