The first four seasons of Jim Harbaugh’s tenure as Michigan coach could have gone better during the biggest game on the Wolverines’ schedule.
Harbaugh is 0-4 in The Game, losing blowouts in 2015 and 2018, and blowing second-half leads in 2016 and 2017.
Michigan fans had big expectations for Harbaugh when he arrived in Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines’ athletic director at the time, Jim Hackett, told a story at Harbaugh’s introductory press conference that set the bar pretty high.
“One particularly famous pro coach who had done broadcasting for many years told me this: You know, Jim Hackett, you didn’t just get a great coach, you got the best coach in football today. College or pro, in Jim Harbaugh,” Hackett said.
Four years in, the results haven’t really borne that out.
Harbaugh is 47-16 with the Wolverines, but has lost multiple games every season.
He has just a share of one divisional title, that coming in 2018 in a year when his team got destroyed, 62-39 in Columbus.
Here are 10 stats that show that put Harbaugh’s tenure in The Game and overall in perspective.
Michigan has finished each of its last three seasons on at least a two-game losing streak.
The 2016 team lost to Ohio State and then to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
In 2017, it was actually 0-3, thanks to a loss to Wisconsin, then a defeat against the Buckeyes, followed by a loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
The 2018 Wolverines lost to Ohio State, then got blown out by Florida in the Peach Bowl.
In fact, 12 of the last 15 Wolverine teams have ended the year on at least a two-game losing streak.
Only the 2015 team (won Citrus Bowl), 2011 team (beat Ohio State, won Sugar Bowl), and 2007 team (won Capital One Bowl) were exceptions.
As mentioned above, Harbaugh is 0-fer in his first four editions of The Game.
He’s the only Michigan coach in history to start his career 0-4 against the Buckeyes.
Only two Ohio State coaches have ever started 0-4 against Michigan.
John Cooper (1988-1991) and Albert Herrnstein (1906-1909) both started 0-4. Herrnstein did not coach a fifth season, while Cooper narrowly avoided the axe in 1992 by tying the Wolverines 13-13.
If Harbaugh is 0-5 when the clock hits all zeros on Saturday, he will have done something no one in the history of The Game has ever done before.
Harbaugh’s Michigan teams are now 1-7 on the road against ranked opponents. That includes two losses in Columbus.
Their only road game against a ranked team this season came at Wisconsin. The Badgers jumped out to a 35-0 lead and cruised to a a 35-14 win.
The Wolverines are just 2-10 against top-10 teams since Harbaugh arrived in 2015.
His only wins have come in 2016 against No. 8 Wisconsin and in 2019 against No. 8 Notre Dame.
Ohio State is currently on a 7-game win streak in the series, tied for the longest run of success they’ve ever had against Michigan.
The Buckeyes also ran off seven straight wins in The Game from 2004 to 2010.
OSU has won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the schools.
The longest win streak by either team in The Game came from 1901 to 1909 when Michigan won nine consecutive meetings.
Harbaugh has yet to win more than 10 games as Michigan head coach.
The Wolverines have bumped their head on that glass ceiling in 2015, 2016, and 2018. With a 9-2 record this year and two games remaining, they would need to beat OSU to have a chance to win their 11th game.
In fact, Michigan has only won 11 games or more twice since 1997.
Ohio State has 15 seasons of 11+ wins over that span.
The highest Michigan has finished in the final AP poll of the season in any of Harbaugh’s four years in Ann Arbor is 10th. That’s where the 2016 Wolverines landed.
It’s the only time Michigan has finished the year ranked inside the top-10 of the AP poll since 2006, when they were 8th.
The last time the Wolverines finished in the top-5 of the AP poll was 1999.
Ohio State has finished as a top-5 team in 12 seasons since 2002.
The largest margin of victory for Ohio State against Michigan came back in 1935 when the Buckeyes won, 38-0.
However, Harbaugh’s teams have suffered two of the nine most lopsided losses by the Wolverines in the series’ history.
His 2015 squad lost by 29 points (42-13), and his 2018 team lost by 23 points (62-39).
Only the Wolverine teams of 1935 (38-0), 1968 (50-14), 2008 (42-7), 1934 (34-0), 2010 (37-7), 1961 (50-20), and 1962 (28-0) have lost by bigger margins.
Michigan led for virtually all of the 2016 meeting between the teams, grabbing a 3-0 advantage less than a minute and a half into the game.
They trailed briefly before taking the lead back just before at the end of the first quarter. They would hold that lead until OSU kicked a game-tying field goal with 0:01 left in regulation.
Michigan also had the lead during double-overtime and had OSU in 3rd-and-9 and 4th-and-1, but couldn’t get of the field.
The Buckeyes won that game on Curtis Samuel’s walkoff touchdown in the second overtime period.
The 62 points allowed by Michigan in the 2018 edition of The Game was the most ever scored by the Buckeyes against the Wolverines.
It was the second-most points ever scored in The Game by either team, behind only Michigan’s 86-0 win in 1902.
Those 62 points were more than Ohio State scored in five consecutive seasons of the John Cooper era combined. The 1989 through 1993 Buckeyes only put up a total of 47 points in 20 quarters of football.