There have been frustrations throughout Jim Harbaugh‘s tenure atop Michigan football, as the Wolverines have struggled to win big games, most notably Ohio State. Even so, he fielded very good teams at the start of his run.
Three of the first four Harbaugh Michigan teams went 10-3, with the 2018 team winning a share of the Big Ten East, though Ohio State scored the tiebreaker with the head-to-head win. The 2017 team went 8-5, while the 2019 squad was 9-4.
Last year, things fell off a cliff. The Wolverines went just 2-4, and looked incredibly overmatched. and at year’s end Harbaugh agreed to a reworked contract that lowered his salary and protections significantly.
Few expect the Wolverines to be sub-.500 again, but expectations are not super high either, even if pressure remains on Harbaugh to bounce back and compete with Ohio State. FS1’s Joel Klatt is among those who doesn’t know what to make of the Wolverines this fall.
"I think it's a 50-50 proposition right now at Michigan. They are the biggest unknown in the Big Ten."
— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) September 2, 2021
Klatt compared the restructuring of Harbaugh’s staff to two examples from powers down in the Big 12: Texas under Mack Brown late in his tenure, and Bob Stoops in his final few years at Oklahoma.
Brown hired some exciting young coaches like Bryan Harsin and Manny Diaz, but it didn’t work out. On the other hand, Stoops brought on Lincoln Riley to remake the Sooners offense, which has been a huge success. As Klatt says, there is nothing guaranteed in a situation like Michigan’s.
“I think it’s a 50/50 proposition right now at Michigan,” he told Colin Cowherd this afternoon. “I think Michigan could have a very average, .500 type year, and I think they can go back to being a 10-3 team. I think they’re the biggest unknown in the conference right now.”
We’ll start to get an idea of what kind of year it’ll be very soon. Michigan hosts Western Michigan on Saturday, before a huge non-conference game against Washington, a favorite in the Pac-12, in Ann Arbor a week later.