Saturday was weird.
Former NBA player Nate Robinson was knocked out cold by YouTube star Jake Paul on the undercard of the Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. pay-per-view because that is where entertainment has landed in 2020.
Much like Penn State vs. Michigan, this was the athletic competition that no one wanted, but everyone watched. Despite being left unconscious, Robinson’s boxing career somehow has more promise than Michigan football.
On Saturday, the Wolverines were beaten by the previously winless Penn State Nittany Lions 27-17. Michigan’s performance was less inspiring than Jake Lloyd in Episode 1 and a 10-point loss felt generous.
All of the perceived momentum following last week’s triple overtime victory against Rutgers vanished; that victory was proven not to be a rallying cry, but a last gasp of air by a dying program.
The team is broken and there is no trust between the players and coaches. Josh Gattis has suddenly made me miss Tim Drevno’s play calling and Don Brown’s defense is more vulnerable than an Adele album.
What happened? Just shy of six years ago, Jim Harbaugh was the home run hire, the savior of Michigan football, and for a few years, he lived up to the billing. But somewhere, everything came unraveled and I believe this fracture began two years ago in Columbus.
The Wolverines were in the midst of a “Revenge Tour” and were currently ranked No. 4 in the country. Since the opening weekend loss at Notre Dame, Michigan had outscored their next ten opponents by an average of 26 points (including three ranked opponents 34-9).
This was the team to finally snap the losing streak to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State fielded a “down team” by their standards having struggled against Penn State, Nebraska, and Maryland and were blown out in their lone loss to Purdue 49-20. This was the year.
Or so we thought.
The Wolverines never held a lead and were thoroughly trounced 62-39 in the most embarrassing loss to the Buckeyes of the 21st century. The feeling of “if not now, then when?” inundated the program as hope grew more and more elusive.
Michigan lost the ensuing bowl game 41-15 to the Florida Gators, endured an up and down 2019 campaign, and were ultimately beaten handedly again by the Buckeyes 56-27.
In the last two rivalry games, Michigan has led Ohio State for only 2:53 of actual game time and have been outscored 118-66. To paraphrase Fight Club, “I am Jack’s crippling depression.”
Ryan Day stated in the off-season that he wanted to “Hang 100” on the Wolverines and somehow that now feels conservative. I mean, who is going to stop him? Don Brown? The guy who made Rocky Lombardi look like Brett Favre and Sean Clifford look like Steve Young?
Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure will not end in a blaze of glory, but in a fizzle of humiliation in two weeks to the Ohio State Buckeyes. But wait, what about the Maryland game next week?
The game against Maryland is merely a formality and the outcome holds zero weight on the future of the program or Jim Harbaugh. However, this game is an opportunity to fight off history.
A victory against Maryland would prevent this team from being the first team in Michigan football history to not win a home game at Michigan Stadium. Michigan Stadium (the ‘Big House’) was built in 1927.
Even with a winless home record, this is not 2014. No, this is worse.
In 2014, Michigan was 5-6, the writing was on the wall for head coach Brady Hoke, and the team still came ready to play against Ohio State. The Wolverines were tied with the eventual national champion Buckeyes 21-21 halfway through the third quarter.
Despite a massive talent gap, the team was still fighting; the team still had some semblance of belief and hope in BRADY HOKE. Lacking talent is better than lacking direction.
The 2020 Wolverines are loaded with talent, but directionless under the guidance of Jim Harbaugh, unless that direction is a downward spiral. The team has no belief in Harbaugh and he cannot be the Michigan football coach beyond this season.
This program never recovered from the 2018 loss in Columbus and even the most staunch Harbaugh supporters have had enough.
Sadly, the football season is not over and the requiem for the Harbaugh era will endure for a few more weeks.
On Saturday, we learned that like Nate Robinson, Michigan football lies motionless on the canvas. But unfortunately for Michigan supporters, there are still two more rounds to fight.