ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan football program appears to have hit a new low for the Jim Harbaugh era, as preseason expectations have evaporated following a blowout loss to Wisconsin.
Once projected to be among the best teams in the Big Ten, Michigan is now expected to lose at least four games this season, setting up another disappointing offseason.
Michigan has no wins against Ohio State, no hardware in the trophy case and few big wins during the Harbaugh era. The situation seems pretty bleak, but another Big Ten team's recent resurgence could offer some hope.
In 2016, Penn State got off to a terrible start following back-to-back 7-6 seasons under James Franklin. The Nittany Lions lost to Pittsburgh and underwhelmed against Kent State and Temple at home. In Week 4, Michigan dismantled Penn State 49-10.
Staring down the barrel of another disappointing year and with a difficult schedule ahead, Penn State started to hear rumblings about Franklin's job security and the overall direction of the program.
Michigan struggled in its first two home games against lesser competition, needing double overtime to beat Army and allowing 21 points against Middle Tennessee State.
Then, in its first true test of the year, Michigan fell behind 35-0 at Wisconsin and never really put up a fight. Now everyone in the college football universe is questioning Harbaugh and piling on his performance as Michigan's head coach.
The remaining schedule includes games against No. 5 Ohio State, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 12 Penn State, No. 14 Iowa, No. 25 Michigan State and road trips to Maryland and Indiana.
Obviously, it looks like things could get ugly.
But that 2016 Penn State team avoided a complete collapse the week after the Michigan loss, surviving Minnesota in overtime. It then went on to win its final nine games and earn a Rose Bowl bid.
That streak included wins over No. 2 Ohio State and No. 6 Wisconsin. Out of nowhere, Penn State went from one of the most underwhelming 3-2 teams in the nation to Big Ten champion.
Michigan might not have the talent to run the table the rest of the year, but it could pull off a couple of upsets and perhaps finish with nine or 10 wins.
After the Wisconsin debacle, that would be a surprising turnaround.
Penn State has been a contender atop the Big Ten East since that 2016 bounce back year. If Michigan can salvage 2019, it could certainly do the same.