The Harbaugh Effect
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As just about everyone in Michigan (or maybe the world) knows, during the offseason the University of Michigan replaced head coach Brady Hoke with yet another Michigan man. Only this time he’s well known and loved. He’s Jim Harbaugh, former San Francisco 49ers head coach. During his time in San Francisco he was able to lead the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game in his first year— the first time the 49ers had made the playoffs since the 2002 season. In his second year, he was able to lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl, referred to as the “Harbowl” as he faced and lost to the Baltimore Ravens who were head coached by John Harbaugh, Jim’s older brother. The next year was Jim’s last season as head coach of the 49ers as he finished the season with a record of 8-8.
Under Brady Hoke, the University of Michigan struggled every year except his first. Hoke finished with a record of 31-20 over four seasons. While he did hold an overall winning record, the Michigan team that he was coaching had much more potential and was capable of doing much better. This would lead to Hoke’s firing at the end of the 2014 season.
Now with a successful head coach and a roster to back him up, the Wolverines looked to become a top tier team within the next five years or so. However, the turnaround took much shorter than expected. This season has proved to be exceptionally great and the statistics show it. Michigan ranked 4th in total defense this season, improving over last season’s ranking as the 7th overall defense. They also ranked at 68th in total offense, also improving over last season where they finished at 115th overall. They also improved in their conference standing, finishing the season in 3rd place out of seven in the East Division of the Big Ten Conference with a 6-2 in conference record. Last year they finished at a disappointing 5th out of seven with a 3-5 record within the conference. Their next game will be January 1st, 2016 against the Florida Gators in The Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
Harbaugh’s season stats were very promising and leave us wondering if the Wolverines could become the next 49ers-like transformation. The players seem to love Harbaugh and his way of coaching. His approach in practice is that every game brings the same challenges, just in different displays; they take every team as seriously as if they were the best team in the NCAA. This keeps the team on their toes, and puts them in the best position possible to win every game.
Harbaugh has also brought back a famous Michigan tradition in helmet stickers. This is a reward system that grants players a sticker in the shape of a football with an image of a wolverine set inside it. Players are rewarded when they achieve certain personal achievements or meet certain goals set for that week. Basically, they are there to recognize players who give it their all and to show who the true team captains are.
Could we see Michigan reclaim control of the Big Ten for the first time since 2004? Could they become National Champions for the first time since 1997? Even if Michigan isn’t able to achieve either of these, it’s probably safe to say that Michigan football is back and ready to reclaim their spot among the top teams in college football.