Despite the increased criticism this week following Michigan’s 14-10 loss to rival Michigan State, by any objective measure Jim Harbaugh is doing great work at Michigan.
Yes, this may be hard to stomach for some Michigan fans still smarting from the loss Saturday night, but Michigan football is on the right track, and suggestions that Harbaugh isn’t getting it done in Ann Arbor are pure lunacy.
The “rivals” narrative is one that has gained a lot of momentum this week. Harbaugh is 1-4 against Michigan State while his predecessor was 2-2. Yeah, sure. But how about a little context?
Brady Hoke beat a depleted Ohio State team coached by interim coach Luke Fickell and edged a 7-6 MSU team in 2012. Yes, the Wolverines won, but in this case context matters.
Harbaugh and the Wolverines would love to beat their rivals. But those in the know privately will admit
they expected this rebuild to take four or five years based on the lack of talent depth in the program.
Face it: There was a severe lack of offensive line, wide receiver, running back and quarterback talent when Harbaugh took over in 2014. The lack of depth is being addressed and is starting to show itself at many offensive positions. A little seasoning and it isn’t hard to see Michigan competing for titles starting next season.
The bottom line concerning Michigan’s “rivals” is that Mark Dantonio and Urban Meyer had head starts and Meyer is a much more accomplished coach. It was inevitable that the Wolverines at some point would play a small game of catch-up with its rivals, which is exactly what is happening this year. Barring any unforeseen attrition or a rash of major injuries, a lot of this uncertainty will clear itself up in 2018.
People forget that before the season, most experts expected Michigan to take a step back in 2017 based on youth and depth. That is why three or four losses shouldn’t throw fans off the deep end. Keep in mind the end goal — competing for national titles and doing it the right way.
I have to admit my complete shock at the media narrative that Harbaugh and Hoke have the same record and Hoke is slightly better than Harbaugh against his rivals. This is exactly the kind of misleading “journalism” that turns off many.
There is zero comparison between Harbaugh and Hoke. Some national media even posted these very misleading tweets.
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) October 9, 2017
Garbage like this is simply trolling. Hoke’s teams lost nine games by at least 14 points. That has happened once to Harbaugh, in his first meeting with Ohio State. Hoke’s teams went from 11 wins to nine to seven to five. Comparing Harbaugh to Hoke is asinine.
I know this will come as a shock to many who are looking to kill Harbaugh for this loss, but in his first 31 games his winning percentage is .770. Do you know what Nick Saban’s was after three seasons in Tuscaloosa? It was .770. In his first 31 games with the Tide, Saban was 23-8. After their first 31 games at Michigan, Harbaugh and Hoke were 24-7. So Hoke is better than Saban?
Obviously, that is a farce, but you see how these stats can get stupid, right?
This article isn’t meant to be blanket cover for Harbaugh and his staff. He still clearly has work to do on offense, and depth and inexperience aren’t going to provide cover in 2018. Michigan has done a great job building an elite defense, but the offense need to build an identity and start moving toward it.
Michigan needs to address a couple of positions right away. One is right tackle and the other is running back. If they can’t get a positive result from these crucial positions, winning eight or nine games this season could be a tough putt for the Wolverines.
The fan base needs to relax. The rebuild is on track and a stumble in the road against a rival won’t change that. Now a loss to Sparty in 2018 is another story.