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Debunking 3 overreactions from Michigan football's 8-4 regular season

Jim Harbaugh 28-10 in 3 seasons with Wolverines

Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines watches action during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines watches action during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – College football is emotional, Michigan fans are passionate and the Michigan-Ohio State game is one of the biggest stages in sports, so it's no surprise that after Saturday's loss to the Buckeyes, the reactions were all across the board.

Michigan finished the season 8-4 and lost its last two games, despite holding second-half leads. No matter what happens in the bowl game, it will be a step back for a program that went 10-3 in Jim Harbaugh's first two years.

But college football isn't black and white. Not every 10-3 season is the same, and not every team can be defined solely by its record. Here are three overreactions following the 2017 season.

Jim Harbaugh isn't an elite coach

Harbaugh's personality has always been polarizing, but it's ridiculous that his coaching ability has become polarizing as well. Despite a long history of winning everywhere he's been, Harbaugh is being questioned after one mediocre season.

Think about the program Harbaugh took over in late 2014. While Brady Hoke brought in a few good recruiting classes, the cupboard was pretty bare from seven years of struggling to reach a bowl game. Michigan lost at least six games five times from 2008-2014, and Harbaugh immediately turned in back-to-back, 10-win seasons with those same players.

Harbaugh has lost 10 games in three years. Three of them came against an Ohio State team that was already a well-oiled machine before Urban Meyer took over. This year, specifically, Michigan lost four games to top-15 teams, three of which were extremely competitive.

Did Harbaugh exceed expectations this season? Absolutely not. There's no doubt he wishes his team would have made one more play against Michigan State or scored on the final drive to beat Ohio State. But one 8-4 season doesn't tarnish Harbaugh's legacy or diminish the job he's done in Ann Arbor.

There are few football coaches better than Harbaugh, and as he continues to land his own players, Michigan will only improve.


Michigan can't beat a good team

Before Michigan's loss to Wisconsin, ClickOnDetroit published an in-depth breakdown of the team's immense struggles away from home. It's been more than a decade since the Wolverines won a big road game, but that doesn't mean they can't beat good teams.

This season, Michigan lost all four of its games against winning teams -- Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Fans were frustrated by the lack of a satisfying win, but not many teams beat those four teams. In fact, only one unranked team picked up a win over any of those four teams -- Iowa over Ohio State.

Just last season, Michigan took down three teams that finished in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff committee's final rankings. The Wolverines beat Penn State and Wisconsin -- both teams that played in the Big Ten Championship Game -- and Colorado, which played in the Pac-12 title game.

Losing every game against winning teams certainly won't cut it at Michigan, but the Wolverines weren't actually expected to be title contenders this season after losing 10 defensive starters and their top offensive playmakers.

The 2017 campaign was underwhelming, but it's nothing more than that. Michigan didn't beat a good team, but it will have one last chance in the bowl game.

Michigan is nowhere close to contending

Anybody who says Michigan isn't close to contending for Big Ten and national championships hasn't been paying attention, because many of the building blocks are already in place.

Look at Michigan's defense, for example. Harbaugh and Don Brown lost every defensive starter except Mike McCray from a 2016 team that tied with Alabama for the best defense in the country -- 261.8 yards allowed per game.

How did they respond? Michigan's defense allowed just 7.5 more yards per game and finished third in the nation behind two teams -- Wisconsin and Alabama -- that are a combined 23-1.

With one of the top defenses in the country and plenty of young playmakers on offense, Michigan is really just a quarterback away from having a chance to win on the biggest stage.

Brandon Peters is far from a polished quarterback, and even though the coaches were extremely cautious in calling plays when he was at the helm, Michigan never lost a game he finished. Michigan crushed Rutgers, Maryland and Minnesota under Peters, and was within four points of undefeated Wisconsin when he was injured.

Peters and freshman Dylan McCaffrey are immensely talented young quarterbacks, and if one flourishes under Harbaugh, all the pieces are in place for a championship-caliber team.

Michigan will lose some key pieces from this year's team, such as Maurice Hurst, Khalid Hill and Mason Cole. But if Michigan is going to take the next step, it has to rebound from those losses.

Harbaugh is bringing in another highly ranked recruiting class after back-to-back top-10 classes. Few teams have more talent than the Wolverines, so they're never entirely out of the picture.


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