Is this Wisconsin game the most important of the Harbaugh era?

Submitted by Chi-Blue on October 10th, 2018 at 11:28 AM

So as you might deduce from the title I am inclined to think that this Saturday evening's tilt with the Badgers is a pretty big one. As I thought about the viability of my premise, that this game is the most important in the Harbaugh era, I do realize it's not against MSU or OSU which would traditionally be the games that we would attach such significant meaning too. However, just looking at the present state of our program, both real and perceived, I think a win this weekend really sets us up for a strong season, and hopefully momentum going forward as a program. 

Why this game? Some thoughts . . . 

When Harbaugh took over every national pundit in the country was predicting a National Championship in 3-5 years, and at the least a return to national prominence. A good first few seasons, crazy and awesome satellite camp and recruiting stories, twitter wars, trips overseas, all mixed in with some disappointing but very close loses had us back in the spotlight with the arrow pointing up. Then last year happened . . . the arrow evened out. Real or perceived it's where we are, and now this season is supposed to be make or break for Harbaugh.

Saturday - 

The atmosphere will be amazing! A Saturday night prime time game against a conference foe who had/has aspirations of a BIG 10 title and beyond. The weather looks to be perfect with no rain and the temp around 50 degrees, perfect fall weather for football. The Big House should be a full house under the lights for a national audience and recruits to take in. College Game Day gets things started early as everyone should be excited about the day. 

The schedule may now set up to be a bit more manageable than originally thought. We were looking at a bonafide BIG 10 murderers row of sorts with Wisconsin, MSU, and Penn State all in a row who all defeated us last year. Beat Wisconsin at home, while an injury depleted and emotionally down MSU (see post on Valenti) has to travel to Penn State for a very physical game that they lose. We then get to visit a very down, but admittedly desperate 3-3 MSU team with our confidence high and win a close one. Then a bye week to heal and prepare for a Penn State game at home where we hopefully learned some things from last year.    

The perception of Harbaugh and the team at present is that we can't win the big games especially in Oct/Nov and this reputation has been earned. A win Saturday on the biggest stage helps to erase that thought, and brings the team much needed confidence . . . the arrow goes back up.

This all sounds really good . . . . in my head! What do you guys think? Exclude the reasons if you want and/or insert your own. How important is this game and does it carry with it a water shed moment of sorts?

Comments

Go.Blue.Hail

October 10th, 2018 at 11:30 AM ^

No. However, I do think it is the most important for this season, as a win here will inspire a lot of confidence moving forward, and a loss would be a blow to the postseason hopes we have for this team. It is not a "must-win" game for Harbaugh's legacy, but would be a huge boost to our perception of this team.

unWavering

October 10th, 2018 at 11:33 AM ^

Honestly I don't even think it's the most important in the next 2 weeks. 

Of all the games we could possibly lose left on the schedule, this is the one we can afford to.  We would still be in control of our own destiny in the conference.  Lose against PSU or OSU, and we aren't.  This is a 'nice to have' game, not a must-win.  Unless you want to make the CFP, but IMO I kind of don't want to bother with the CFP this year - that'd only result in getting murderstomped by Bama in the best case scenario.  I'd much rather take a conference win and a Rose Bowl berth that we would actually have a chance to win.

ijohnb

October 10th, 2018 at 11:36 AM ^

I disagree with this so hard.

You want the Rose Bowl over the Playoff because it is a game "we could win?"  The fu...?  This can't be the majority view.  If it is, that is kind of sad.

And you can't just view this game in a vacuum.  Whether or not we perform in this game will have a huge impact on the rest of the season.  To me, this game is the difference between possibly 11-1 or 10-2 and like 8-4 or 7-5.  It is absolutely imperative to win this game.

mitchewr

October 10th, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

I think it makes sense to a degree. Imagine we win the conference title then go to the Rose Bowl and win that game. We'd be sitting at what, 12, 13 wins? With a Rose Bowl victory that we haven't had in how long? How much momentum did MSU gain when they got shutout in the CFP?

