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Pete Thamel Says Michigan Moving On From Jim Harbaugh Is 'Realistic'

A closeup of Jim Harbaugh looking upset during a Michigan football game.

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 26: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines leads his team against the Brigham Young Cougars at Michigan Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines defeated the Cougars 31-0. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

There has been significant pressure on Jim Harbaugh since he took the job at his alma mater, Michigan. The former Stanford and San Francisco 49ers head coach probably doesn't get enough credit for how strong some of his early teams, specifically the 2016 squad, at Michigan were.

That being said, the Wolverines haven't gotten over the hump. Obviously, Harbaugh is winless against Ohio State and is yet to win the Big Ten.

There are deeper issues than The Game, though. Big game against powerful opponents have been a major issue for Michigan throughout Harbaugh's tenure.

Michigan is just 1-9 against top 10 opponents during his tenure, and Jim Harbaugh is 0-7 as an underdog.

After today's 35-14 loss to Wisconsin, a result worse than the score indicates, Harbaugh took the blame, saying that the team was out-prepared and that he was out-coached by Paul Chryst.

There have been some questions about Harbaugh's job security, but today's game has pushed that discussion into the mainstream. After the game went final, Yahoo! Sports' Pete Thamel called the possibility of Harbaugh being fired "realistic."

Harbaugh’s tenure is amid its fifth year as a $7.5 million dollar tease. There are no wins over Ohio State, three straight bowl losses and, still, zero signature victories. Michigan’s last three games against Power Five opponents have resulted in combined losses of 138-68, on average losing 46-23 to Ohio State, South Carolina and Wisconsin. They also outlasted Army in double-overtime, 24-21, in a game where Army manhandled the Wolverines physically in the trenches.

The tenor of those losses, combined with the flailing of Michigan’s offense, has raised a question once thought unthinkable: Should Michigan move on from Harbaugh? This wouldn’t be as difficult to do as many would think, as Harbaugh’s contract runs out in 2021. It’s rare for a Power Five head coach, especially one with a winning record, to have their contract that close to expiring.

That lifetime contract Michigan was rumored to want to give Harbaugh feels more like a lifetime sentence these days. For years, Harbaugh had all the leverage on Michigan, as Warde Manuel said as recently as May that he wants Harbaugh to retire as Michigan’s head coach. But the more realistic eventuality is Michigan considering paying the nearly $11 million to part ways with Harbaugh, which isn’t untenable considering Big Ten revenues.

The major question for anyone pushing Michigan to move on from Jim Harbaugh is: where does Michigan go from here?

UM tried the dynamic modern offensive mastermind with Rich Rodriguez. He was obviously a horrible fit. It tried the Group of Five program builder who quickly vaulted programs, in Brady Hoke. He flamed out hard. Harbaugh, who had a ton of success at every single stop as a head coach before this was seen as a no-brainer, and he's been better than those other two, and you can argue that outside of the 1997 season, he has been comparable to Lloyd Carr. His win percentage isn't that much lower than the legendary Bo Schembechler, either.

The big games are the difference, and even if nine or 10 wins is a fine standard, they better include the occasional Ohio State game, those against teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State, and some big bowls. It is yet to be seen how many more chances he'll have to pick those up.

[Yahoo! Sports]