At 2-0 and coming off a bye week, Jim Harbaugh and Michigan will play their first critical Big Ten game of the season Saturday at Wisconsin.
This fall, once again, the Wolverines entered a season with high expectations. They haven't been overly impressive through two games, but with the meat of their schedule coming up, there is time to change the public perception of them.
ESPN's Paul Finebaum, a noted critic of Harbaugh, thinks Saturday's game is of the utmost importance.
In an appearance on SportsCenter this morning, Finebaum slapped the "must-win" label on the Wolverines' matchup with the Badgers.
"I hate to keep reading from the same script, but a lot of people are wondering if he’s a top coach anymore,” Finebaum said, via 247Sports. “I've always thought of him as that when he got this job a couple years ago. I really believed that and I thought he’d be as impactful as Urban Meyer at Ohio State, but so far, it hasn’t worked out.
"Jim Harbaugh is a good coach. I’m not going to sit here and trash his resume. He has taken teams to Super Bowls and done wonders at Stanford, he just hasn't turned the corner yet. He has to win this game, though. If he loses at Wisconsin on Saturday, the negativity is going to continue and the schedule is not going to be his friend.”
Earlier this week, Finebaum said criticism of Harbaugh could become "suffocating" if Michigan loses Saturday.
Given Finebaum's past history of jabbing at Harbaugh, it is easy to dismiss his comments. However, there is more than a kernel of truth to the statement that Michigan needs this game.
After Wisconsin, the Wolverines still have to play Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State. That is a rather unforgiving path, and an early loss will make it even tougher.
Michigan and Wisconsin will kick off at noon ET Saturday on FOX.