Michigan Fans: Demand Change Or Wait It Out?

MichaelSpath

Following the Wolverines' 56-27 loss to Ohio State Saturday, Michigan fans are left with three options:

1) Demand Change: Jim Harbaugh is the first coach in Michigan football history to go 0-5 against Ohio State. He's the first coach to make it five years without a Big Ten title. Harbaugh was hired to restore U-M to what it once was - a conference champion and a victor over the Buckeyes. 

For all the good he has done, he has failed at goals No. 1 and No. 2 (and that doesn't even account for the other goal of winning a national title). Perhaps most glaring is that the Maize and Blue appear further away from beating OSU than it did in Year 2 of the Harbaugh tenure, relying on Brady Hoke recruits. 

With the exception of Jon Runyan Jr., every scholarship player on the Michigan roster was recruited by Harbaugh in his classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. These are his guys. This roster configuration was his plan. This is no longer a Rich Rodriguez or a Brady Hoke problem. You can blame them for 2008-14, and maybe 2015 and 2016, and I'll even throw in 2017, but Harbaugh has had five years, and his team got blown out in THE Game. At home. 

According to the 247Sports.com college team talent composite rankings, which measures an active roster's players by their high school recruiting rating, Michigan trailed Ohio State by 56 points in 2015 (by comparison Auburn trailed rival Alabama for 116 points in 2015). In 2016, U-M trailed by 50 points, by 81 in 2017, by 121 in 2018, and 120 in 2019. 

As Ohio State was putting together elite class after elite class, U-M was falling further behind, and with Michigan 13th and the Buckeyes fourth in the current 2020 recruiting class, that gap is expected to getting bigger by next season. 

Ohio State is on a historic run, but Harbaugh's lack of success has contributed to that - a victory in 2016, 2018 or in 2019 puts at least a hurdle in front of the Scarlet and Gray, and gives U-M ammunition to land the type of recruits needed to compete for championships. It changes the narrative, as the Maize and Blue have done with Michigan State and Mark Dantonio. It makes a rival's job a little bit harder and that is how a shift can begin. 

Instead, 0-5 has given Ohio State even greater pitches to recruits and has made Harbaugh's "sell" empty. He can't sell results. He's still selling hope and promise, but recruits want to play for championships, and Michigan isn't. There's enough left (NFL aspirations, academics, better option than MSU or Maryland or Iowa) to continue to grab good recruits but the difference-makers have no reason to go to Michigan.

U-M is stuck in a cycle. It can't recruit the Top 50 talents needed to beat Ohio State because it can't sell results, and it probably can't beat OSU without that talent, not when the coaching hasn't proven to be good enough to overcome the talent gap.

Harbaugh gets credit for making a few tough decisions along the way, ditching his old offense and bringing in Josh Gattis, but it also took him four years to realize he wasn't coaching Stanford in 2010, and in that time OSU was pulling away. 

Some will demand he gets rid of defensive coordinator Don Brown and he might (though the way he reveres Brown, probably not), but this entire program is Harbaugh, his vision, his philosophy, his attitude. He's surrounded himself with coaches, analysts, and strength coaches, and while there are a lot of good people at U-M, the collective staff is not good enough. 

Harbaugh can make more changes but it's very likely the problem is not everyone around him but Harbaugh himself.       

2) Wait It Out (And Hope): The Dabo Swinney argument. 

It took Swinney seven years before his big breakthrough, making the playoffs in 2015 and finishing runner-up. A year later, the Tigers won the national championships and Clemson has, arguably, been the best program in college football these last five years. 

Swinney lost two or more games in each of his first six seasons in Clemson, including three or more in four of the six (he went 10-3 in 2014). He lost to in-state rival South Carolina from 2009-13, his first five years, and while he had greater success against Florida State, he was still 2-4 against the Seminoles in his first six tries. 

In the past five years, however, Clemson is 10-0 against South Carolina and Florida State. 

If you believe Harbaugh is still the coach to lead Michigan to championships, Swinney is your hopeful comparison. 

