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Ranking Jim Harbaugh’s 47 wins at Michigan: Part 1

Not all wins are created equal, but they all still count.

Michigan v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Thanks for joining me on a 10-week journey back through all of Jim Harbaugh’s wins at Michigan. While the losses can seem hard to forget, there have been plenty of exciting moments and wins over the past five years.

After detailing each individual contest, I went through and ranked each of Harbaugh’s 47 victories in terms of quality of competition, magnitude of victory, and memorability. The games are grouped in arbitrary buckets with small themes. Up first are the bottom half of the wins.

Subpar Non-Conference Outings

Let’s never schedule Army agian.

No. 47 - 2019 vs. Army (24-21)

Is this really Harbaugh’s “worst” win? Tough to say, but this game was miserable throughout. Maybe the fault lies with the athletic department for scheduling a service academy. The Wolverines were lucky to escape this one in double overtime.

No. 46 - 2017 vs. Air Force (29-13)

Again: Do. Not. Schedule. Service. Academies. Donovan Peoples-Jones had a cool punt return for a score, but a three-point lead at half and no offensive touchdowns until the final minutes does not make for a good win.

No. 45 - 2017 vs. Cincinnati (36-14)

A lackluster performance on offense had the crowd frustrated during the home opener, which would not be the last time fans were unhappy during 2017.

No. 44 - 2018 vs. SMU (45-20)

Michigan would have entered halftime up just seven points were it not for a gifted pick six to Josh Metellus as the clock expired. This was not a good Mustangs team that should have been punished from the opening kick.


Tyree Kinnel saves the game in overtime.

No. 43 - 2016 vs. Indiana (20-10)

Basically every game against the Hoosiers has been closer than it should be, but the 2016 iteration was especially dumb. This game was right between Michigan’s two regular season losses and fittingly ended in a blizzard.

No. 42 - 2018 vs. Indiana (31-20)

Two years later the visitors again carried the lead into the third quarter despite not looking that impressive. This was a pretty dirty game by Indiana with multiple cheap shots and poor sportsmanship.

No. 41 - 2017 at Indiana (27-20)

While the overtime contest two years earlier featured a ton of scoring and a last-minute Michigan comeback, this was just the opposite. The Hoosiers put up 10 points in the final three and a half minutes, almost stealing this one in Bloomington.

Kinda Forgettable Non-Conference Contests

Win No. 1.

No. 40 - 2019 vs. Middle Tennessee (40-21)

The Wolverines were in command all night but allowed the Blue Raiders to stick around, thanks to sloppy play. Shea Patterson’s fumble on the first play of the game was an ominous start to the 2019 season.

No. 39 - 2015 vs. Oregon State (35-7)

Harbaugh’s home debut and first win as the head coach of his alma mater. The Beavers held the lead until late in the first half, but the stats were fairly lopsided by the time the game was over.

No. 38 - 2015 vs. UNLV (28-7)

Kind of a boring win, Michigan jumped out ahead 21-0 by halftime and took its foot off the gas. This was still early-season Jake Rudock who was not quite a stud yet, limiting the offensive output.

Acceptable Wins

The Wolverines ran away with the Jug.

No. 37 - 2019 at Illinois (42-25)

This looked like an easy blowout when the Wolverines took a 28-0 near the end of the first half, but then everything just kind of stopped. The Illini surged back to make it a three-point contest in the fourth quarter before the defense finally woke back up.

No. 36 - 2018 vs. Maryland (42-21)

Honestly, the Maryland games just struggle to stick out for me. In 2018, Michigan took a 17-10 lead into halftime before turning it up. The defense played away while the offense did its job...eventually.

No. 35 - 2017 vs. Rutgers (35-14)

Probably the most competitive the Scarlet Knights have been in the Harbaugh era. Fans let their dissatisfaction with John O’Korn be known, and surprisingly the coaching staff obliged, inserting Brandon Peters in the second quarter.

No. 34 - 2015 at Maryland (28-0)

The offense could only muster two first half field goals, but that was more than enough for the defense. The Terrapins put up just over 100 yards of offense in an impressive road shutout for the Wolverines.

No. 33 - 2017 vs. Minnesota (33-10)

Peters was not asked to do too much in his first start as Michigan ran all over the Gophers. Karan Higdon and Chris Evans nearly had 200 yards apiece against a struggling defense.

Mid-Major Sacrifices

One team out-hit the other, and it was not the guys who lost.

No. 32 - 2016 vs. UCF (51-14)

This game is a funny memory because of Scott Frost’s postgame comments proclaiming that his team was the tougher of the two. Not really sure how the team that gave up 31 points in the opening 20 minutes can feel good about anything, but to each their own.

No. 31 - 2018 vs. Western Michigan (49-3)

Michigan looked to quickly move past a disappointing season opener at Notre Dame by punishing the Broncos. The scoring came quickly and often with three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes and a 35-0 lead at halftime.

No. 30 - 2016 vs. Hawaii (63-3)

Wilton Speight infamously began his career as a starter by throwing an interception, but it really did not matter against the Rainbow Warriors. The Wolverines cruised all day and found themselves up 35-0 at halftime in this one as well.

Memorable Road Contests

Daytime white outs are a little more manageable.

No. 29 - 2015 at Penn State (28-16)

This was not the best Nittany Lions squad, but the Wolverines will take any win in Happy Valley. It was a back-and-forth affair, but the difference came down to touchdowns vs. field goals.

No. 28 - 2017 at Purdue (28-10)

A first quarter injury to Speight looked like trouble, and while it eventually turned out to be, O’Korn enjoyed his brief moment of success. The transfer quarterback led Michigan to a solid road win before quickly losing the favor of the fanbase and coaching staff.

No. 27 - 2018 at Northwestern (20-17)

Playing on the road is always tough, but no one expected this Michigan team to go down 17-0 early in the second quarter. The defense really buckled in, however, and shut out the Wildcats for the rest of a game, with Higdon scoring the go-ahead touchdown with four minutes left.

No. 26 - 2015 at Minnesota (29-26)

No way this game should have come down to the last play, and a more alert Minnesota team probably wins, but how often does a team get to win the Little Brown Jug on a goal line stand as time expires?

No. 25 - 2015 at Indiana (48-41)

This one had everything: six passing touchdowns by Rudock, 207 receiving yards from Jehu Chesson, a heroic final drive to tie it in regulation, and a clutch defensive stand in double overtime. While this game against Indiana was still stressful, at least it was fun.