The Wolverine

November 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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66 THE WOLVERINE NOVEMBER 2022 W e first heard it from the fans filing out of Michigan Stadium following U-M's 41-17 drubbing of Penn State Oct. 15, and then on postgame sports radio. Later, we read it all over our message boards at, even from observers who had grown skeptical during Years 5 and 6 of the current era: "This is the Michigan I ex- pected when Jim Harbaugh was hired!" For the first time since 1973- 74, the Wolverines have started football seasons 7-0 in two con- secutive years. They've domi- nated the competition physi- cally, destroyed the only ranked team they played (No. 10 PSU) and have answered every chal- lenge. It seems only a game played in a mon- soon, or some other freak occurrence, can keep this squad from rolling into Co- lumbus 11-0 with a Big Ten Champion- ship Game appearance on the line — and what are the odds of that … uh, happen- ing again? (Cue nervous laughter.) That, of course, is in reference to an Oct. 29 showdown with Michigan State, a team that — somehow — is 4-3 against Jim Harbaugh, having gotten more than its share of breaks along the way. But even that matchup should be a speed bump for this squad, one with an offensive line that's among the top three or four these eyes have witnessed in the last several decades when it comes to running the ball. There's "1990s depth," as a few longtime program observers said prior to the season, and even Fox analyst Joel Klatt (while not necessarily predict- ing victory) said Harbaugh's eighth team was "built to beat Ohio State." Yes, it took a while, but the "Stanford Jim" has arrived. Many wondered what he could do with the talent he could amass at Michigan, and now we're see- ing it. However, when asked in the after- math of Penn State if this is what he envisioned when he arrived, Harbaugh quickly changed the subject. "Yeah," he said after pondering it for a second. "But we come out of this with things to work on, too. And I can think of some of the things. But mostly, it's going to be about getting ready for Michigan State after a bye. But … good win, and then it's on to the next one. "I think there are still things to im- prove, to get better. Things to keep us humble and keep us growing …" The program, though, is as healthy as it's been in a long time. It took a bit lon- ger than expected after a quick start — 10 wins in 2015, some bumps in between — but it happens. We've written here before how Dabo Swinney's Clemson wasn't its current version until seven years into the coach's tenure. Harbaugh got there by returning to his roots. No, there's no fullback, but there are tight ends lead-blocking like them, pulling guards and centers mauling peo- ple and — just when you think you've got it all figured out — subtle variations off tendencies that result in big plays. By the fourth quarter, as TheWolver- analyst and former Michigan All-Big Ten offensive lineman Doug Skene likes to say, the op- ponents just want it to be over so they can get their chicken sandwiches, say goodbye to their parents and get on the bus home. It's "manball." And we love it. And now it's up to the ad- ministration to give Harbaugh the support he needs to keep it going. Independent studies have concluded Michigan is behind in the name, image and likeness (NIL) game that fuels recruiting. Make no mistake — as good as Harbaugh is, that's still the life- blood of any program. New M i c h i ga n p re s i d e n t Santa Ono is well aware of its importance, we've gathered, and he loves athletics. We have faith he'll lead the administration in this area, given he wants the programs to compete "at the highest level," as he said at his introductory press conference. The last two recruiting classes have been out- standing, and the program is set for the near future. The 2023 group, however, is languishing when it shouldn't be. Fix NIL, fix recruiting … and then you've got a juggernaut. It's also time to give Harbaugh the contract he deserves. NFL teams will be calling again. Two years ago, the A.D. slashed his money based on perfor- mance. Given that criteria, he's proven he should be up there with the Big Ten's highest-paid, and his staff should be compensated accordingly, as well. "Michigan is damn good," Fox radio's Colin Cowherd tweeted after the win over PSU. "Some of you are just going to have to deal with that. So great for col- lege football." We couldn't agree more. If the higher- ups do their jobs, it should remain that way for a long, long time. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Jim Harbaugh's Michigan Has Arrived Head coach Jim Harbaugh's eighth team is punishing opponents on both lines of scrimmage. For the first time since 1973-74, U-M has started 7-0 in consecutive seasons. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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