ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan football program has taken more than its fair share of criticism this season, but it silenced a lot of doubters Saturday with a methodical dismantling of No. 8 Notre Dame.
Jim Harbaugh made a statement in the victory, as his team rushed for 303 yards, outgained Notre Dame 437-180 and continued to throw the ball with a 38-7 lead. There was no stopping the Wolverines as they picked up 23 first downs, averaged 5.3 yards per rush in the pouring rain and protected the football.
Everyone knew Michigan was running the ball due to the conditions, but that didn't seem to matter. Rising redshirt freshman Hassan Haskins was the offensive star, gaining 149 yards on 20 carries. Zach Charbonnet was also excellent, rushing for 74 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Tru Wilson and Christian Turner also got in on the fun, gaining a combined 76 yards on 10 carries.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, enjoyed no such success.
The Fighting Irish gained just 47 yards on 31 rushing attempts. Starting quarterback Ian Book completed just eight of 25 pass attempts for 73 yards.
There was a brief moment late in the third quarter when Notre Dame scored to claw within 10 points, but Michigan responded less than three minutes later and piled on three additional touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Harbaugh showed he can lead Michigan to a win against a top 10 team, even as an underdog. He also picked up his first home win against a rival. Many of the negative national narratives about Michigan football took a hit this weekend.
It was one of the best weekends of the Harbaugh era. But what does it mean for the rest of the 2019 season?
Michigan still has two losses. There's no chance to win the Big Ten East Division or compete for a playoff spot. Where do the Wolverines go from here?
Most importantly, Harbaugh has righted the ship and kept the season from spiraling out of control. When the team got blown out at Wisconsin, it looked like a group that could easily fall apart the rest of the season.
Now Michigan is staring at an excellent opportunity to string together some wins heading into the Ohio State game.
Maryland got off to a hot start this season but has lost five of six games, including three by at least 26 points. Penn State and Minnesota have already dropped more than 50 points on the Terrapins, and injuries at quarterback have cooled off a previously explosive offense.
If Michigan can get past Maryland, it has a bye week to prepare for a pair of tricky games leading up to Ohio State. Michigan State is always a difficult game for Michigan, especially in Ann Arbor. Then, a surprising Indiana team awaits. Bloomington has been a house of horrors for Harbaugh, though Michigan has found a way to win both times.
The point is Michigan will now be favored to win its next three games and improve to 9-2, which seemed like a pipe dream a month ago. A win over Ohio State still seems far-fetched, but a lot can happen in a month of college football.
Nothing short of winning out can salvage Michigan's season if you look through the lens of preseason expectations. But in terms of the long-term health of the program, the last month has demonstrated the strength of the foundation Harbaugh has built.
Michigan needs to take the next step to join the elite tier of college football, but the program is still in a good place.
If the Wolverines can rip off a few wins leading up to Nov. 30, the rivalry game will start to look a lot more interesting.
Either way, Michigan will have bragging rights over Notre Dame for at least the next 14 years.