2018 Michigan Wolverines - Harbaugh Hot Seat

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TwinSpires Staff

August 7th, 2018

Is Harbaugh In Trouble If Wolverines Struggle?

by DS Williamson
Coach Jim Harbaugh knows that this could be the season where the Michigan alumni decide to stick with him or go in a different direction. So far, the Wolverines under Harbaugh have improved mightily from the dark days after Lloyd Carr left. While a sweeping success overall, Harbaugh's rolled out a fairly inconsistent product during his tenure. Can the 2018 Michigan Wolverines finally stamp their ticket to the College Football Playoff? Or, will Harbaugh find himself on the hot seat?

QB Shea Patterson gives Michigan’s offense a big boost The good news for the Michigan Wolverines is that former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson should solidify the position. Last season, Michigan ran a carousel of quarterbacks. No single quarterback got into a groove and the team suffered for it. That's not necessarily Harbaugh's fault - he didn't have a pivot who was differentiating himself from the pack.

Patterson will get into a groove from the first game. He threw for over 2,250 yards and 17 touchdowns in only seven starts last season. He’s a talented quarterback who should have success throwing to talented receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tarik Black. The best thing for Patterson is that the Wolverines have a couple of talented running backs in Chris Evans and Karan Higdon as well.

The real key for success with the 2018 Michigan Wolverines offensively is whether the line gels before the first game. The offensive line is questionable, meaning not even Harbaugh knows what he’s really got. If the offensive line comes together, Harbaugh sticks to rushing the football and throws out the NFL playbook, Michigan’s offense could be one of the best in the country.

Michigan will have a top-3, if not the best, defense in college football Without a doubt, the Wolverines had one of the top defenses in college football last season. Last year Michigan allowed 271.0 total yards per game. That ranked third in the nation. Michigan ranked first in passing yards allowed per game.

The Wolverines could improve against the rush, though. Allowing 121.0 yards per game on the ground is how Michigan lost to both Iowa and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes rushed for 164 yards. The Buckeyes rushed for 226 yards.

The defense benefits mightily from having eight starters return to the fold offering both consistency and stability. If the Wolverines can manage to stop opponents from rushing at will, the defense will be the best in college football. Should they struggle to shore up their run defense, then they will still be very good.

Michigan’s schedule is a double-edged sword The 2018 Michigan Wolverines have a tough schedule this season. They battle Notre Dame at Notre Dame in Week 1. They’re also at Michigan State and Ohio State this season. Penn State and Wisconsin remain as stalwarts on the schedule, but at least those are games at The Big House. As you'd assume, neither one of those games is a lock. The schedule is tough enough where if the offensive line doesn’t come together, Michigan could lose up to four games in the regular season.

However, the schedule is also vulnerable enough that if Michigan only loses a single game during the regular season, coupled with a Big Ten Championship, they’re a lock to make it to the College Football Playoff. The fact that they're a massive public team in NCAAF betting is a huge bonus for them.

As is always the case in college football, winning solves everything. Harbaugh has earned some leeway with how he's revolutionized the program, but the 2018 Michigan Wolverines have to spike an upward trend for him to feel more comfortable.