Not as advertised
While the No. 14 ranked Michigan Wolverines merely survived an outing at Ryan Field, one could say that these “too close for comfort” games are starting to become the norm for the Wolverines under Coach Harbaugh.
Although nerve-wracking, the game was nothing short of a nail-biter as the Wolverines shook off a sluggish start, going down 17 – 7 at the half, only to score 20 unanswered points including a solid run by running back Karan Higdon in the fourth quarter to help secure Michigan’s first road win of the season.
While the win is a brief sigh of relief, think again if you think it comes without any concern.
The Wolverines surrendered 100 yards to Northwestern just off penalties alone, went 1 of 6 on third-down conversions in the first half and if we add up last week’s penalties and third down efficiency stats, Michigan totals 7-16 on third downs and 21 penalties for 179 yards in just two weeks against opponents many thought would be “cake walk” wins…but it’s college football, we have to expect the unexpected.
Harbaugh’s tenure in Ann Arbor has been a carousel of events thus far, but nonetheless unseen. The former Wolverine quarterback and expected savior of the program has been in Ann Arbor for three seasons, and the results have been a grab-bag of mixed results: an uplifting 10 win season in 2015, missing out on the playoffs in 2016 was a draining disappointment and losses to both Michigan State and Ohio State in 2017 mixed with some struggles on the recruiting end, the questions are starting to arise about Harbaugh and the direction of the program for the maize and blue.
In a year that was slogan’d “change the narrative” by many, the story has only stayed stagnant at best, despite Harbaugh finally having “the guy” at quarterback in Shea Patterson, a defense that one would think could only go up from last season and HIS recruits well into the system, the Wolverines have fallen flat, this time, before the journey into the 2018 season could begin.
The rough start in South Bend’s loss to Notre Dame still overshadows the fact that Michigan is ranked No. 3 in total defense as of September 23 according to NCAA.com, but what can’t be overshadowed is the lack of production and efficiency for the offense, which ranks 63 in total offense and 87 in red zone offense.
Looking at the buildup of concern, the Wolverines have fallen short on beating Michigan State (1-2) and still have not found a recipe to beat the juggernauts of the Big Ten in Ohio State (0-3), haven’t won the Big 10 since 2004 (co-champions with Iowa) and not to mention, a lousy 1-2 record in bowl games…two of which they were the heavy favorites.
I’m not saying Michigan’s lackadaisical start to the season and gradual decrease in appeal from the time Harbaugh started can all be directed to Harbaugh, however, when you’re in the spotlight constantly flexing muscle against the grain, it’s hard not to put it all on Harbaugh.
I recently had to defend myself on Twitter when I tweeted “Harbaugh’s time is running thin.” Nothing derogative, nothing farfetched. The response I received was “Harbaugh is a great coach who values education. He breathed life back into Michigan football. It’s not easy to turn a program around.”
Ok…it’s not easy to turn the lowly Cleveland Browns around either, but when you’re drafted No. 1 overall as a quarterback, it’s expected.
In no way am I calling for Harbaugh’s job, but I am calling for him to simply tighten up.
So I leave you with this, maybe Harbaugh didn’t breathe life into the program, perhaps it was the energy surrounding the hire pushed by the media that had us all looking for the immediate turnaround in Ann Arbor. Because while the noise had been top-shelf, the on field product had, and continues to fall short of advertisement.