Iowa Football

Iowa football: 5 Things to know about Michigan

Wolverines have struggled in big games under Jim Harbaugh

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh catches a ball before Saturday's game against Rutgers at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh catches a ball before Saturday's game against Rutgers at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich. (Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)
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Now things get serious.

The Iowa football team is 4-0 and ranked 14th nationally in the AP and coaches polls. The Hawkeyes to Michigan on Saturday to take on the 19th-ranked Wolverines (18th in the coaches poll).

While this game may have lost a little luster after Michigan (3-1) lost, 35-14, at Wisconsin on Sept. 13, it’s still big — a Big Ten road test against one of college football’s blue bloods.

Here are 5 Things about the Wolverines:

1. Harbaugh hate

Jim Harbaugh, once the wunderkind of college football, no longer is getting a lot of love from some national pundits.

Paul Finebaum, who has his own show on ESPN, said he no longer has faith in the Michigan coach.

“I see no imagination. I see regression in this program,” he recently said. “ ... Jim Harbaugh as an elite coach is a total fraud and charade.”

 

And Joel Klatt, a Fox Sports college football analyst and color commentator, said earlier this month this will be Harbaugh’s final season at his alma mater.

“Something in me just doesn’t see the same urgency and fire in Jim Harbaugh that we saw in the first couple of years,” he said in a radio discussion with Clay Travis. “... Michigan is a team that’s not very good right now ... If I had to bet any amount of money, I would bet that Harbaugh is not the coach next year.”

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Why all this disdain for a coach who has guided the Wolverines to a 41-15 record since taking the reigns in 2015? Heck, he once was 29-6 in three seasons at San Diego and 29-21 in four seasons at Stanford. He was 44-19-1 in four years as 49ers coach.

His record against other “elites” has those wondering just how good he really is.

Michigan is 1-9 under Harbaugh in games against teams ranked in the Top 10. His only win was a 14-7 decision over No. 8 Wisconsin in 2016. Seven straight losses have followed.

And, of course, there’s that record against rival Ohio State — 0-4, including a 62-39 whipping last fall.

“I’m going to quit trying to prop him up just because he was once good,” Finebaum said. “He no longer is elite.”

2. Iowa City connection

Harbaugh, 55, was born in Toledo in 1963 while his father was an assistant at Perrysburg High School.

But his family moved around a lot in those early years — Kentucky, Michigan and California and, yes, Iowa City.

His dad, Jack, was an assistant coach at Iowa from 1971 to ’73. He left Iowa for a job at Michigan.

“I loved growing up in Iowa City.” Harbaugh said several years ago. “I loved my teachers at St. Patrick’s. Sister Agnes, my third-grade teacher, my favorite teacher, ... I had wonderful memories of Iowa City.”

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Harbaugh also made a stop in Cedar Rapids in 1993 while quarterback for the Chicago Bears. He visited Regis and LaSalle and helped kick off a parochial school track meet at Coe College. He also spent time with two sisters from his days at St. Patrick’s — Agnes Giblin and Jean Marie Brady.

“I keep telling him he’s my claim to fame,” Giblin said at the time. “I feel like a proud grandmother.”

3. The offense

Quarterback Shea Patterson appears to be the engine that makes the Wolverines go.

But Michigan’s offense looks fairly average on paper. The Wolverines average 392 yards and 32 points per game. That ranks 10th and ninth, respectively, in the Big Ten.

A 6-foot-2, 202-pound senior from Shreveport, La., Patterson started his career at Mississippi. He passed for 3.139 yards and started 10 games there. At Michigan last year, he started all 13 games and passed for 2,600 yards with 22 TDs.

 
 

So far this year, he has completed 67 of 113 passes (59 percent) for 905 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions. He averages 226.25 yards per game.

Ronnie Bell is his favorite target. A 6-foot, 184-pound sophomore. Bell has 17 receptions for 263 yards and has at least 80 receiving yards in three straight games. That includes six catches for a season-high 83 yards against Rutgers last week. He has yet to score a TD, however.

The rushing yards have been harder to come by. Michigan ranks 10th in the Big Ten at 130.5 yards per game. Zach Charbonnet leads the team with 218 yards in four games, an average of 54.4.

4. The defense

Like the offense, the Michigan defense looks fairly mundane on paper.

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The Wolverines do lead the Big Ten and rank third nationally in pass defense, allowing 127.8 passing yards per game. But they are sixth in total (295.8) and scoring (19.3) defense and rank 13th in rushing defense — ahead of only Rutgers — allowing 168.0 yards per game.

Khaleke Hudson, a 6-foot, 220-pound linebacker from McKeesport, Pa., does rank second in the Big Ten with 41 total tackles — tied with Illinois’ Dele Harding at 10.3 per game — and has one sack.

Junior defensive lineman Kwity Paye has team highs of five tackles for loss — 3.5 against Rutgers on Saturday — and two sacks (tied with Jordan Glasgow).

5. History lesson

Michigan, of course, has about as rich a football past as any program in this country.

The Wolverines own 11 national championships and 42 conference titles. They have 23 undefeated seasons, 28 10-win seasons — three under Harbaugh — and 47 bowl appearances, including 16 since 2000.

This is their homecoming game, and they are 92-28-2 in these games. Harbaugh is 4-0 in homecoming contests.

Comments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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