Whenever Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh takes the podium, the college football world turns and listens. Known for his memorable soundbites and insightful opinions about football, Harbaugh did not disappoint at this year’s Big Ten Media Day. Coming off a disappointing 8-5 season, Harbaugh says he is confident about the year ahead.
Jim Harbaugh Confident at Big Ten Media Day
“I’m thankful to have a season to gear up for,” Harbaugh stated several times at Media Day. “I’ve talked to a lot of people who don’t have a season to gear up for, and they’re sad about it. And I’m sad for them.”
Michigan Needs To Be Better Against Rivals
Harbaugh has had good years at Michigan. In 2015 and 2016, his teams were 10-3 and were sixth and second respectively in total team defense. But the Wolverines’ Achilles heel as a team under has been pulling off victories against their Big Ten rivals. Over his tenure against Michigan State and Ohio State, Michigan has gone 1-5, including a controversial loss to the Buckeyes that prevented them from qualifying for the College Football Playoff.
“It drives us quite a bit,” Harbaugh said. “We want to win multiple championships. Those are just a couple of our goals. We just keep on that track.”
Tyree Kinnel, a 6’0, 190-pound safety for the Wolverines, takes responsibility for the school’s performance against the perennial power programs and knows the team can be better against the Buckeyes and the Spartans.
“It’s our fault,” Kinnel stated. “We aren’t winning the games. That’s what happens in life — if you don’t do something, you’ll get (reminded) about it. It can get annoying at times, but at the end of the day, if you don’t want to hear it, you have to go out and win. That’s what we want to do. We want to go out and beat them, and then we can talk about them not beating Michigan.”
Leaning On QB Shea Patterson To Carry Offense
Michigan’s defense will remain one of the most dominant in the country, where it is likely that six players will go to the NFL after this season. But it is the offense where Michigan has struggled to increase production and put points on the board, only averaging 348.9 yards per game last season (91st in FBS).
This is why Harbaugh went after and got former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson in a transfer. Last season, Patterson recorded 2259 yards, with 17 touchdowns to nine interceptions and a 63.8 completion percentage. When Ole Miss was hit with NCAA sanctions, Patterson was granted a waiver request by the NCAA in April, which laid the foundation for the young player to transfer to the University of Michigan, and he is immediately eligible.
“Shea is about the team,” Harbaugh said. “I think guys saw that real quick.”
Patterson has participated in Michigan’s 15 practices thus far and has impressed the players and coaches. According to Karan Higdon, Michigan’s senior running back, Shea’s play making ability elevates his level of play among his teammates, inspiring them to make even better plays.
“You had some guys who wanted to see how he was going to pan out, as far as practices go, before they gave him that mutual respect,” said Higdon. “He definitely exceeded my expectations and is definitely one of the guys I’m close with on the team.”
While there are many quarterbacks competing for that starting role, it has become clear that Patterson has separated himself from the pack and will most likely start under center at the start of the season.
Harbaugh Discusses College Football Playoff
Leave it to Harbaugh to make a blunt statement about the current College Football Playoff structure. Currently, the CFP has four teams, where there are two National Semifinals, followed by a National Championship the week later.
But Michigan’s head coach doubled down on his belief that the Playoff should be expanded to include more teams and give them a greater chance to hoist the National Championship.
“Thoughts on the playoff system,” Harbaugh stated, “I guess the first thing that comes to mind is more would be more, more would be better in the playoffs. Four in right now. Let’s go to eight and eventually get to 16.”
Harbaugh believes having more teams in the playoff, would produce a greater deal of excitement for the fans and consumers of College Football, who would then be able to fill out brackets and make predictions as they currently do with the March Madness.
Big Ten Coaches Share Harbaugh’s Playoff Vision
Other coaches of Big Ten programs have agreed with Harbaugh’s belief of expanding the playoff. Nebraska head-coach Scott Frost, who coached University of Central Florida last year to an undefeated season but could not qualify for the Playoff, is a big advocate for adding more schools to the postseason.
“I think it should be the five conference champions and three at-large teams,” Frost stated. “That would give a surprise conference champion that plays well at the end of the season a shot. It might give a team like we had at UCF last year a shot.”
Harbaugh points out what he calls important reality that the NCAA needs to consider going forward. Four teams is a massive improvement from the preceding BCS model, which only selected two schools to compete for the National Championship. Harbaugh says College Football needs a greater representation of schools in non-Power 5 conferences to qualify for the CFP, like UCF last year.
The reality is there will only be four schools qualified for the Playoff this year. And in a Big Ten that features Ohio State, Michigan State and Penn State, all with talented lineups, Michigan will need to rely on their stout defence and much-improved offence if they are going to battle for a top-four spot come January.