Of course, it would help if Ohio State was more like South Carolina (29-34 over the last five years) or if Ryan Day peaks early, like Jimbo Fisher did at FSU, and then trails off - Fisher won a national title in 2013 and was 13-1 in 2014 but then went 10-3, 10-3 and 5-6 from 2015-17 before leaving for Texas A&M. 

The fate of Clemson coincided with the arrival and flourish of QB Deshaun Watson, and if Michigan can get a transcendental player like that, it would help. So far, the Wolverines haven't had one. Rashan Gary was maybe supposed to be that guy (the No. 1 recruit in the country in 2016) but he proved to be more Tim Jamison than Brandon Graham. 

Other than that, who has Michigan landed that could have been that player? Shea Patterson as a five-star transfer? He finished his career strong but he's not a Top 20 quarterback in college football. In fact, U-M's quarterbacks under Harbaugh: a transfer that lost his job at Iowa (Jake Rudock), a three-star with minimal offers (Wilton Speight), a transfer that lost his job at Houston (John O'Korn), a four-star that transferred to Illinois (Brandon Peters) and Patterson. Michigan has to do better at the game's most important position. It needs a Watson (or Justin Fields). 

But if the Wolverines can get that player, and perhaps he's already on the roster (redshirt freshman Joe Milton) or is coming (2021 five-star JJ McCarty) it could be what Harbaugh and Co. need to beat OSU and win a Big Ten title. And if you have the patience to wait a bit longer, and believe in Harbaugh, then you just sit pat. 

3) Accept Fate: It is what it is. 

Over Harbaugh's tenure, Michigan has been more talented than every team but one. During that time, the coaches have proven to be one of the 2-3 best in the Big Ten. Michigan will have no problem in future years beating Maryland and Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Michigan State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Rutgers, and when at home - Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Penn State. 

U-M is probably looking at consistent nine- or 10-win seasons for the next decade. Sure, it will lose recruits to Ohio State, but it won't lose many recruiting battles to anyone other than Penn State in the rest of the Big Ten. 

Michigan probably loses tough non-conference games on the road (Washington in 2020) and could lose to Minnesota in Minneapolis next year plus Ohio State, but nine wins is likely the floor. In 2021, the Wolverines will have to navigate Wisconsin, Nebraska and Penn State on the road but could win one or two, and likely loses to OSU again. And the Buckeyes again in 2022 and 2023. 

Maybe one of these years the Maize and Blue will get the Buckeyes, catch them on an atypical down season and we'll all be happy to see another victory in THE Game during our lifetime but for the most this is what Michigan is and will be. The second-best team in the Big Ten, and a huge gap between 1 and 2. Good seasons, a nice Jan. 1 bowl game, beating Michigan State regularly, and finishing Top 15 if you beat an SEC team in the postseason.

Playing for Big Ten titles, making the playoff, drawing even with Ohio State ... all figments of our imagination. Michigan can be good but never great, not as long as the Buckeyes remain what they are. 

Of course, there is a fourth option and you know what it is - gray areas. Accept borderline academic recruits, recruits with character issues, pay recruits and their families. Operate like an SEC school. Sell your soul to win.  

 

Comments (19)
No. 1-13
KJS
KJS

Let’s quit blaming Harbaugh. Since Harbaugh has arrived he is winning almost 10 games a season compared to six games a season before he arrived. Let’s not forget Michigan’s downfall started way back in the Lloyd Carr era. Michigan was only 2 and 12 against Ohio State for Harbaugh even got there. And in those 14 years Ohio State had a chance to better recruit against Michigan. So you idiots don’t blame Harbaugh blame Lloyd Carr for the start the downfall of the Michigan program. I don’t even like to blame Rich Rodriguez because he was set up by Lloyd Carr to fail. And then Brandon idiot that he was hired Brady Hoke who has no business being a head coach anywhere. Jim Harbaugh would’ve almost been better off coming into a program that didn’t even have a football program. He has had to change the entire makeup of the Michigan team both mentally and physically. He is recruiting a lot better than is predecessors what it’s going to take a few more years for him to catch up with Ohio State as far as recruiting goes. Yeah he is 0 and 5 against Ohio State, but he is 32 and seven against the rest of the Big Ten. At least he is beating teams that his predecessors could not be example MSU. Michigan is now 3-2 against MSU, he should be 4-1 against them. MSU’s first win against Michigan was a fluke.

