Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 18, 2015

The hype around the Jim Harbaugh era reached epic proportions in the buildup toward the 2015 season. Harbaugh delivered-and then some. The former Wolverine BMOC QB who learned at the feet of legendary Bo Schembechler erased the memories of last year?s 5-7 mark under now deposed Brady Hoke and christened a new and promising era seemingly filled with infinite possibilities.

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If Harbaugh can win nine regular-season games his first year, how many will he win once he has a roster filled with his own players? The arrival of Iowa transfer QB Jake Rudock probably saved the season, as he provided a steady hand and often coaxed enough points from an offense that too often struggled for explosive plays. The real star was the Wolverine defense. The unit still lacks athletic ability. But, like every area of the squad, it was well-coached and rarely beat itself. To that end, coordinator D.J. Durkin was hired by Maryland to run its program. No doubt, 2015 was a table-setter for big things in Ann Arbor.

Record: 9-3 overall; 6-2 Big Ten/3rd East

Bowl: Citrus vs. Florida

High point: After opening with a 24-17 loss at Utah, the Wolverines ripped off five wins in a row to show they would mean business in Jim Harbaugh?s debut. The last three victories in the winning streak all came via shutout, as Michigan beat No. 22 BYU (31-0), Maryland (28-0) and No. 13 Northwestern (38-0). It was the first time Michigan had shutout three foes in row since 1980, pushing the Wolverines to No. 12 in the polls after beginning the year unranked. The victory gave the Wolverines copious amounts of mojo as they headed for a Titanic showdown vs. unbeaten No. 7 Michigan State the next week. Could Michigan win the Big Ten East ? and maybe the Big Ten?

Low point: There weren?t many in a three-loss season. Let?s go with the surreal 27-23 defeat at home to Michigan State on one of the zaniest, wackiest and most insane plays you?ll ever see in a football game. The Wolverines had the game in hand as they dropped to punt with a 23-21 lead and only 10 seconds hanging on the clock. But that?s when it happened. A mishandled snap by punter Blake O?Neill and failed attempt to get off a kick saw the Spartans Jalen Watts-Jackson scoop up the free ball and race 38 yards for the game-winning TD with no time left on the clock. Game over. The Big House was stricken with silent horror, mouths agape. Michigan had outplayed Michigan State, but it had nothing to show for it after the stupefying loss. The Wolverines went on to win their next four before getting whacked, 42-13, at home by Ohio State in the finale.

Offensive MVP: TE Jake Butt. The junior won Big Ten Tight End of the Year accolades after making 48 receptions for 620 yards with three TDs. He was part of a good corps of Michigan pass catchers that also included Amara Darboh (56 for 703) and Jehu Chesson (45 for 646) that was the strength of the offense.

Defensive MVP: S Jabrill Peppers. The redshirt freshman was a sensation on many levels. He was fifth on the team in tackles with 45 and had 5.5 TFLs with 10 passes broken up while also playing on offense, running for 72 yards and two TDs and catching eight passes for 79 yards. Want more? Peppers also was as a top return man, averaging 11.4 yards on 17 punt returns.


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