The Most Interesting Things Jim Harbaugh Said: Sept. 13, 2021

Jim Harbaugh met with the media yesterday after the big win over Washington and discussed a few of the more pressing topics coming out of the game.
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Michigan was only favored over Washington by 6.5 but ended up rolling the huskies by 21. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis dialed up run after run after run because UW simply had no answers for it. At the end of the day, Michigan was sitting there with 343 yards on 56 carries and an easy win in prime time. Because of that, quarterback Cade McNamara didn't have to do much and that has some people a little curious about what kind of team U-M really is. Harbaugh addressed that, along with Michigan's time of possession and the mentality of the offensive line.

"I'm a big fan of [time of possession.] It's not something that's been easy for a no-huddle team to achieve, but it definitely warms the cockles of the heart."

Prioritizing time of possession worked in the first two games because Michigan ran the ball so effectively, but it's honestly just not an important metric anymore. 

Over the last five years, some of the best teams in college football have been in the bottom half or even the bottom third of the country in time of possession. Over that stretch of time on average, the gold standard, Alabama, is No. 56 in time of possession. Georgia, Ohio State and Oklahoma check in at No. 28, 37 and 39 respectively. Clemson is No. 63 and Notre Dame is all the way down at No. 77 on average.

The point is, you don't have to possess the ball to be successful. Quite the contrary, actually. Today's world of college football is all about efficient, fast-moving offenses and explosive plays. The fact that Harbaugh is such a fan of possessing the ball is a little concerning and speaks to the lack of passing through two games even though the running game has worked so well.

"[The physical nature of the offensive line] is something they've embraced going back to spring ball. It's something that our offensive line and defensive line have both really embraced."

It definitely looks like the offensive line has embraced being nastier and more physical. As mentioned above, the running game worked extremely well against Western Michigan and Washington. If you didn't see what was obvious in those games, the numbers certainly paint that picture. Through two games, Michigan has rushed the ball 99 times for 677 yards. That comes out to 6.8 yards per carry and both Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum have found the end zone multiple times. 

We probably won't know for a few more weeks whether or not Michigan has been so good on the ground because they're just that dominant or if it's because the opponents have been that outmatched. Northern Illinois won't stand a chance this Saturday and Rutgers, while improved under Greg Schiano, is still nowhere near as talented as U-M. The Oct. 2 matchup in Madison against the Badgers will be the true measuring stick.

"[Cade McNamara] has really become the coach on the field. I thought he turned in another real solid performance."

I can get on board with the "coach on the field" comment, but the "real solid performance" part I just can't endorse. I know the running game was unstoppable but I don't know how you call 7-of-15 for 44 yards "real solid" no matter what the outcome of the game is. Even though McNamara wasn't asked to do much he still completed less than 50% of his passes. Throw in the fact that one of his completions was for 33 yards and he was extremely ineffective through the air on the other six completions for just 11 yards.

In the few situations where throwing the ball was necessary, Michigan opted not to. Harbaugh, Gattis and quarterbacks coach Matt Weiss had great things to say about McNamara all offseason but they simply haven't shown that they have any confidence in him through two games. The running game was working in a big way, but what happens when it doesn't? That's a question Michigan will have to answer at some point this season and right now, we still don't know what that answer will be.