Edson: It’s Time for Harbaugh, U-M to Step Up

The timing is perfect for Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.

They have a seasoned, second-year quarterback.

They have a very favorable schedule.

They don’t have to face Urban Meyer again.

So hopefully this will be the year that Harbaugh proves to fans why he is making $9 million a season.

The first four years have been good… but not great. Even longtime Wolverine fans have grumbled out loud – “We’re paying this guy to win Big Ten championships and contend for national titles.”

Instead, the Wolverines have gone 0-4 against Ohio State and 2-2 against Michigan State. In fact, the Spartans have won eight of the last 11 meetings

But if Harbaugh and his staff ever had an opening, this is the year.

We saw glimpses of Shea Patterson’s leadership and throwing ability during Saturday’s season opening 40-21 win over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday night.

If the Wolverines can balance a consistent passing game with their running game, they will be tough to beat. We already know their defense is one of the best in the country.

That means Michigan has to take advantage of a favorable schedule.

All three of their biggest games are at home – Notre Dame on Oct. 26, Michigan State on Nov. 16 and Ohio State on Nov. 30

Not only is the Ohio State game at home, but the Wolverines have some extra incentive to beat the Buckeyes this year. That’s because Urban Meyer’s team embarrassed them last season in Columbus.

But now Meyer is gone, now a TV college football analyst. (He’s 0-1 by the way, incorrectly picking Northwestern to beat Stanford on Saturday).

Meyer’s replacement is 40-year-old Ryan Day. It’s an appropriate last name for the new coach, since people are saying that the difference between the two coaches is night and, well, Day.

And speaking of a difference, we could see the difference in Patterson’s quarterbacking between year one and year two on Saturday. He is much more sure of himself and of his offense. And his teammates are much more sure of him.

Don’t let one game fool you, an easy win over an overmatched opponent.

We’ll know for sure how good the Wolverines really are on Sept. 21 when the they go into Camp Randle and face the Wisconsin Badgers.

If they can win that game, they could be on their way to finally recapturing the Big Ten title. If they don’t, you can hear Michigan fans all over the country muttering, “Here we go again.”

All signs point to Harbaugh and his team finally getting their Big Ten championship and contending for the national championship.

Everything is lined up for them to make it happen.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.