Jim Harbaugh’s newest nightmare

Jim Harbaugh’s newest nightmare

A win for Michigan tomorrow will simply underscore what most deem to be obvious, that 7-2 Michigan is expected to beat the 4-5 Spartans at Michigan Stadium.

In fact, Michigan is a 13.5 point favorite.

A loss however, would be Harbaugh’s biggest nightmare, because a loss would underscore that Harbaugh still can’t beat a Rival (a rival Michigan claims to not even be a rival) even when the rival is weakened and down! And furthermore, blaring into Harbaugh’s headset is the fact Mark Dantonio has a record of 2 wins and Zero losses vs Jim Harbaugh in Ann Arbor.

Disappointing but formidable:

The Spartans have posted a disappointing record of 4-5 overall: they have lost 4 consecutive Big Ten games and own a dismal Big Ten record of 2-4.

But on film, Jim Harbaugh sees a “Green & White” team that rolled up 526 Yards of Total Offense vs Illinois, and pounded out 275 Yards Rushing at 5.4 Yards per attempt. In turn, the Spartans Defense limited Illinois to just 36 Yards Rushing. So, while the media is casually dismissing the Spartans chances tomorrow, nevertheless the Spartans have Harbaugh’s undivided attention.

Harbaugh knows Illinois first hand, because he hung on for dear life to post a victory!

Let’s remember, Michigan barely escaped with a victory vs Illinois after giving up 25 unanswered points to start the 3rdQtr of their football game. Sound familiar? Of course it does, because the Spartans yielded 27 unanswered points to Illinois. And while Michigan hung on to win, let’s not forget, Illinois was forced to deploy their #2 Quarterback vs Michigan inasmuch as their #1 Quarterback had to sit out due to injury.

Who knows what would have happened if Illinois deployed their #1 QB?

Of course, after narrowly losing to Michigan, the Illini went on a 4 game Big Ten winning streak including a victory over unbeaten Wisconsin at the time…and there is no such thing as automatic wins in the Big Ten.

So Illinois is a formidable football team and their winning streak is no fluke, and in spite of a loss, it’s undeniable the Spartans rolled up 526 Yards of Offense, and pounded out 275 Yards Rushing. And while the media is conveniently dismissing the Spartans chances tomorrow…Jim Harbaugh and Don Brown, Michigan’s Defensive Coordinator are not.

In fact, Harbaugh and Brown, recognize on film that the Spartans compiled more yardage against the Illini (526) than either Michigan (489) or Wisconsin (420). It’s also notable, the Spartans Defense yielded just 36 Yards Rushing to the Illini, less than Wisconsin (141 Yards Rushing) and less than Michigan (64 Yards Rushing).

So, there is nothing in the comparative stats against Illinois that suggest Harbaugh will cruise to victory tomorrow.

After all, this is November, and Harbaugh doesn’t exactly have a sterling record in November, and moreover, Mark Dantonio has a record of 4-1 at Michigan Stadium and a record of 2-0 vs Jim Harbaugh at Michigan Stadium.

So, in spite of his considerable idiosyncrasies, Jim Harbaugh is capable of analyzing the comparative stats, and he is capable of analyzing the game film, and he can see the Spartans impressive Offensive production vs Illinois was no fluke.

Spartans realignment:

Harbaugh and his staff can also recognize the Spartans impressive Offensive production vs Illinois was due in great part to improved blocking choreography and personnel realignment along the Offensive Line, that now includes Nick Samac at Center; JD Duplain, LG; AJ Arcuri, LT; Matt Carrick, RG; and Jordan Reid, RT.

Arcuri and Reid are Juniors, while Carrick is a Sophomore, yet Samac and Duplain are Freshmen. A bit of a youth movement for certain, yet by any measure, there is precious little film for Michigan to breakdown strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of the Spartans new Offensive alignment.

Not only did the Spartans roll up 526 Yards of Offense vs Illinois, but the Offensive Line kept Brian Lewerke “clean”…no Sacks!

The Spartans also deployed Tre Mosley and Julian Barnett at Wide Receiver both of whom are Freshmen, and at Running Back the Spartans deployed Brandon Wright and Anthony Williams to complement Elijah Collins. That entire group of Running Backs are Freshmen as well, so Harbaugh & Brown have precious little film to study.

And of course, there has been realignment amongst the Spartans Linebackers as well.

Due to disciplinary action, Joe Bachie has been removed at Middle Linebacker, nevertheless the realignment has proven to be efficient and effective. Antjuan Simmons deployed at Middle Linebacker vs Illinois and contributed 6 Tackles and 1 Tackle For Loss (TFL’s); Noah Harvey contributed 9 Tackles, 2.5 TFL’s & 1.5 Sacks; and Tyriq Thompson contributed 8 Tackles.

So, there has been a near total realignment of personnel since the first game of the season, and 9 games into the season, that’s a problem for opposing coaches because they don’t know what to study because they don’t have meaningful film to study.

At the bottom line:

This is a one game season for the Spartans!

The Spartans have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. In turn, Harbaugh can only lose and relive yet another Nightmare!

After all, the Spartans committed 4 “backbreaking” Turnovers vs Illinois that caused their undoing, yet the numbers don’t lie: the Spartans rolled up 526 Yards of Offense including 275 Yards Rushing.

Given a dismal record of 4-5 overall and 2-4 Big Ten, the media are having sport contemplating Mark Dantonio’s future, but I don’t subscribe to that. Mark Dantonio is the Spartans coach of record, and he has climbed a mighty mountain during his tenure, and while this season has been disappointing, nevertheless Mark Dantonio deserves support of Alumni and fans until the season has concluded. At that time, if alumni, fans and media want to engage in the discussion of Mark Dantonio and the future of Spartan Football then so be it, but until that time, there is a football game to be played in Ann Arbor.

Mark Dantonio is a man of steely nerves and resolve, and in spite of the Spartans 4-5 record, it would be a huge mistake to underestimate Mark Dantonio especially given the current set of circumstances. And in turn, we have all witnessed the inimitable “blank gaze” from Jim Harbaugh when his game plan goes off the rails. If the Spartans can stay clean “mitigate mistakes” then the Spartans can hang a “W” at Michigan Stadium and Harbaugh will relive yet another Nightmare.