Here’s why Michigan football’s Jim Harbaugh should win coach of the year, again

Michigan plays Purdue Saturday for Big Ten Championship

COLUMBUS, OHIO - NOVEMBER 26: Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines speaks to press after a college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. The Michigan Wolverines won the game 45-23 over the Ohio State Buckeyes and clinched the Big Ten East. (Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images) (Aaron J. Thornton, 2022 Aaron J. Thornton)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Michigan Wolverines have advanced to their second consecutive Big Ten Championship after dismantling the Ohio State Buckeyes 45-23 in Columbus, finishing the regular season undefeated while also planting their flag for Jim Harbaugh to win the coach of the year award again.

Harbaugh is the reigning Associated Press College Football Coach of the Year for the 2021 season. He put the Wolverines football program back on the map by finishing 12-2, winning the Big Ten title, and blowing out the Buckeyes at home.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with his team after the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game against Iowa, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Indianapolis. Michigan won 42-3. (The Associated Press 2021)

If the college football world thought he was worthy of the prestigious award last season, then what he has accomplished in 2022 is monumentally better.

Harbaugh and the No. 3 ranked Wolverines went into the horseshoe and boat raced No. 2 Ohio State with their best player, running back Blake Corum, carrying the ball two times for six yards.

Michigan running back Blake Corum (2) grabs at his knee after being injured on a run against Illinois in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

But key decisions and adjustments throughout the year by Harbaugh are why the men and maize finished the season unblemished in the loss column for the first time since 1997 when Wolverines legend Charles Woodson led his team to a national championship.

FILE - The Ohio State bench watches as Michigan's Charles Woodson returns a punt 78 yards for a touchdown during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., Nov. 22, 1997. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson, File) (AP1997)

Donovan Edwards

With Corum hobbled, Harbaugh and his coaching staff decided to give the ball to swizz army knife Donovan Edwards who rushed for 216 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries with an injured hand.

“All praises are to the Lord,” said Edwards. “He blessed us to be able to play in this game. All of us who played in the game came back healthy, and we got the victory, so all praises are to the Lord.”

Edwards had long touchdowns runs of 85 and 75 yards in the rivalry game to seal the victory for the maize and blue.

“It’s a big-time rivalry game,” said Edwards. “We prepared for this game all season in the off-season, so to get the victory is a blessing from the Lord.”

Team 143 preparation

Harbaugh has prepared team 143 football in his likeness during the offseason. And so far, after beating Ohio State in consecutive years for the first time since the 1999 and 2000 seasons, their dreams are coming to fruition.

It had been 8,043 days since Michigan last won a game in Columbus. But decisions like switching wide receiver Mike Sainristil to the defensive side of the ball proved to be another genius move as the senior made the play of the season.

With The Game in the balance up 31-20 with under eight minutes to play, the Buckeyes, from their 10-yard line, were looking to cut the lead to single digits when quarterback C.J. Stroud found tight end Cade Stover open in the corner of the end zone. But Sainristil used his makeup speed to break up the pass on a play that will live on in Wolverines history.

After an up-and-down first half, Harbaugh and his staff did what they’ve been known to do through 11 games and came out of the locker room with readjustments.

Offensive adjustments

The Wolverines were a connected unit as they went on a 28-3 run to close out The Game. In the first half, the running game was stagnant, but thanks to two bombs to Cornelius Johnson from J.J. McCarthy, one for 75 yards and the other for 69 yards, kept the game close. He caught four receptions for 160 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

“It felt good, man watch their players walking off of the field sad, and we couldn’t go out like that, so I had to even up my record against them as I’m now 2-1, and I was glad that me and my teammates were able to come out here and take care of business,” said Johnson.

Johnson continued:

“Those two plays we’ve practiced all season, so it came down to us executing as me and J.J. we’re on the same page. But it was those second-half adjustments which blew the game open.”

Saturday’s performance by McCarthy is what all Michigan fans wanted to see throughout the season. On the big stage, McCarthy completed 12-24 passes for 263 yards for three touchdowns. All three went for 45 yards or more. He also used his legs to punch in a score as well.

“Obviously there’s going to be some things that I want back but walking out of here with the W is all that matters and we got it done,” said McCarthy. “But the jobs not finished.”

J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after scoring a rushing touchdown during the fourth quarter of a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (2022 Getty Images)

Coach of the Year

Imagine how tough it must have felt coming into training camp with Cade McNamara looking over his shoulders after beating Ohio State last season, winning the Big Ten Championship, and making their first College Football Playoff.

Harbaugh knew what he had but felt the team may have reached its ceiling. He created a quarterback battle that ran into the season’s first two games. It proved vital that he made the right call as McCarthy’s cannon for an arm and wheels for legs unlocked another portion of the offense, which was on full display against the Buckeyes.

“The quarterback, first-year starter, has won 12 games,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think there’s been another first-year starter in the history of Michigan football that’s done that. To play that well in the big game in Columbus, he had a tremendous game.”

Harbaugh continued:

“It feels great to sing the victors in Columbus, and our team earned it in every way. The second half started, and we were like just run J.J. He was just on fire in every way; Running the ball, throwing the ball. He was so determined. This is a locker room of heroes. We talked about it last night about how we need a whole team of them, and this was a great team win.”

Harbaugh duplicated his accolades from the 2021 season, but he did it while having to replace offensive coordinator Josh Gattis who went down to Miami, and defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald who went back to the NFL, joining John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens.

In the biggest game of the season, Harbaugh took his team into a hostile environment and scored over 40 points against the Buckeyes in back-to-back seasons, which is a first in the rivalries history. Michigan scoring 45 points in Columbus is the most since 1946, and the 22-point victory is the largest margin of victory in the horseshoe since 1976.

Head Football Coach Jim Harbaugh and Linebacker Michael Barrett #23 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrate before speaking to press after a college football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (2022 Getty Images)

Harbaugh took a pay reduction in 2020 because he felt he wasn’t performing up to his standards, but he wanted to prove that he was indeed a Michigan man. Including last season’s Big Ten Championship, he and the men in maize are 24-2 with consecutive wins over Ohio State, one playoff birth (another pending), consecutive Big Ten east champions, and his team is heading back to Indianapolis where they will matchup against the Purdue Boilermakers for a shot to become back-to-back Big Ten champions.

He’s coaching an undefeated team and has made all the proper adjustments from game to game. He’s found the quarterback he’s been looking for throughout his tenure. He found coordinators on both sides of the ball that spoke the same language as he does, and he snapped a 22-year daunting streak while building his own culture.

If Harbaugh’s 2022 resume doesn’t scream AP Coach of the Year, again, then what does?


About the Author:

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.