The Wolverine

2018 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 177 of 179

176 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2018 FOOTBALL PREVIEW J im Harbaugh's arrival at Michigan immediately r a i s e d e x p e c t a t i o n s among a fan base starved for a title. Fo r y e a r s , f r o m B o Schembechler's auspicious beginning in 1969 through Lloyd Carr's tenure that ended in 2007, the Wolver- ines — to borrow a phrase from a coach down the road (hint: he usually wears green and white, and his daily pre- sentation and scowl make any Clint Eastwood char- acter look like Mr. Rogers in comparison) were selling results — not hope. But hope and optimism it is for the 2018 Wolverines. It's been 14 years since the program's last Big Ten title, and until Michigan becomes Michigan again and starts winning championships, that's the way it's going to stay. For all the talk, though, from national and regional pundits of it being 'year four,' and 'Harbaugh needs to win now, or else,' we ask this: Or else what? Harbaugh's still as good as it gets for Michigan … not just the opinion here, but of the people that matter most. "I love my coaches across the board, love those two guys in particular," athletics direc- tor Warde Manuel said recently of Harbaugh and head basketball coach John Beilein. "I'm extremely pleased with where we are from a staffing, coaching standpoint and Jim and John are two people that I would love to see retire from this institution, when they retire from coaching." That will remain true this year even if Harbaugh doesn't win a title, and we've got news for you — this could be one of the na- tion's best football teams and still not win one given the gauntlet of a schedule in front of it. The Big Ten East Division has become arguably the toughest in college football, and U-M has to play its three biggest rivals on the road in Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State. Throw in Wisconsin, Penn State and Ne- braska at home, a road game with North- western and you get the nation's second toughest schedule (per, one that might not be possible to navigate without a bump or two, which would put a champion- ship in jeopardy. And as much as a good portion of the fan base might not want to hear it, we'll say it anyway: It's okay if they don't. For all the programs that sold their souls for quick turnarounds — Ohio State and dis- graced former head coach Jim Tressel come to mind, having gone 7-5 in year one before winning a national title in year two — there are many others that took a while to build. Clemson is now a powerhouse under Dabo Swinney, but it took him until his third year to accomplish what Harbaugh did in year one, a 10-3 record. He didn't win his first ACC title until year four, and then he went three more years before winning a second in 2015. Michigan State's Mark Dantonio is a me- dia darling, especially in the Midwest. His record the last three seasons? It's 24-14, compared to Harbaugh's 28-11. If not for a dropped punt snap by Michi- gan's Blake O'Neill in 2015 and an improb- able MSU win at U-M on the last play, the two programs would have the same number of Big Ten titles (0) in the span as well. Other pundits, meanwhile, point to sig- nificant staff turnover in Harbaugh's short tenure as another red flag. To that we direct you across campus to Beilein, who shook things up in replacing his assistants with LaVall Jordan and Bacari Alexan- der in 2010. The duo helped lead the Wolverines to a pair of Big Ten titles, a national championship game and an Elite Eight. Assistant Billy Don- lon was on staff for only one season (2016-17) be- fore joining friend Chris Collins at Northwestern, while longtime assistant Jeff Meyer joined Jordan at Butler. Beilein replaced them with Northern Illinois' Luke Yaklich and DeAndre Haynes, and the Wolver- ines won a second straight Big Ten Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA championship game this year. Sometimes it just takes a little tweaking. Last year wasn't Har- baugh's best, and he'd prob- ably be the first to admit that. Still, this is the same guy who won the Woody Hayes Trophy as college football's best coach while at Stanford in 2010, and was NFL Coach of the Year at San Francisco a season later. Patience is hard, especially at a school like Michigan with its rich tradition and out- standing resources. It's also often required of programs that profess to do it the right way without cutting corners. There's more to coaching, too, than just wins and losses. We saw first hand the ef- fect Harbaugh's overseas trip to Paris had as an educational tool, and his team (and Beilein's) received an Academic Progress Rate (APR) Award from the NCAA for the fourth straight year after finishing in the top 10 percent nationally. Anyone who truly cares about Michigan will acknowledge the significance. So yes, Harbaugh is (still) the right guy for Michigan. Sometimes success just re- quires a bit more patience than we'd like. All that said … For God's sake, Jim, please beat the Buck- eyes. It may not be now or never, but it's time. ❏ INSIDE MICHIGAN CHRIS BALAS Chris Balas has been with The Wolverine since 1997. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. Harbaugh will try to direct Michigan to its first Big Ten title in 14 years while facing a schedule that ESPN ranks as the second most difficult in the country. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Jim Harbaugh Is Still The One

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - 2018 Michigan Football Preview