Jim Harbaugh has led the Michigan program to 10 wins in three of the past four seasons patrolling the sidelines at his alma mater, but has yet to win the Big 10 East division.
The Wolverines are halfway through spring ball and are trying to get the sour taste of losing three-straight bowls and ending 2018 on a two-game losing streak out of their mouths.
The 55-year old coach has a victory over every Big 10 team except for Iowa and Ohio State. Both schools visit the Big House this fall, where Michigan is 24-4 over the last four years. Michigan’s clash with Iowa will be on Homecoming and for the first time under Harbaugh Michigan will face an Urban Meyer-less Ohio State team.
The Buckeyes kept the Wolverines out of the Big 10 Championship Game last season and haven’t lost to them since 2011. However, Ohio State without Meyer, Penn State rebuilding and Michigan State back to being the little brother, this upcoming season will be the perfect time for Harbaugh and Michigan to finally win the East.
The good news is Michigan returns a talented veteran quarterback in Shea Patterson. The senior threw for 2,600 yards and 22 touchdowns last season and his top two targets Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins both return. The duo combined for 85 receptions, 1,244 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2018.
The bad news is that Harbaugh needs to find replacements for his top two rushers Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. Higdon has carried his talents onto the next level and Evans was kicked off of the team for academic issues in February. There’s also some major holes to fill along the defensive front seven where Michigan has to replace some studs, including two potential Top-10 picks in this year’s NFL Draft.
Still, the unit has been a solid force under Harbaugh and look to reload instead of rebuild. Traveling to Happy Valley to face Penn State will be challenging and playing Wisconsin at Camp Randall will be just as tough, considering Michigan lost its’ last trip to both venues.
This year’s schedule sets up nicely for the Wolverines with four of their first five games at home. There’s also that rare late October clash when Notre Dame visits the Big House, which should pack some major Playoff implications. The season will be considered a success if Harbaugh can snap the Wolverines’ seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes and get the team to Indianapolis for the Big 10 Title Game for the first time in school history.
The team traveled to Italy for spring ball in 2017, visited France last season and will take a trip to South Africa at the end of this semester for more bonding. As for now Michigan’s spring game is on April 13th and by that time everyone will have a glimpse of the team’s potential and how far they’ll go this fall.