Sporting News’ Bill Bender believes Michigan football is in good hands with Jim Harbaugh.
Sporting News: Don’t Count Out Michigan and Jim Harbaugh in 2018
You’ve heard it time and time again.
“Harbaugh hasn’t finished higher than third place in the division.”
Going into his fourth year in Ann Arbor, Harbaugh has only gotten the bulk of the players he recruited on the field this past season, with most of them being second-year players, and they still went 8-5, despite the lack of experience.
The band is back together in 2018, and Sporting News’ Bill Bender posted his “unpopular opinion” that not only is Jim Harbaugh not on the hot seat — as pundits like Paul Finebaum would have you believe. But that he’s only just getting started.
Here’s what we know: Harbaugh isn’t looking at the NFL. The Bears and Colts — the two pro teams Twitter loves linking Harbaugh to — just hired Matt Nagy and Frank Reich, respectively. Harbaugh isn’t on the hot seat, either. Seriously, name one legit coaching candidate for Michigan who would replace Harbaugh after 2018. Anybody? Seriously, name anybody.
Michigan brings back a loaded defense and transfer quarterback Shea Patterson, and the hype will return in retweets if the Wolverines win that opener at Notre Dame. Same if they get through Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan State — teams against whom Harbaugh has a 4-4 record.
It still all comes down to Ohio State. If Harbaugh doesn’t beat the Buckeyes in the next year or two, then all those other criticisms come back. That’s the one the matters. Lloyd Carr lost four in a row to Ohio State from 2004-07, and that led to a seven-year hiatus from the national stage. The Game trumps everything else, and Michigan hasn’t won in Columbus since 2000.
Michigan should be vastly improved in 2018 given the returning experience, and as Bender notes, QB Shea Patterson could be a difference maker on offense. The former five-star recruit is making several pre-season Heisman watch lists and has thrown for over 3,000 yards in his 10 games at Ole Miss.
Given that the defense finished third nationally a year ago, if the offense clicks, Michigan has a chance to be formidable.