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With Patience Wearing Thin, Jim Harbaugh Can Buy Himself Some Time

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - OCTOBER 19:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts to game action during the fourth quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 19, 2019 at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Penn State defeats Michigan 28-21.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Jim Harbaugh believes his enemies are flooding the zone with fake news that he's exploring a return to the NFL and he won't stand for it. His strongly worded letter to parents was an understandable reaction to an unfavorable position. A cynic or jerk could point out that Michigan's real enemies might prefer Harbaugh stay in Ann Arbor as long as possible. That his presence is more a detriment than poisoning the recruiting trail.

The letter should quiet the tide of unsubstantiated rumors about Harbaugh jumping to greener pastures. But a bigger issue is quieting the tide of rumors that Michigan will look for a different leading man.

Earlier this month the Wolverines finally notched a "big" win by outplaying Iowa in a Big House phonebook. Most of that goodwill evaporated when the Wolverines fell behind 21-0 in Happy Valley. Some, but not all, was won back by a furious comeback that feel just short in the final minutes.

Oddly enough, many feel like they saw the most of out a Harbaugh team in a moral victory. That Shea Patterson and crew didn't fold up camp and accept the white-out blowout is genuinely impressive. Michigan will once again be under the lights in primetime Saturday against a venerable brand in Notre Dame.

It's a pick-em. A 50-50 game. A tossup. And though it won't decide any conference crown or likely impact the playoff, it is of paramount importance to Harbaugh who desperately needs to finish this year strong.

Both 9-3 and 7-5 win nothing. But they are in different universes. Harbaugh was brought to the program to win these types of games (the Notre Dames, Penn States and Wisconsins) as much as he was to win the ones against Ohio State. With consistency.

There's a direct real-world benefit to both Harbaugh and the program if they defeat Notre Dame. The buying of time. Sustaining some goodwill for another month.

Beat the Irish and the mood remains positive and optimistic. Maryland next week should not present a problem. Michigan State is very beatable, especially at home. The same with Indiana on the road. Going into the Ohio State game at 9-2 would put Michigan around the Top 10. And in a good place.

More than that, it'd be another month where Harbaugh's record against elite teams wasn't be scrutinized. It'd be a month where most of the angst would dull to mere whispers.

Tomorrow night is about Harbaugh keeping the flame of hope alive. It's about keeping the train on the track and buying time until the ultimate judgement day against the Buckeyes.