2017 football season review: Michigan Wolverines
No doubt, Jim Harbaugh has done a lot of good things in three seasons at his alma mater. But he still has yet to deliver a Big Ten title. In fact, Harbaugh has yet to win the Big Ten East or even finish higher than third in the division. So, if you are scoring at home, the Wolverines’ Big Ten title drought now dates to 2004–13 seasons without a championship.
More sobering facts: Harbaugh is just 1-5 vs. Michigan’s rivals, going 0-3 vs. Ohio State and 1-2 vs. Michigan State. When will a big breakthrough take place under Harbaugh? Perhaps next season. No doubt, the Wolverines have plenty to build on moving forward.
This was largely a season of transition in Ann Arbor, as Michigan had more players selected in the 2017 NFL draft (11) than any other school in the nation. That was also a school record. The defense had to replace 10 starters but still played well. The offense had a bit of bumpy ride at times with an overhauled set of pass catchers. And injuries at quarterback impacted, too. Michigan lost Wilton Speight for the season after suffering a back injury in the fourth game at Purdue. Then, Brandon Peters was lost to a concussion at Wisconsin in the penultimate game. That left John O’Korn, who at times struggled.
Add it all up, and 2017 was the worst of Harbaugh’s three seasons at Michigan.
Record: 8-4 overall; 5-4 Big Ten/4th Big Ten East
Bowl: Outback vs. South Carolina
High point: There weren’t many. But let’s go with a 4-0 start that saw the Wolverines rise to No. 7. However, that resume was built largely vs. lesser foes, as Michigan opened with a win vs. a Florida squad depleted by suspension and followed with victories vs. Cincinnati, Air Force and Purdue. In fact, of the Wolverines’ eight wins in 2017, none came vs. a school that has a winning record. And just one opponent Michigan beat is going to a bowl: the 6-6 Boilermakers.
Low point: Season-ending losses at Wisconsin and vs. Ohio State. The Wolverines flopped in each game, falling 24-10 at No. 5 Wisconsin and 31-20 to the No. 8 Buckeyes. Michigan had just 58 yards rushing on 37 carries at Madison, as the offense had little success especially after quarterback Brandon Peters got hurt. Ohio State lost quarterback J.T. Barrett to injury but still rallied to victory in the Big House vs. Michigan behind backup signal-caller Dwayne Haskins. It was OSU’s sixth win in a row and 13th in 14 years vs. Michigan, which could muster little with John O’Korn under center.
Offensive MVP: RB Karan Higdon. The 5-10, 189-pound sophomore was a unanimous third-team All-Big Ten pick, emerging to rush for a team-high 929 yards and 11 TDs. Higdon was one of the few steady options for an offense that is No. 9 overall in the Big Ten (354.9 ypg) and No. 11 in passing (168.6 ypg). Only two schools (Illinois and Rutgers) had fewer TD passes than the Wolverines’ nine.
Defensive MVP: DT Maurice Hurst. The 6-2, 282-pound senior was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection. He is a big reason why the Wolverines have the No. 2 total defense in the Big Ten (268.6 ypg) and No. 3 scoring defense (18.3 ppg). Hurst has 59 tackles, 13.5 TFLs and five sacks.