Michigan Football, the granddaddy of all programs, the winningest program, the unstoppable Maize and Blue. When we speak of Michigan, we speak a lot about the past and little about the present. Well, we didn’t speak of the present until Jim Harbaugh and his khaki super hero outfit. Stick around the state of Michigan last December and January, and you would have been assaulted with “Harbaugh for Governor” chants. Riding high on the Ohio State victory, the Big 10 Championship win over Iowa, and the trip to the CFP, Harbaugh literally could have been given the keys to the state.
Unfortunately for Khaki Jim, the same fans trying to topple our hapless governor are the same fans that urged for his firing the year before. Most sports fans live in the moment and don’t remember the past. Look at Ed Orgeron going from National Champs to unemployed in under two years. Larry Brown was pushed from his job with the Pistons despite being NBA Champs (something that deserves a post of its own). MLB has had several coaches suffer similar fates. The point is simple: Harbaugh didn’t win it all and was on the hot seat.
The safety and security of Harbaugh’s khakis are in a perilous situation. Yes, the Ohio State win was epic, and the Iowa beat down was fun to watch; however, the season was not all sunshine and unicorns. The offense was abysmal through a lot of the season. Michigan barely held on for a win against a Nebraska team that went 3-9. The offense looked anemic against a Rutgers team that went 2-7 in the conference. Most damaging, Harbaugh suffered yet another loss to in-state rival MSU. The defense was always the shining hope, and the offense was always the uncle that no one wants to admit is in the family. Still, the defense had its issues: getting tuned up by MSU, getting obliterated by Georgia, and even being unable to defend Ohio State’s receivers.
Still, Michigan had a season for recent memory and had a defense that was stout enough to win a lot of games. Unfortunately, Michigan this year is not yester-year’s Michigan. Aiden Hutchinson and his five million sacks are gone. David Ojabo and his four million sacks are gone. The best secondary player, Daxton Hill, is also gone. Linebacker Josh Ross and Safety Brad Hawkins are also gone. Michigan also lost a cornerback and a DT. On top of seven key players gone, Michigan lost Mike MacDonald. MacDonald was the key to Michigan’s defense; his schemes and ability to meld the defense are irreplaceable. The defense is going to take a massive step back this year. Sure there is talent. Mazi Smith, Junior Colson, and DJ Turner should be solid, but there are too many new pieces to rely on the defense, especially at the beginning of the season.
Despite being problematic last year, Michigan’s offense should be in a better position than the defense at the start of the season. The quarterback battle could have been interesting had JJ Mccarthy been healthy this spring; still, Michigan will roll out a QB that has won the league and have one of the better backups in the league. Blake Corram and Donovan Edwards should be a duo that gives people fits. The run game was the strength of the team last year and seemed unstoppable at times. Then we get to Erik All, who could/should be an All American at some point in his career.
Unfortunately, the offense also has holes. Gone are two offensive lineman and Hasaan Haskins. Haskins was a flat out mauler that carried the team on his back. Gone is the offensive coordinator that made the run game work. The receiver room seems to be solid, but a lot of big plays came when the box was loaded to stop Haskins. How will this corp do when teams aren’t loading up? How will a new OC handle the team? Can Cade McNamara step up and be a consistent threat?
In the end, the Wolverines have a ton of talent and should do well. This is what worries me for Harbaugh. Khaki Jim earned a lot of good will in the Fall, and then he lost some when we went pursuing NFL jobs. How will a rabid fan base deal with struggles? The schedule is very favorable for Harbaugh. UofM opens with Colorado State, which has finished two games above .500 only once in the last 20 years. The next tilt will be against Hawaii; Hawaii at least has a couple of bowl appearances in the last ten years but still has 27 more losses than wins in that time period. The non-conference ends with Connecticut, which hasn’t won a game since the Stone Age. How well will these games prepare Michigan for the Big 10? Game Five is against an Iowa team that always brings it and will be ready to avenge a title game loss that was much closer than the score would indicate.
In theory, Michigan should be 4-1 at worst going into Indiana, but anything less than 4-1 would be unacceptable. Michigan next heads to Indiana, where they have not always played well. Struggling against Indiana or even losing will put him in a precarious position as he will next host Penn State and Michigan State. Harbaugh’s struggles against his in-state rival are well documented. Penn State was great last year until injuries derailed them. Both teams should be strong again, and it is probable that Michigan is 5-3 at the end of this four game stretch. Anything more than one loss will reawaken all of the emotions and memories of the COVID debacle and the years of underachieving. Honestly, a loss to Michigan State would be devastating this year. Wolverine fans overlooked the meltdown against Sparty solely because of the Ohio State win. Michigan is not beating Ohio State this year.
Harbaugh lost credibility and goodwill with a lot of the fan base when he chased NFL jobs. Harbaugh will goodwill every time that a loss goes into the column. Harbaugh had lost a lot of support before the COVID fiasco; they were upset with the pre-Covid run of 9-4, 10-3, and 8-5. The record isn’t the issue with Michigan fans- they want championships. Any season that has a loss to Michigan State or Ohio State is a losing season. Harbaugh hasn’t shown that he can beat Michigan State. No team in the Big 10 has beaten Ohio State twice in the last decade. There will be no Big 10 Chip this year. There will be no win over Ohio State this year. I’m a man of faith. I believe in Santa, the Easter Bunny, and UFOs, but I don’t have faith in Harbaugh’s ability to beat Michigan State.
In the end, Harbaugh will be on the hot seat. How hot? Hot enough to cook his khakis? Time will tell.