September 27, 2008. It might seem hard to believe, but that’s the last time Michigan beat a top-10 team. Interestingly enough, that 27-25 win came at home against Wisconsin.
Jim Harbaugh would gladly take that same result this Saturday when the No. 8 Badgers (4-0) stroll into the Big House.
“We just know we got to get really prepared for this game so we can be confident playing a team that’s coming in with a lot of confidence,” Harbaugh said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “You see it in the way they play and how prepared they are for the games. They’ve been well-prepared to play on the road as well. Two big wins, one at Michigan State this past weekend and then defeating LSU early in the season and Georgia State as well. Had a real good ballgame with them. This is a good, hardened team that appears to be a very talented and confident team. They’re going to be darn tough to beat. What we need to do is get prepared ourselves and be ready to play this game. Once the game starts and is happening, we have to be playing at our very best, and then I think we’ll be darn tough to beat.”
No. 4 Michigan (4-0) has beaten Hawaii, UCF, Colorado and Penn State by a combined 153 points. That’s an average of 38.3 points per contest.
While Wilton Speight and the defense have played well, so have the Wolverines’ stable of running backs. De’Veon Smith, Chris Evans, Ty Isaac and Karan Higdon all have between 22 and 39 carries, they’re all averaging at least 4.5 yards per carry, and they’ve all scored at least two touchdowns.
“We look at all four of those running backs now as being proven guys,” Harbaugh said. “Their styles are not so different in terms of they have completeness to them in pass protection, being able to run between the tackles, being able to run outside and being able to catch the ball. You don’t have to worry about what play-call you give. Certain backs, they can only run inside. They can only run on the perimeter, or there’s a deficiency if it comes to blocking or catching, so I don’t see the major deficiencies. There’s no downside. We are at the point now where (when) we’re calling whatever play it is, it’s not for a specific back in the offense.
“A lot of teams wear out running backs in college,” Harbaugh continued. “It’s something that I’ve noticed and seen and don’t agree that a 19-, 20-, 21-year-old running back should have a three-year career – or less, in some cases – and have 500 carries in their college career or 600 carries. I don’t think it’s healthy for a back to get 5-, 6-, 700 carries while they’re in college.”
The one exception to the rule is Frank Gore, who has more than 12,000 carries in the NFL and who, at 33, is still going strong for the Colts.
“He is the counter to my counter argument,” Harbaugh said, laughing. “He is the rare, most unbelievable player I think I’ve ever seen. Now, he’s had multiple AC tears, shoulder surgery, hip, etc. But he is unstoppable. He doesn’t slow down. That is so rare. It’s so special. Frank Gore breaks the mold.”
Getting back to this weekend, it’ll be interesting to see if any Wolverines raise their fists in protest of the national anthem. Jourdan Lewis, Mike McCray, Khalid Hill, David Dawson, Channing Stribling, Devin Bush and Elysee Mbem-Bosse were among those who protested before Saturday’s 49-10 win over Penn State.
Harbaugh did not know any of his players were going to protest, but he doesn’t mind that they did.
“Somebody on the team not only has the right, but they have the obligation to express themselves, and then everybody else on that team has the right and the obligation to listen,” Harbaugh said. “I think that’s what’s going on in our country right now. It’s a very positive thing. People that don’t express themselves when they have something on their mind or have something to say, they’re not really on the team. People that don’t listen when somebody is expressing themselves, then they’re not on the team either. That’s an obligation and a right that you have when you’re on the team. That was something that was trained into us 30 years ago, and it’s the way I’ve always looked at it.”