SexyBlue
SexyBlue

Blame this on Harbaugh. READ MY NEXT MSG.

SexyBlue
SexyBlue

Wait out another 100 years when UM ruled the nation last? Hey fans, the reason the rest of the country cant stand us is because we pretend we deserve to be on the national scale, but we NEVER are. Not in your lifetime or your father's. PERIOD.

SexyBlue
SexyBlue

THE LIONS HAVE A 200X BETTER CHANCE OF WINNING A TITLE IN YOUR LIFETIME THAN THE WOLVERINES. THINK ABOUT IT.

SexyBlue
SexyBlue

ITS NOT A COACHING PROBLEM YOU FLUCKING MORONS. UM HAS NOT COMPETED YEAR TO YEAR NATIONALLY IN ANY OF OUR LIFETIMES.

ITS NOT THE COACHES. ITS THE GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION PLUS THE SPLITTING OF RECRUITS TO MSU (ANOTHER BIG 10 SCHOOL).

ITS NOT GONNA HAPPEN, NOT WITH ANY COACH. NOT EVER.

EVERY 50 YEARS MICHIGAN WILL PROBABLY WIN ANOTHER TITLE BECAUSE THEY ARE GENERALLY A GOOD TEAM.

skinman
skinman

Richrod was only there 3 years. He would have easily go 0-5 even 0-10

MORandy
MORandy

It is what it is. Jimmy will not fire Don Brown. The only way DB leaves is if he gets a HC job somewhere. Why is it that Jimmy will not play underclassmen before the upperclassmen? Where would the defense be if Ross doesn’t get hurt and Cam stays on the bench? I don’t understand why Jimmy and the other coaches can’t develop players like other teams. Why is it we here from the Buckeye players that we don’t take the game seriously as they do? Is Jimmy getting tired of coaching? He may be getting burned out. I don’t know but I’m beginning to think that Sparty is now the game instead of OSU.

HankTz
HankTz

Just looking at the huge amount of red in the stands Saturday told how Michigan’s fans feel about their chances vs osu. At least 30,000 is my guess

El Comandante
El Comandante

Michigan coach, that is.

El Comandante
El Comandante

Ok, the whole premise here is faulty. Harbaugh is the ONLY coach to face a 17 year over 11 wins per season OSU team as well. While that would be hard just to keep up with, when your team was under .500 for the second time in 7 years just before you took it over, not beating OSU in 5 years isn't that big of a stretch for ANY coach. Looking at raw stats without being able to understand the framing is just ignorance. As to the first assumption, your 1 and 2 for hiring Harbaugh is just total BS. 1 was to STOP THE UNDER .500 SLIDE! 2 Was to do better recruiting. 3 was to get a respectable win/loss record, 4 was to fix strength training. That's if you know football. If your just a fan, then sure, you're right and number 3 was to put the old art-deco MICHIGAN back on the scoreboard. So in the ignorance of fandom, he's failed at all three for 5 years. OSU is the most important game. I totally agree with that. What B1G coaches have more than just 1 more win over OSU than Harbaugh? Just thinking like a football analyst, How realistic is it to expect someone to match recruiting, taking over an under .500 team on a linear slide to under .500, and could match a team that has a 17 year (-1 where the coach was fired) 11 game or over minimum win seasons? A coach in Harbaugh's position with a 9.5 game winning per season average in the first 5 years is tremendous. Yes they need more work. it's just ignorant to think someone could have done a better job. I'd rather lose to OSU over 5 years than have .500 or under seasons and 1 win over those same 5 years.

2 Replies

MichaelSpath
MichaelSpath

Editor

That's fine. I'm not talking about the past but the future.

