Big Ten Media Days isn't happening as planned, but we can always pretend!
We didn't get a chance to hear from our delightful cast of Big Ten head coaches this year with the real Big Ten Media Days canceled due to the ongoing pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from having a little fun with our own imaginary version.
Here's how it works: each of our interviewers poses a hypothetical question to the coach (some serious, some not at all serious) and provides a brief explanation as to why that question is being asked. Some folks even took a shot at pretending how the coach might try to answer it, because we love roleplay around these parts.
We're nearing the end, with Rutgers, Maryland, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wisconsin all taking their turns. But now, things are getting interesting – Jim Harbaugh takes to the podium.
Let's get weird.
Johnny Ginter: Hi, I've watched almost every Michigan game for the past three-ish seasons for this whole 'Threat Level' thing I write and I just want to know where I can go to get compensated for my time and also possibly treated for brain worms. Maybe you know a guy.
Anyway, follow up question: are you getting kind of sick of this? Like, are you bored? Because, again, I've watched pretty much every Michigan game for years now and it seems like you've gotten progressively less into it over time. Which would be understandable.
Harbaugh will quit before Michigan fires him. Michigan should fire Harbaugh, but they won't, because they're fully entrenched in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy and won't stop paying him a bajillion dollars to lose three games a season without some kind of intervention. The biggest issue with Harbaugh isn't that he's a bad coach (or even mediocre), it's that he's good. But just barely good. For Michigan, that's apparently good enough.
Kyle Jones: In 2019, unranked opponents mustered just 246 yards per game against Don Brown’s defense while ranked foes gained an average of 378 - the largest such difference since he arrived in Ann Arbor. Was this due to the loss of so much talent from the previous season or have offenses begun to crack the code on Brown’s aggressive style?
Despite playing more zone in 2019, Brown’s secondary was the weak link against top opponents yet again and now must replace 2 starters in Josh Metellus and Lavert Hill. Luckily for Brown, arguably his top cover corner, Ambry Thomas, returns for his senior season.
But the Wolverines remain a step behind Ryan Day’s offense, as the Buckeyes 396 passing yards skewed the overall stats in this category. Until Brown’s secondary regains a foothold against its biggest rivals, the rivalry will remain one-sided.
Matt Gutridge: Coach Harbaugh, since you arrived in Ann Arbor as their “Savior” in 2015, you have lost at least three games every season. In 2017, you outdid yourself by losing five games. You are 2-13 against Top 10 teams and have lost all five games against Ohio State. Let me get to the point, my question isn’t about your abysmal record against top-tier teams and your biggest rival, my question is what do you consider the dumbest, or most awkward thing you have done as Michigan’s head coach?
Jim Harbaugh, probably: “Man, oh, man. I’ve said and done quite a few stupid things. But don’t worry, I’ll attack this question with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind. Because I don’t take vacations. I don’t get sick. I don’t observe major holidays. I’m a jack hammer. I am in control of all things. What will happen will happen, what won’t happen won’t happen.
“With that said, I probably shouldn’t have climbed that tree…and probably shouldn’t have stayed the night at that kid’s house. I also shouldn’t have played as skins at the Prattille Camp. I guess in the end, that’s kind of the way the pickle squirted this year…I’m bitterly disappointed.”
Dan Hope: How do you beat Ohio State?
I’ve asked Harbaugh this question at actual Big Ten Media Days before and he’s deflected it, which is probably what he would have done again this year, but it still has to be asked. Going into his sixth year at Michigan, Harbaugh still hasn’t won a game against Ohio State, and the last two losses have been lopsided routs.
Even though Harbaugh is one of the highest-paid coaches in college football, he’s failed to close the gap between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines over the past half-decade, and that gap has only widened over the past few years. The Wolverines haven’t been competitive with the Buckeyes on either the field or the recruiting trail, and in this rivalry, that’s supposed to be unacceptable.
