Another year, another tease from Michigan. Another chance for the national media to fall in love with Jim Harbaugh, to convince everyone that this time would be different than the last. The winningest program in college football continued its tradition of winning absolutely nothing by traveling to Columbus and getting thoroughly embarrassed by a name-brand, lackluster Ohio State team. Another empty year full of promise ending in nothing tangible.
There will be no trophies added to the case in Ann Arbor. A 10-2 season is great, sure, but there were bigger goals left on the table. Michigan has not won the Big Ten since 2004. It has never played in the conference championship game. A second George W. Bush term, eight years of Barack Obama, and two years of Donald Trump have elapsed without a meaningful bauble for the Wolverines.
Harbaugh is four years in. He’s the only Michigan coach in history to lose his first four to the Buckeyes. He’s been anointed a savior for saving … nothing.
Don’t it get twisted. He’s a good coach. And probably the right coach for Michigan. He’s restored the program to respectability. But facts are facts. The guy can’t win a big game.
It’s not for a lack of talent or opportunity. All around the country, there’s examples of coaches who have done more with less. Here is Harbaugh’s Big Game Legacy:
Lost to No. 7 Michigan State
Lost to No. 9 Ohio State
Won vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Lost at No. 2 Ohio State
Lost at No. 2 Penn State
Lost at No. 5 Wisconsin
Lost vs No. 9 Ohio State
Lost at No. 10 Ohio State
This is, obviously, not good enough. And yet, like clockwork, Harbaugh will enter next year riding positive press and a cool seat. At a certain point it seems like you’re taking crazy pills. But it also feels like Michigan is content to do the insane thing: do the same thing over and over and expect different results.
Here’s the truth. Michigan-Ohio State is not a rivalry. One side winning 14 out of 16 is not a rivalry. Michigan is not Ohio State’s equal, and hasn’t been for a long time. Harsh? Maybe. But someone associated with the Wolverines program needs to get their head out of the sand and face reality.
All is not well. Harbaugh is not a magic man. He’s flashy, sure. But at the end of the day, the Wolverines are still not winners. They are not conquering heroes. They are barely second fiddle.
They may be closer to winning something of note, but still a long way away.