What’s next for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Jim Harbaugh entered the year looking to prove he’s the right guy for the job, and that effort took a hit in Saturday’s blowout loss to Wisconsin. He’s been put on the hot seat by a number of media members, and fans are beginning to call for him to be fired. His shortcomings against his rivals are well-documented, but do they tell the whole story? Harbaugh must prepare his team better than he did for the game against the Badgers, but fans quickly forget how bad the program was when he came to campus.

Jim Harbaugh vs. previous coaches

Saturday gave Michigan another shot at a Top 25 opponent, and they failed. One of the biggest knocks on Jim Harbaugh in his time in Ann Arbor is his struggles to win big games. Including Saturday, he’s now 8-11 against Top 25 teams. Not a great record for a program looking to win national championships, but it’s still better than what the Wolverines experienced before he came to campus. Under Brady Hoke, the Wolverines went 3-10 against Top 25 competition, and went 4-12 in the four years before then. So really, Michigan’s better with Harbaugh running the program, just not great. The same can be said for overall record.

Under Harbaugh, Michigan’s gone 40-15 (26-10 in the Big Ten). Under Hoke that record was 26-20 (18-14) and the four years before that produced a record of 24-26 (12-20). In fact, Harbaugh’s first four years were the best in terms of record that Michigan’s seen this century.

What comes next?

It all comes back to expectations. If you’re expecting Michigan to compete for national championships, you can be disappointed. However, looking at the previous eight years shows that Harbaugh has this program in a good place. Not every coach can be Nick Saban and compete for a national championship every year, even if you expect them to be. Harbaugh’s given himself time to prove he can compete at a high level, but he hasn’t taken that next step. If Michigan fires Harbaugh, they’ll need to find someone who will need to come in and win 10+ games immediately to satisfy those expectations. They also risk the chance that a new leader means a new culture and some instability early in their tenure.

Michigan finds its program in a good but tough place. Jim Harbaugh’s proven he can win in Ann Arbor, but fans want more. An improvement in production against Top 25 teams is the place to start, but one loss doesn’t ruin an entire season. Michigan’s playoff hopes took a hit, but winning out puts them in a great position to still make it. Both Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez needed to go because they weren’t winning enough games. Harbaugh just needs to find a way to win big games. He’s more than capable of doing so, and Wolverines fans might need to temper their expectations for a little while longer.

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