It’s taken five years for Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and the University of Michigan football program to come to grips with the ugly truth everyone outside of Ann Arbor already knows. The once proud and tradition-rich program has stumbled into a state of mediocrity, and has been living in denial with the belief that they are still a top tier program in the highly-competitive world of college football.
On Saturday, the Wolverines were held scoreless in the first half of their contest against the Wisconsin Badgers, who dominated out of the gate with four straight touchdowns to start the game. When the dust finally settled, the Badgers defense forced four turnovers and held Michigan’s ground attack to a measly 40 yards during their 35-14 victory at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.
According to ESPN, Harbaugh says, ‘’We were outplayed. Out-prepared, out-coached, the whole thing. Both offensively and defensively, it was thorough. You know, we knew it about their team, and they have the ability. They’re good enough, if they play good enough, they are good enough to beat you thoroughly, and that’s what happened today”.
The loss drops Michigan’s record under Harbaugh against top-15 teams to 4-11. To make things worse, they are a dreadful 0-8 in road or neutral site games against those same teams. This is not the standard of excellence the university’s governing body, or booster’s envisioned when awarded the coach a contract worth $7.5 million per year. The second-highest figure in all of college football.
Wisconsin running-back Johnathan Taylor destroyed the “Maize and Blue” averaging nearly ten yards per carry. For the game, the Heisman Trophy hopeful carried the ball 23 times for 203 yards while scoring two touchdowns. The workhorse back has been a force for the Badgers offense in the early part of the season, accumulating ten TD’s in the team’s first three games.
The Wolverines’ struggles running the ball can surely be attributed to their lack of consistency in the passing game. Starting quarterback Shea Patterson was 14-32 passing for 219 yards, to go along with two late touchdown passes and one interception. At one point, the signal caller was benched in favor of backup Dylan McCaffrey. Eventually, the backup was injured and Patterson returned to the game.
The team’s revamped offense under new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis has been abysmal in the early going, and it’s surprising he was an understudy of Nick Saban at Alabama prior to arriving in Ann Arbor. His intended changes were supposed to bring hopes of tempo, downfield passing and plenty of touchdowns. Instead, the offense has been stagnant and at times looks like a more traditional, run-heavy scheme similar to the one Harbaugh has been accustomed to running in seasons past.
Michigan’s worst fear has become a reality. Simply put, they just aren’t any good and Harbaugh may have peaked as a head coach when he lost the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers in 2013. Although he seems to be an effective recruiter, it’s glaringly obvious that the Wolverines fail to measure up to the NCAA’s best programs in terms of player development, on-field performance and modern-approach to the game of football in its entirety. The team’s inability to bring in a highly-touted quarterback is honestly killing the program “one pass at a time”. Also, the team has no identity after losing a majority of it’s best players in April’s NFL Draft.
Michigan looks to be a .500 program this season, and let’s face it… If Jim loses to Michigan State and Ohio State this season, the fan’s whispers of his potential-termination will begin echoing louder and may be hard for university officials to ignore. At this point, it’s highly intriguing what the program would look like with former SEC coach Les Miles at the helm.
Header Photo Credit: CBS Sports