Conventional wisdom says 2019 is a make-or-break year for Jim Harbaugh. He’s 0-4 against Ohio State, including last year’s ugly 62-39 beatdown in a game the Wolverines were widely expected to win.
His 38-14 record in four seasons at his alma mater has been notable mainly for what he hasn’t done. He has no Big Ten championship game appearances, let alone trips to the College Football Playoff. He has even lost his last three bowl games.
It’s difficult to imagine what the narrative would be a year from now if Harbaugh doesn’t take a big step forward this fall. Harbaugh already holds some kind of record for make-or-break seasons in a short tenure.
This was not the plan when Harbaugh was hired.
With coaching legend Urban Meyer and stud quarterback Dwayne Haskins gone from Ohio State, the Wolverines supposedly will never have a better chance to end their seven-game losing streak against the Buckeyes, who have won an amazing 14 of 15 in one of the nation’s most hallowed rivalries.
The Game also is in Ann Arbor this year.
Shea Patterson returns for his senior season at quarterback for Harbaugh, who has brought in offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, a former Alabama assistant. Some wonder, though, if Harbaugh will let Gattis do his RPO thing.
And I want to see Patterson, a second-year transfer from Ole Miss, do more before assuming he’s the guy to lead the Wolverines out of their doldrums.
Savvy veteran defensive coordinator Don Brown, his image tarnished by the debacle in Columbus last fall, must replace a bunch of studs. Michigan has a cupboard stacked with replacements, but we’ll see how that goes.
The biggest question, though, might be about Harbaugh. Even if you believe in him and what he accomplished with Stanford and the 49ers, the pressure to have a big year will be intense.
How does a free spirit like Harbaugh deal with that? Will Michigan up its game? Or will it crack under the pressure?
It all adds up to a very dramatic year in Ann Arbor. This coaching hot seat could not be hotter.