Like it or not, we aren't at the level of competing with Clemson, Bama, Georgia, etc. I just don't see how our offense could keep up. So while obviously making the CFP would be a massive massive accomplishment, I can kinda understand the logic behind NOT wanting the CFP just yet.

ijohnb

October 10th, 2018 at 11:54 AM ^

I'm just not ready to concede that yet.  Alabama may be the best team in the last 50 years, or they may be a team who's best win was over a now unranked Texas [email protected] team and who won't play another legit opponent until 3 weeks from now.  (When they play an LSU team that just lost to Florida, who has been Harbaugh's boy-toy since he got to Michigan).

unWavering

October 10th, 2018 at 11:50 AM ^

Why can't you view this game in a vacuum? The guys will not try as hard down the road if we lose this, even though they can still win the conference? I don't buy that at all.

And yeah, I realize my opinion on the CFP is probably not popular. I just don't see the point in going just to get stomped by Bama.

TrueBlue2003

October 10th, 2018 at 2:21 PM ^

But neither of those are a certainty.

I'd rather go to the playoff with a 15% chance of winning it all (which is probably about what it would be) than to go the Rose Bowl with a 50% chance of winning.

Why even play or follow or sport if you don't aspire to be on top?  This is a terrible take similar to the "I'd rather win some games in the NIT than lose in the NCAA tourney" which is what some people were saying mid-season last year.  And then we went to the title game.  Because we gave ourselves a chance.  That's all you can ask for is a chance.

Remember_the_G…

October 10th, 2018 at 12:05 PM ^

I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph. We NEED a win against a good team to get us rolling and I think this is a perfect opportunity.

To your first point, I wouldn't say I'd rather have the Rose Bowl but I'm honestly not thinking about CFP at all. It's been so long since Michigan has won a conference title (I have only been a fan since '08) that that seems like a first step I want to see before I can even think about National Title. I'm not saying I'd rather be IN the Rose Bowl than the CFP but I'd rather have a Big Ten Title than a loss in the CFP. In other words I'd rather be 2016 PSU than 2016 OSU. Maybe that is kind of sad considering they even lost to USC in the Rose Bowl but its been so long since we've won it that I'm fixated on the conference.

Reader71

October 10th, 2018 at 12:16 PM ^

By your own logic, it is imperative to win every game, robbing this one of any special significance. We want to win 10 or 11 games, we can only afford to lose 1 or 2. 

I also don’t believe that the performance in one game has a huge impact on any subsequent games, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

His Dudeness

October 10th, 2018 at 12:42 PM ^

You have to win the B1G before you can be considered for the national title. I would rather just do that every year. I don't really care if we win the national title as long as we win the B1G. We don't cheat so we aren't really competing for the national title every year. We are however in contention to win our conference year in and year out. That's what I care about. 

TrueBlue2003

October 10th, 2018 at 1:24 PM ^

That's ridiculous.  The wheels aren't going to come off if M loses this.  It's the difference between 11-1 and 10-2 or 10-2 and 9-3 but that's it.  One game. 

It's the least important game left on the schedule.  It would be great to win, of course.  But any other game would be worse to lose if we were to only lose one more game.

ijohnb

October 10th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

"It's the least important game left on the schedule."

That is truly laughable.  This is a Top 15 matchup at home, at night, with both conference and Playoff implications, with f-ing College Gameday in town, and every college football recruit and fan in the country watching it.  It is a huge game. 

TrueBlue2003

October 10th, 2018 at 2:32 PM ^

It can be both a huge game and the least important game left on the schedule since "huge" is relative.

And yeah, the GameDay stuff is fun, but I define "importance" by how desperately you need/want to win a given game.

It's impossible to argue that we need to win this game more than we need to win the MSU, PSU and OSU games since those games are 1) against rivals, two of which are on the road and 2) against divisional teams and thus have a much higher impact on M's chances to win the division which is a prerequisite to going to the conf title game.

So then it's a matter of whether it's more important to win this high profile game or not dorf a Rutgers or (more realistically) the IU game.  And that's debatable.  Does winning a high profile game benefit the program more than dorfing one of those games hurt the program?  I don't know.  Maybe.

