With Michigan’s season over after the loss to Florida in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, many Michigan writers are looking at where Michigan goes from here. Here’s a look around the Internet at what’s being said about what Michigan needs to do to improve:
“In spite of all this, of course, Harbaugh is 36-8 against teams not named Ohio State and Michigan State.
Most important, though, he’s 0-for-4 in every championship category.
This isn’t a collapsing football program; it’s a stuck program.
Michigan has had a revolving door of assistant coaches over the past four years, and 25 percent of Harbaugh’s 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes have either left the program via transfer, medically retired or been dismissed.
The offense plays too slow. The defense can’t figure it out against elite teams. And yet he has won 10 games in three of his four years, the Academic Progress Rate is very good and his upcoming signing class is one of the best in America.
Expectations, fair or not, are Harbaugh’s biggest issue. Some of that is beyond his control, some of it was self-fueled and part is just dealing with the modern structure of a game that was much easier 30 years ago, when league championships were shared and bowl games meant the world to everyone.
Harbaugh called Michigan’s 2018 season, another 10-3 mark, “very good” on Saturday. Maybe that’s true for some. But for the keepers of those expectations, it wasn’t.
Because people didn’t press their face against that glass or shed tears of joy while watching a news conference four years ago for these results.
They wanted a cathedral, the one Harbaugh spoke of.
And four years later, they’re all still waiting.”
“Michigan under Harbaugh has the seventh most wins in that span in the country. Prior to his arrival, the Wolverines had just four seasons with double-digit wins since the turn of the century. Under Harbaugh, Michigan now has three in the last four years.
But after the undressing that has been the last month of Michigan football, those win totals ring hollow. Michigan hasn’t won a game later than Nov. 19 since the Citrus Bowl after the 2015 season. Its signature win of the last 4 years is … Wisconsin in 2016? Penn State this year? Bueller?
“Next year, we’re not going to try to go backwards,” Winovich said, speaking of the program he’s now leaving.
While Winovich might be correct that regression seems unlikely, the Harbaugh era has become increasingly defined by one question: Is progression really any more likely?”
“Patterson entered this season hailed as a savior. Now he will have to answer doubts. Michigan’s quarterback is coming back for a senior season and his second year as a starter with this program. That alone would, in most cases, be enough reason for optimism. With Patterson at the helm, Michigan improved from 105th to 50th nationally in total offense. But the Wolverines still looked flat and antiquated at times, especially in those final two games. Patterson was ascending and then regressed late. He never quite produced that breakthrough game like expected when it mattered most.
Still, Patterson showed plenty of talent, an acumen Michigan has not had at quarterback in quite some time. Now — assuming Patterson retains the starting job with talented backups Dylan McCaffrey and Joe Milton surely hungry behind him — it might be up to the coaching staff to put Patterson in better positions to win.
“It’s gonna be the second season where Shea’s the quarterback,” said tight end Zach Gentry, who has yet to announce whether he’ll return in 2019. “It’s gonna be a good connection. We’re losing minimal offensive linemen. Bringing back pretty much everybody on the perimeter. I think the offense is gonna be firing next year.”
The takes around the media universe have mostly been united: Jim Harbaugh must change his offense next season. The play calling can’t be so predictable. Michigan can’t make a College Football Playoff running up the middle for 3-4 yards at a time. The Wolverines should have Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black returning at receiver. They could bring back Gentry, Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks at tight end. Juwann Bushell-Beatty is the only starter who will have to be replaced on the offensive line.
All that amounts to one of the most talented collections in the Big Ten. It will be up to Harbaugh and Michigan coaches to make use of it. Patterson, who averaged a pedestrian 25 pass attempts per game this year, even hinted as much.”
“So now, Michigan ends its 2018 with three losses. An improvement on 2017’s 8-5 campaign, but with changing expectations — something 10 straight wins will do — comes higher aspirations.
A loss to a Notre Dame team in the College Football Playoff — though the Irish is getting stomped by No. 2 Clemson at the time of this writing — is nothing to scoff at. A lopsided score in Columbus is disheartening given the way it happened, but the Buckeyes have been a machine for the better part of two decades.
Being on the brink of a College Football Playoff berth heading into the final game in November for the second time in three years — and coming up short — that will inhibit the motivation of a team that aspired for more, expected more.
So now, Michigan will lick its wounds and attempt to put days like Saturday in the rearview. But fans will remember. The players will remember. The coaches — not in danger of losing their jobs at the moment, but could be in the future, should recent history continue to repeat itself — will remember more than any of the above.
And the now much-maligned head coach in Ann Arbor will look for answers. But he makes no bones about what happened to his team the past two games.
“We’re beaten by — on those days, we were beaten by better teams,” Harbaugh said after the game. “So we have to persevere, be persistent, keep working, and put it over the top.”
Still — as disappointing and disheartening as Saturday was, Michigan is back on schedule. Sure, it’s behind what many would have thought, but three ten win seasons isn’t just a consolation prize — it’s evidence of upward trajectory.
No, that doesn’t mean it’s good enough. But after a downward arrow that thrust the program into the depths of darkness — remember, the 2014 home finale barely saw a Michigan Stadium attendance above 100,000 — the state of the program is at least a few light years from where it was once headed.”
“Michigan has a talent-rich group of skill players and that’s at receiver. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black all look like they have NFL potential and they’ve got Ronnie Bell and Oliver Martin. Does Michigan use them enough? No. When Michigan uses them, is it creative enough? Not for the most part. All we ever hear from the players is what a “freak” athlete Peoples-Jones is and how Collins doesn’t drop a pass in practice. It’s time to see more of that “freak” ability and to let Collins make more big-time catches. And Black and his rotten luck — a broken foot the last two years — is, from all accounts, back to form. There’s a quarterback in Shea Patterson who can be a playmaker and can deliver to these receivers, but Michigan’s offense isn’t opened up enough to allow this to be a reality on a consistent basis. The Wolverines have stockpiled really good receivers and the time is now for the offense to be a bit more razzle dazzle and take advantage of these talents.
Maybe you’ve read this here before but Michigan needs an honest-to-goodness offensive coordinator. No more ambiguity and enough of this “collaborative process” explanation. Of course an offensive game plan is a collaborative process during the week, but on game day one person should be in the box calling plays and the head coach needs to trust that process while knowing he has the veto card available at all times. Something has to change here. Sure, if you like to see balanced numbers on the stat sheet, Michigan’s offense has provided that, but how many times have coaches said, “Stats don’t tell the whole story?” With that in mind, balanced numbers don’t mean a balanced offense. There were too many points left out there. Look at the last three games — Indiana, Ohio State and Florida. Michigan was in the red zone 15 times and scored 14 times but eight times on field goals. For the season, Michigan scored 50 times in 57-red zone visits and had 16 field goals, so the field goals have been coming in the last three games.”