Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Jim Harbaugh just lost a big game on the road against a ranked opponent. Why didn’t you stop me? I know you’ve heard that one before. It’s a stat that has been floating around all week leading up to Michigan’s road trip to No. 7 Penn State, and one that will continue to be brought up in the aftermath of a 28-21 setback in Happy Valley on Saturday night. And if things weren’t already frustrating enough for Michigan this season, they get to return home to play No. 8 Notre Dame next week.
To modify a line from the Sam Rami Spider-Man films, with great expectations comes great pressure. Michigan has absolutely done a ton of great work under Harbaugh on and off the field. You can’t win as many games as Michigan has won under their head coach by accident, and the status of the program has improved compared to the overall status of the program under Brady Hoke or Rich Rodriguez. Of course, at some point, the conversation will always come back to winning the big games, and that is an area where Michigan has ultimately fallen flat under Harbaugh. And with Notre Dame and Ohio State still coming up on the schedule, there could be a couple of more tough losses incoming for a Michigan team that was picked by many to not only contend for the Big Ten title this season, but win it.
Michigan dug itself a big hole on the road at the annual Whiteout game at Penn State. The Nittany Lions were a solid favorite for the game, so Michigan losing was not exactly unexpected. After falling behind 21-0, the Wolverines showed tremendous fight and came within one play of tying the game up in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but a dropped pass by Ronnie Bell was the last time Michigan’s offense would be on the field.
And with the loss came the fallout on Twitter, a familiar scene after any Michigan loss.
Believe Jim Harbaugh is now 1-10 against teams ranked in the AP Top 10 in his five years in Ann Arbor.
That stat along with his inability to beat Ohio State are what Warde Manuel should be looking at come Nov. 30.
There’s a few more losses on the schedule, too.
— Mark J. Burns (@markjburns88) October 20, 2019
Last year, Jim Harbaugh was third-highest-paid HC in college football behind Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. Saban and Meyer have combined to win nine national championships. When you add Harbaugh into the mix… that number remains nine.
— CollegeFootballTalk (@CFTalk) October 20, 2019
Jim Harbaugh trying to win:
Top 10 opponents: pic.twitter.com/uiVt9fyvJL
— 14 (@Vom_Kriege) October 20, 2019
Unfortunately, one of Jim Harbaugh's favorite quotes applies to his own accomplishments against good teams…
"Once is it happening, twice is a trend, three times is a habit."
— Brandon Brown (@BSB_Wolverine) October 20, 2019
It didn’t help that Lovie Smith picked up his first win against a ranked opponent earlier in the day, and did so against a team that dominated Michigan earlier this season.
Wins over Top 10 teams in the last five year..
Jim Harbaugh -1
Lovie Smith -1
— Dan Leach (@DanLeach971) October 20, 2019
It should go without saying that Harbaugh needs to find ways to pick up some big wins, and the sooner the better for Michigan. But the thought Michigan will begin kicking up some dust and reviewing the buyout terms in his contract may be nothing more than wild fan speculation and ranting. But the more times Michigan loses in the spotlight, the more angst that may develop from the supporters and donors. When those people start getting tired of Harbaugh is when the real problems will ultimately begin. It’s easy to suggest we are at that point now, but that really isn’t the case.
Which may be good news for Ohio State fans and, for now, Penn State fans too.