There is one that that is certain: M can lose to Wisconsin and still make the playoff.  It can't lose to Rutgers or IU and still make the playoff which is why this is the game we can most withstand losing and hence is, by that definition, the least important game left on the schedule (but still huge, because they all are when you're trying win the division and go the the playoff!).

TrueBlue2003

October 10th, 2018 at 12:50 PM ^

You were 100% correct until you said "I kind of don't want to bother with the CFP this year."

I mean, dude.  C'mon.  That's insane.  Of course we want to go to the CFP.  But if we're going to lose just one game this year, this is the game to lose.

I'm even going to make the argument that we'd have a decent shot at the playoff, if this is the only loss of the year.

M would be 11-2 with a loss to a good Wisconsin team that would later be avenged in the title game.  And then a loss to a likely playoff team.

That's probably good enough to get in over a one loss ACC champ (because look at Clemson's schedule, they likely won't have a win over a ranked team AND they'd have a loss to an iffy team), and then it's likely the PAC12 and Big 12 champs also have two losses.

Someone is going to get in with two losses sooner than later and this scenario for Michigan (one loss avenged, the other to a playoff team) is the most likely scenario for how it will happen.

Perkis-Size Me

October 10th, 2018 at 1:00 PM ^

If you want to be the best, you've got to play and beat the best. You give me the choice between going to the Rose Bowl and going to the CFP to play for it all, I'm leaving the Rose Bowl in the dust every single time. My ND friend doesn't care if they get matched up with Bama. He's been saying "at least we get there and get a chance."

Would we lose to Alabama in the CFP? Smart money says yes. I wouldn't go into that game expecting us to win. But I think it would be a reasonable expectation for us to compete with Alabama. There is a lot of talent on this team, and I know Harbaugh would draft up a great gameplan. Let's say we only lose by 7-10 points. That tells all the top recruits out there that they can win big at a place like Michigan too. That Harbaugh has the program this close to winning it all. It says you're one of the four best teams in the country, if not one of the two best. 

I'll take that over beating Washington in the Rose Bowl where critics can still come back and say "you didn't prove yourself against the best there is." And for those of you scared about getting your asses kicked by Alabama, did OSU getting curbstomped by Clemson 31-0 do anything to REALLY tarnish the reputation of Meyer's program? No. He still reeled in a top-3 class, and they were still picked as playoff favorites for 2017 the day after the 2016 season ended. 

I Like Burgers

October 10th, 2018 at 11:42 AM ^

I think its bigger because in 2016 there was no "Harbaugh can't win the big ones" narrative out there.  Getting rid of that is important for recruiting, and also that narrative has grown big enough it has to be in the player's minds now and they have to start winning some big games if they are ever going to get the confidence up to win really big games like Ohio State, Big Ten title games, and CFP games that you'd reach with an OSU win.

ijohnb

October 10th, 2018 at 11:46 AM ^

Yeah, he needs this game.  The 2016 OSU game was in his second year.  Nobody expected us to be in that position so soon and he was to a certain degree playing with house money.  After last year, losses to State and OSU (again) and the loss to ND this year, he has to have this game.

Granted, I don't think typical "hot seat" discussions really apply to Harbaugh and his circumstance here, but a loss here and a lot of the good will he accumulated in terms of good will and coaching acumen will evaporate.  Huge game for Harbaugh.

Space Coyote

October 10th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

This won't get rid of that narrative, because people will just point to "ranked teams on the road". This also isn't a rival, so won't get rid of that narrative.

This game isn't as big as 2016 OSU because that game would have nearly directly set Michigan up for a playoff spot (with only Wisconsin in the way, a team Michigan already beat more handily than the score indicated). Even if Michigan wins against Wisconsin, they still have @MSU, they still have vs PSU, and they still have @OSU, and the B1G championship game. This would only make a minor dent in the national perspective. It's a big game, no doubt, it would help the perception of the program, but there are several that were bigger than this game.