Jim Harbaugh was hired by Michigan on Dec. 30, 2014. He was formerly the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Harbaugh took that 49ers team to two consecutive NFC Championship games and an appearance in Super Bowl XLVII in 2013.
The 49ers lost the Super Bowl to the Baltimore Ravens, but the success Harbaugh had in San Francisco hadn’t been seen since the George Seifert era in the mid-1990s.
Since arriving at Michigan, Harbaugh has posted a 20-5 record, including a dominate bowl win over Florida last season. Still, there’s something Harbaugh has yet to do at Michigan – make the playoff.
Jim Harbaugh Moving Michigan In Right Direction
While Harbaugh has not taken the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff in either of his two seasons, he has come awfully close in both. In 2015, Michigan was a bad snap away from the Playoff.
With a lead over in-state rival Michigan State, Michigan was punting with just seconds left. Punter Blake O’Neil fumbled the snap. Michigan State’s Jalen Jackson III picked up the fumble and returned it for a game-winning touchdown as time expired. That loss sealed their fate out of the playoff.
In 2016, Michigan suffered an unfortunate loss to Iowa. Still, Michigan remained the #3 team in the College Football Playoff. All they had to do was win out and they would be headed to either Atlanta for the Peach Bowl or Glendale, AZ for the Fiesta Bowl.
A win over their biggest rival, Ohio State, would guarantee them a spot in the College Football Playoff. In one of the most closely contested games in the history of the series, Michigan lost in overtime. A Washington win in the Pac-12 title game kept Michigan out of the playoff once more.
They would go on to lose by two points to a Dalvin Cook-led Florida State team in the Orange Bowl. The Wolverines fell to Dalvin Cook, a very elusive running back, in a New Year’s Six bowl game with no Jabrill Peppers and with Wilton Speight at quarterback. All the credit to Michigan’s success lead to Harbaugh’s coaching strategy.
Haters Gonna Hate
The Wolverines finished 2016 losing three of their last four games. The media will take this and twist it and turn it to make Harbaugh look like a bad coach.
The three losses came by an average of less than two points per game. The biggest loss came by just three points in overtime to a College Football Playoff team.
Not only that, but had Peppers played in the Orange Bowl, things would have been completely different. Perhaps the Michigan defense would have been able to stop Cook. He rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Peppers wasn’t the only big loss in that game. Tight end Jake Butt left the game in the first half with injury. Had he played the whole game, things may have gone the other way.
It is uncertain at this point whether or not Butt or Peppers will return to school, but that shouldn’t make a difference. With Harbaugh as their coach, Michigan will continue to be contenders for the College Football Playoff.