Jim Harbaugh: 2016 Michigan football 'as close to perfect' as any of his teams

Harbaugh talks Michigan football on Tim Kawakami's 'TK Show'

(Getty Images)

Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh talked about his first two seasons with the Wolverines Thursday on the "TK Show" with San Francisco Mercury News beat writer Tim Kawakami.

Kawakami asked Harbaugh about the close defeats he's suffered in two seasons at Michigan, leaving the team with 10-3 finishes and top-12 rankings.

"Definitely sticking with us and driving us for the next season, for this season, and to improve," Harbaugh told Kawakami.

Michigan lost two of its three games by a single point last season, one on a last-second field goal at Iowa and the other on a last-minute scoring drive by Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Michigan's other loss came in overtime at Ohio State, when the Wolverines fell by three points.

"I'm glad we lost them, and maybe that will make us better," Harbaugh told Kawakami. "Maybe that will be the thing that will push us and motivate us to do a better job as coaches and players."

Was Harbaugh disappointed in the results? Though he said the losses stick with the team, he also had high praise for a team that came three plays away from an undefeated season and seconds away from a College Football Playoff appearance.

"This past season, it's as close to being perfect as any team I've ever been on without being perfect," Harbaugh told Kawakami.

It might sound like Harbaugh's just spouting coachspeak, but Michigan actually was extremely close to perfection in 2016.

In their first loss at Iowa, the Wolverines could have won the game with a single first down on their final drive. They also would have won if not for two costly turnovers and a huge special teams penalty. But after leading for nearly the entire game, Iowa's last-second field goal tarnished their perfect record.

Michigan dominated Ohio State throughout their meeting this season, but three devastating turnovers and one defensive breakdown in overtime ultimately gave the Buckeyes a win. Had the Wolverines avoided even one of those turnovers or tackled Curtis Samuel before the controversial fourth-down play in overtime, they would have won the division.

In the bowl game, Michigan missed plenty of opportunities, but the one that stands out is when it got the ball on the 1-yard line to start an early drive and failed to score a touchdown. That drive not only cost Michigan four points but also allowed Florida State to set the tone and control most of the game. Even after a rough first half, Michigan came back to take a brief lead and almost won the game.

But in the end, Michigan finished 10-3 and landed at No. 10 in the final polls. Harbaugh said it will only fuel the fire for his young team heading into 2017.