The 2021 bye week fell symmetrically perfect for the Michigan Wolverines. With key players, including Roman Wilson, Zak Zinter, Chuck Filiaga and Trevor Keegan, banged up, it provides extra time for the players to get healthy and prepare for the final six games.
Sometimes the bye week is only that — a time to rest and recharge. Other times it seems to serve as nothing more than a momentum hinderance for a team on a roll. Can the Wolverines get their players back to good health and avoid any sluggishness against Northwestern this Saturday?
Let’s look back at how Michigan has performed following a bye week under Jim Harbaugh.
2015 - Beat Minnesota 29-26
This game had it all: multiple lead changes, a backup quarterback in Wilton Speight taking over in the second half and a goal-line stand to secure victory for the Wolverines.
Michigan went into Minneapolis on Halloween two weeks after the infamous, “Trouble with the Snap” fiasco. While in desperate need of something positive, the Wolverines were lethargic on both sides of the ball.
Minnesota out-gained Michigan 461-296 and were +2 in the turnover margin. However, with 19 seconds, one timeout and the ball on the 1-yard line, the Golden Gophers somehow only managed to run two plays.
Instead of opting for a game-tying field goal, Minnesota tried a quarterback sneak with Mitch Leidner as time expired. Behind Ryan Glasgow and Willie Henry, Michigan stuffed Leidner and brought the Little Brown Jug back to Ann Arbor.
2016 - Beat Illinois 41-8
Two weeks after beating Rutgers in a game that could have warranted criminal charges, Michigan decided to show some mercy against the Illini.
After one half, the Wolverines were winning 31-0 and had only allowed two first downs. Instead of running up the score for the second consecutive game, the Wolverines came out with an approach more conservative than Calvin Coolidge.
Michigan decided to take its foot off the gas, cruise to victory and to not risk injury with the Michigan State game looming the following week.
2017 - Lost to Michigan State 14-10
Is this the worst-coached game of the Harbaugh era?
These were Michigan’s drive results in order: field goal, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, fumble, fumble, touchdown, interception, interception, interception, punt, punt and an incompletion as time expired.
Despite playing in conditions that rivaled a monsoon, and despite running back Karan Higdon averaging 5.4 yards-per-carry on his lowly 12 attempts, the Wolverines let quarterback John O’Korn air it out 35 times.
O’Korn replaced the injured Speight the week before in Michigan’s 28-10 victory against Purdue with an encouraging performance. However, O’Korn was never able to replicate that level of play the rest of his career.
Michigan lost the turnover battle 5-0 (the worst of the Harbaugh era), but still somehow only lost by four points.
2018 - Beat Penn State 42-7
The Revenge Tour: three words that will always warm the heart.
Michigan had just reeled off consecutive victories against two ranked opponents (Wisconsin and Michigan State) and now, after a bye week, turned to the Nittany Lions.
This game was body blow after body blow as Penn State gradually wore down. Michigan was up 7-0 after one quarter, 14-0 after two and 28-0 after three quarters.
The Wolverines out-gained Penn State 403-186, a year after having been out-gained by the Nittany Lions 506-269 and losing 42-13 in Happy Valley.
Revenge was never more evident in this one than when Michigan wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones mockingly celebrated a touchdown like a former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
2019 - Lost to Wisconsin 35-14 / Beat Michigan State 44-10
The 2019 schedule fell differently than most and afforded the Wolverines two rest weeks, both of which had very different results following them.
There’s no sense in trying to preserve any journalistic integrity in describing what happened in Madison; this game was old fashioned ass beating.
Michigan was down 28-0 at half and was only able to salvage some respect once Wisconsin took its foot off the neck. This game confirmed what the 2018 Ohio State performance previewed: Don Brown’s defensive scheme had run its course at Michigan. It only took another 15 months to actualize a change at defensive coordinator.
Thankfully, the game after the second bye week yielded far better results. In what would be Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio’s final game against Michigan, the Wolverines sent him out with a loss worthy of a little brother.
Michigan won 44-10 in the most lopsided victory in the rivalry since 2002 (also a Michigan win). It was a rare passing clinic for the Wolverines which saw Shea Patterson complete 24-of-33 passes for 384 yards and four touchdowns, all to different receivers.
The pride truly came before the fall.