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Michigan Has Hit Rock Bottom, But Don't Expect to See Big Changes Yet

MADISON, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines watches action prior to a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 21, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Saying that a team has hit "rock bottom" is usually a touch dramatic and overstating just how bad any individual loss is in any sport (see: Patriots-Chiefs, 2014). But it would probably be hard to find someone who would disagree that Michigan football has, indeed, hit rock bottom in 2019. Ranked No. 7 going into the season, this was supposed to be the year that Jim Harbaugh's squad returned the Wolverines to their old status of perennial powerhouse and regular contender for the national championship.

Instead, they had a slow start to the season that saw them need overtime to beat Army and their option offense while Shea Patterson looked about the same as last year-- which is to say, like a bad quarterback. Hopes remained high going into a crucial Week 4 matchup against the No. 13 and Big 10 rival Wisconsin Badgers, though. If the Wolverines were going to kick it into gear, it had to come against one of the nation's best defenses and a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in Jonathon Taylor.

Well, they didn't kick it into gear, to say the least. Michigan was downright embarrassed, and not for the first time in the Harbaugh era, on national television. Wisconsin led by four touchdowns at the half and racked up over 300 rushing yards while allowing less than a hundred to Michigan. The final score of 35-14 doesn't quite do Wisconsin's performance justice. Patterson was benched at halftime before having to come back in after Dylan McCaffrey got hurt. Wisconsin absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and Michigan was simply helpless.

Many will be calling for Harbaugh's khakis on a platter after getting crushed in a massive game, again. It's one thing to lose to a top-five Ohio State team every year. It's another thing entirely to watch Wisconsin brutalize your team in the exact way everyone thought the Wolverines would be dominating-- with hard-nosed defense and a ground-and-pound running game that saps the other team's energy. But this won't be Harbaugh's last game on the headset.

Harbaugh signed a seven-year contract back in 2014. As always, it takes a few years to completely remake a college program in the coach's image, and 2019 is the first year with only Harbaugh recruits on the team. Obviously it hasn't gone well so far. But it's still too early to bail on the Harbaugh program in its entirety. If the current head coach was a low-profile name that the school took a chance on, he'd probably be fired. But this is Jim Harbaugh, a Michigan man through and through. Firing him with two years left on his contract would do nothing but hurt the perception of Michigan's program.

Yes, they're still Michigan, and it would be the hottest job on the market if it were to open up. But if Harbaugh, an alumni and highly-regarded football mind, can't satisfy the Michigan masses, who can?

Michigan simply has too much invested in Harbaugh to pull the plug before the last year of his contract. He gets more wiggle room than your standard Wolverines coach. Should Michigan completely flop this year in the same way they did against Wisconsin, then this conversation will have a different tone by the end of the year. But for now, Michigan is committed to Harbaugh and the program he's put together, for better or for worse.