Whatever we all thought we knew after Week 1 of Big Ten play – it was wrong. It turns out nobody had any idea of what they were talking about.
No. 13 Michigan just suffered its worst loss of the Jim Harbaugh era – a 27-24 defeat at the hands of a Michigan State team that hired its coach just eight months ago.
Mel Tucker was handed a complete mess in East Lansing, and then had little opportunity to start cleaning up that mess due to COVID-19. He couldn’t interact with his players face-to-face for months. Practice schedules were interrupted. The season was postponed, then cancelled, then brought back.
All of those obstacles were highlighted even more last week, as the Spartans turned the ball over seven times on their way to a 38-27 loss to lowly Rutgers – a team that hadn’t won a Big Ten game in three years.
Meanwhile, Michigan travelled to Minnesota and got a “big road win over a ranked opponent” by defeating the then-No. 21 Gophers in dominant fashion, 49-24.
It was a mirage. It was fake. It was false.
As it turns out, Minnesota is not a good football team. They lost on Friday night to Maryland, who sat at the bottom of my Week 2 Big Ten Power Rankings after getting blown out 43-3 by Northwestern.
And as it turns out, Michigan isn’t a very good football team either. The Wolverines secondary – particularly cornerbacks Vincent Gray and Gemon Green – was burned extensively throughout the game. The only way they managed to cover MSU’s receivers was by grabbing and holding. They drew plenty of penalty flags for it as well.
Michigan’s offensive line, which looked excellent a week ago, got no push on Saturday against the Spartans. Quarterback Joe Milton, who looked poised and in control against the Gophers, appeared unsure at what he was seeing from the Spartans’ coverage.
Milton threw into coverage several times, and probably got away with a couple should-be interceptions. He wasn’t effective as a scrambler until the last drive of the game, when MSU was in a prevent defense. The redshirt sophomore had some good throws, using that big arm of his to stick the ball in a tight window, but there was nothing there that resembled consistency, and that’s a big problem moving forward.
But the biggest takeaway is this – Jim Harbaugh and his staff deserves all the heat they are going to get this week. Every ounce of it.
This was inexcusable. Harbaugh is in Year 6 at Michigan. He has all of his recruits in the locker room. He has his choice for defensive coordinator. He had his choice for offensive coordinator. He has consistently brought in recruiting classes ranked in the Top 15 in the country.
And you lose as a three-touchdown favorite to a guy who was brought in eight months ago and immediately had to deal with the challenges brought on by COVID-19?
That’s an utter embarrassment. There’s no other way to describe it.
Before this game, the one “accomplishment” you could point to for Harbaugh was that he had retaken control of this rivalry for Michigan. As it turns out, not so much. The Wolverines are now 3-3 in this game during his tenure.
Forget living up to the other, grander aspirations that a program like Michigan has – beating Ohio State, winning the Big Ten title, reaching the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines still can’t beat Michigan State consistently.
So, where does Michigan go from here? In all honesty, I’m not sure. There’s no silver lining or candy-coating after a loss like the one we saw today.
Inexplicable. Stunning. Unforgivable.
What are your thought's after Michigan's three-point loss to MSU? Did you see this coming? Let us know!