I’m just going to say it.
When Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh leads his Wolverines on to the field Saturday against Iowa, he will be coaching in his biggest game since arriving at the University of Michigan.
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Forget the games against Ohio State, Michigan State or his bowl games. This is the most important game of his tenure. At home against the No.14 Hawkeyes, Harbaugh needs to win this game. Another conference loss would virtually eliminate the Wolverines from Big 10 title contention, especially with games with Penn. State, Michigan State and Ohio State looming on the horizon. In his fifth season, what is Harbaugh’s signature win? It probably was a 2016 win against No. 16 Wisconsin. He is 1-9 against top 10 opponents, 0-8 as an underdog and 1-7 on the road against ranked teams. Not very impressive with all the hype Harbaugh’s hire generated.
That is what makes Saturday’s game so pivotal. Harbaugh must win to avert the downward spiral his five years have produced at Michigan. Oh, things were great after Michigan’s 52-0 dismantling of Rutgers last week, but lest we forget the 35-14 beat down Wisconsin put on the Wolverines a week before.
“We were outplayed,” Harbaugh said after the Wisconsin game. “Out-prepared and out-coached. Out-played in the whole thing. Both offensively and defensively. It was thorough.”
A repeat of that performance on Saturday will surely derail a shot at winning 10 games and reaching the Big 10 for the first time in school history. Listen, Michigan isn’t going to fire Harbaugh. A recent report said, since Harbaugh arrived, the Michigan football program’s operating revenue has grown from about $97.1 million during his first in 2015-16 to nearly $125 million in 2017-18. But, how long will the fan base put up with winning no games of significance let alone championships? That is why Saturday’s game is so important for Harbaugh: it’s another opportunity for a signature win. The direction of Michigan’s 2019 season and possibly his future could swing dramatically in one direction, depending on the outcome of Saturday’s game at The Big House.