Since the start of Jim Harbaugh era, there has been a yearly cycle in Michigan’s national ranking in football. The national media looks at their top-10 recruiting class and coach with an NFL pedigree and falls in love.
Then, without fail, Michigan Football disappoints.
Michigan loses rivalry games and falls to teams they are favored to beat. The team slips down the rankings, mostly landing somewhere around the 15th to 23rd slot. Then, Michigan Football fails to capitalize on the lesser bowl game they play. The media talks about their shortcomings, blames them on a few problems, and collectively forgets about these criticisms. Just a few months later, the cycle picks back up again.
But finally, the cycle was finally broken when ESPN released their college football power index.
Michigan Football was slotted 40th in the country. Teams like the dreaded Appalachian State Mountaineers and the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers were ranked higher than college football’s winningest program.
Last year’s performance had much to do with this. In previous seasons, Michigan started every year with unreasonably high expectations. When the team was an average bowl game participant, it was much easier to not be let down and look more favorably on the next season. An embarrassing loss to a team like Ohio State became so common it was looked over. Plus, there was much more focus on the rival Buckeyes and their matchup in the College Football Playoff.
However, last year was too bad to make excuses for anything. Michigan started off with a promising win against an overrated Minnesota squad. Then they dropped their next three. Michigan lost to Michigan State. They were blown out by both Indiana and Wisconsin. It took the team three overtimes to get over the lowly Rutgers. Every game was incredibly hard to watch. There were so few bright spots.
Transfers and Recruits Were Not Enough
This performance led to many major transfers after the season concluded. Emerging star running back Zach Charbonnet entered the transfer portal. Pass catcher Giles Jackson left Michigan for greener pastures in the PAC-12 with Washington. The underperforming but often-hyped Joe Milton threw his hat into the transfer ring. After all of this happened, Michigan inked an extension with Jim Harbaugh.
While Michigan managed to field a top-10 recruiting class, it was not enough to win the national media back over. As a result, the 2021 season will be the first that doesn’t have at least one analyst naming them the national champions before the first snap. The lack of success over much of a decade finally caught up to Michigan. As a result, this is a major “prove-it” season for Michigan Football – especially Jim Harbaugh.
But for now, the team is finally where they deserve to be ranked.