Harbaugh has managed to avoid the hot seat so far – probably because it’s questionable whether any coach who would want the job could close that gap right now – but the fanbase up north is rightfully getting restless with being embarrassed in The Game. Beating Ohio State isn’t going to get any easier this year, but trying to find a way to do so should be his No. 1 priority, and he should be feeling the pressure to make it happen.
David Regimbal: In last year's game against Ohio State -- when the Buckeyes were absolutely boat-racing your team for the second consecutive year, a couple of your players attempted to remove the shoe of running back J.K. Dobbins, who was on his way to posting a hilarious 260 yards of total offense against your defense.
My question is, what additional illegal things can you think of to try and slow Ohio State down next year? Are you gonna go full WWE and distract the refs so you can injure Justin Fields with a dreaded foreign object?
Michigan's defense under defensive coordinator Don Brown has been absolutely gashed by the Buckeyes since Ryan Day's arrival in Columbus, particularly over the last two seasons in which he gave up 62 and 56 points, extremely respectively.
Nothing has worked for the Wolverines in slowing down the Buckeyes attack, so maybe metal folding chairs aren't as crazy an option as they sound. Just imagine how effective Michigan would be if all 11 defenders were able to attack their counterparts with felonious intensity!
Zack Carpenter: Coach, not sure if you saw the recent story in the Detroit Free-Press about Damon Payne and his father, but I’m hoping you can comment. His dad said that communication between them and your staff was cut off completely — essentially out of nowhere. There was clearly a major disconnect between the Payne family and their head coach and you and your staff.
How could there be such a huge disconnect and lack of communication between you and the No. 1 player in your state? A five-star player, no less. It feels like this is one example of a bigger issue here. Why haven’t you been able to recruit Michigan better in the past few recruiting cycles?
Harbaugh can’t mention the names of any unsigned recruits, but he doesn’t have to in this situation.
Maybe this isn’t the absolute, No. 1 thing that people would want to know about Michigan when it comes to recruiting. Maybe the more lingering question is, what exactly is your recruiting strategy? Or, why are you guys targeting Massachusetts of all places? But there’s so much talent in Michigan, and this 2021 cycle is proving that.
This is only the second time in the modern recruiting era (dating back to 1999) in which Michigan has produced five top-80 players, and it’s possible the Wolverines only land one or two of them. If that happened at Ohio State — if there were five players ranked in the top 80 — it would be a damn near fireable offense if the Buckeyes only landed one of them. (In 2021, four Ohioans are ranked in the top 70. Each one is committed to Ohio State.)
We already hit on 2021 above. There’s still time for the Wolverines to figure it out, but recent history does not suggest that they will… In 2020, Michigan lost out on three of the top five players from its own state, including the No. 1 in-state player who was ranked near the top 50 overall.
In 2019, Michigan had four players ranked in the top 105. It signed one of them (No. 105) while missing out on the other three who were ranked in the top 60 (including two to Michigan State and one to Wisconsin.)
If Michigan wants to beat Ohio State, start building a fence. The lack of in-state success has former players calling for their alma mater to recruit the state better.
Ramzy Nasrallah: Coach Harbaugh, you have moved to Ann Arbor three times in your life - once as a seven-year-old when your father joined Bo’s staff, once from Palo Alto to play for Bo and once to take over at Schembechler Hall in 2015. Michigan went 3-3-1 against Ohio State during your childhood on campus, 3-2 while you were in college and 0-5 as coach.
The Buckeyes scored a total of 63 points against the Wolverines over the seven years when your father was on the staff, which is just one more point than they scored in the 2018 meeting alone. A year later Ohio State seemed to put even more space between itself and your program, both on the field and in recruiting. Michigan fans have accepted a new reality that success is defined as what the team can do over the non-Ohio State part of its schedule, as they’ve practically conceded competitiveness in the sport’s greatest rivalry.
You’ve taken the program on trips to Italy and France, but never to Indianapolis. Heading into your sixth season you still have not recruited or developed a ringer at QB, confounding everyone who followed your playing and coaching career. I don’t have a question. Thanks for listening.