MORandy
MORandy

Sparty’s coach has more than one win over OSU

SirMalachi
SirMalachi

Cheat

dieseldub
dieseldub

Pretty much summed it up. Overall, I think this is a good coaching staff and they are definitely being outrecruited. Michigan's recruits aren't bad, but they definitely are a level behind what OSU gets.

The last two seasons on particular this has been evident. They're simply bigger and faster than Michigan.

There is a level of consistency with Harbaugh that has at least kept the team as fighting for "best of the rest" in the Big 10. The conference really has turned into The Buckeyes... and then there's everyone else trying to catch up.

On the quarterback deal, Harbaugh has been known as a QB whisperer of sorts, but that only takes you so far as well. Few QBs can overcome an O line that can't buy them time. Fewer still can make decent down the field passes if the receivers aren't able to catch and hang onto the ball. Fortunately those two items have improved significantly in the second half of the season, but early on those were issues. But I digress. You mention Speight, as a 3 star nobody recruit. He still led the team to double overtime vs. the Bucks. I was pleasantly surprised in the first two years of Harbaugh's tenure that he could take no name QBs, install them into his system and they end up being surprisingly effective most of the season.

The borderline academic recruits/character issues/pay offs etc. are something I'd prefer they not go down the line and do. Maybe I'm OK with the moral victory. When I first became a Michigan fan they were pretty much what they are now. Consistently good and well-ranked while also playing fairly and by the rules. Once in awhile they might recruit a transcendental player that might elevate them to the top, but that's only going to happen once a generation, if that.

At the same time, the tides are turning on paying players. Michigan has a very healthy budget and if that becomes legal to do, then I do believe that this coaching staff could very well improve recruiting to the point of becoming much more competitive with the lopsided top of the college football heap. The University has the money...

As bad as I want this team to win, realistically Harbaugh has brought the team back to the consistency of regular 8+ win seasons that it historically has been. Sure, the team had numerous championships in its history, but in MODERN history, the last time the team had won a national title prior to the last one in 1997? 1948... Let that sink in.

The school and its fan base is rather desperate to return to what it was pre-WW2, which was a perennial front runner and was winning titles frequently. But how many of today's fans were actually alive when this team was actually doing that?

Bo Schembechler brought the team back from a decade of irrelevance that was the 1960s. Helped that he kicked that off with a win vs. Ohio State. Sure, he won a few big 10 titles, but Michigan's favorite coach of the modern era never won a national championship.

As bad as I want to see this team back at the top, I do often wonder where fans get so riled up that a winning season is never good enough and to want it all when the SINGLE National championship in the last 70 years was 1997...

I guess that's where I keep coming back to the moral victory. At the end of the day, most of the roster will not play professionally. Most of what this team should be focusing on is doing what any college program should do: prepare the young people for life in the real world. And being that this program has prided itself on helping instill not only a great work ethic but also just ethics in general and how to treat your fellow humans on the planet, that's what it meant to be a "Michigan man." You work your butt off trying to become the best you you can be all while never compromising on ethics. I suppose to me that's a rare moral stance these days and I've always liked the program because of it, despite the vast majority of other programs around them succumbing to the pressures to win and ultimately abandoning a sense of what's right and wrong in their pursuit of victory.

I am tired of this team losing in big games, but the moment they decide to make that compromise, I will find it difficult to continue my support of them.

Although I suppose a gray area could be what Desmond Howard was talking about earlier this season: instead of keeping the high standards for admission, make the program about taking on some of the less academically stout players and ones that have their issues off field and help make them into Michigan men. Do what they can to instill those classic values in the troubled players that arguably need that sort of guidance the most.

They should never turn a blind eye to a player who has serious off field issues, but maybe it could be seen as a program that can help turn around the lives of such athletes.

Marty.Rheaume
Marty.Rheaume

I'm at option 3. For me, this was the true do or die year. I needed to see that they were still capable of producing some magic but the magic has run out in AA.

A lot of people talk about how Bo sucked in bowls. They're right, his record sucked but Bo teams rarely got embarrassed the way we've become accustomed to and every once in a while, they would win a big one. We've run out of the once in a whiles


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