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Jim Harbaugh gets another big reward for being mediocre

Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach. Not a great one, but a good one.

The work he did while coaching at San Diego State and Stanford is well-known. And his time coaching the San Francisco 49ers is nothing to brush over either. The 49ers played in the NFC Championship in the first three of his four seasons. His coaching should garner respect. Despite the resume, there’s one place he’s yet to attain success. That place is his current job, coaching the Michigan Wolverines

And because of that, it’s mind-boggling he and the university receive another gift in the form of primetime game. 

On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN and the Big Ten announced that the Washington at Michigan game, which is scheduled for Saturday, September 11th, will not only be a national game, but it will have a 7:30 PM kickoff. 

How great, right? 

This matchup will mark Michigan’s 16th primetime game since Harbaugh’s arrival. However, it’s questionable if they deserve it. After all, this is a bad Michigan football team. Last season proved it. With high expectations at the season’s start, the Wolverines finished with a lowly 2-4 record. 

And to add insult to injury, Jim Harbaugh has yet to solve Michigan’s quarterback issue. He trotted Joe Milton out as “the guy,”. Then as the season progressed, his performance showcased that he was only “a guy.” 

If this wasn’t enough for you, let’s observe Michigan’s primetime opponents under Harbaugh. 

Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan is 8-7 in evening games. At first glance, that record is respectable. After looking at whom those wins were against, though, it’s less impressive. Of those eight wins, three were against Minnesota (2015, 2017, and 2020). And two were against Rutgers (2016 and 2020). Those schools didn’t finish the season with winning records. 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh talks to players at a timeout against Middle Tennessee State during the second half at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, August 31, 2019. Mad Jim Harbaugh

Also, during this stretch, the Harbaugh-coached Wolverines have only beaten two teams that finished with winning records. That was Wisconsin (2018) and Notre Dame (2019). Their lone additional win was against Middle Tennessee State. And who really cares about Middle Tennessee State?

What about the losses?

There cannot be a discussion on Michigan’s primetime wins without discussing the losses. And there’s a common theme in Michigan’s seven primetime losses under Harbaugh. 

Each loss was against a team that finished the season with a winning record. 

Utah, Iowa, Michigan St., Penn St. (twice), Notre Dame, and Wisconsin all took a piece of Michigan during primetime. And honestly, watching Harbaugh-coached teams play well against bad teams but good teams snuffing them out is a tired act. Besides a Michigan slappy, no one wants to see it.

Save “under the lights” action for winners, and winners only.

Jim Harbaugh has a chance to improve his record to .500 in primetime games if Michigan can knock off Washington this September. And Michigan has history on their side in the matchup. The Wolverines hold a 7-5 advantage against the Huskies, winning three of the previous four at The Big House. So it’s fair to say Harbaugh has a better than a “Dumb and Dumber” chance of coaching the Wolverines to victory.

However, it still doesn’t change the fact that ESPN and the Big Ten gave Michigan a reward for being a mediocre program.

As mentioned above, major networks should save the primetime slots for winners. While Michigan has the all-time winningest college football program, they’re far removed from being the brightest and the best.

And they can thank Jim Harbaugh for that. 

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