Michigan Football: Why Michigan State is a huge game for Jim Harbaugh

(Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
(Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Jim Harbaugh has Michigan football back in a College Gameday matchup and it’s exactly the kind of game he needs to win. 

Over the years, Jim Harbaugh has gotten Michigan football in a number of really, really big games. Now, it’s time for him and the Wolverines to win one.

Harbaugh has won his fair share of big games while he’s been Michigan football’s head coach, despite what his detractors say.

Yes, he hasn’t beaten a top-10 team on the road and only has two wins over top-10 teams to his credit, but fair is fair — Harbaugh has beaten ranked teams from Notre Dame, Iowa, Wisconsin (2), Penn State, Northwestern, Florida (2), BYU and of course, Michigan State.

The Spartans were ranked in 2018 when Harbaugh and U-M beat them as part of a 10-game winning streak for the Wolverines.

That, along with the run to start the 2016 season, were the best stretches of Michigan football under Harbaugh.

But that could change with a win on Saturday.

That’s the kind of game Harbaugh simply hasn’t won at Michigan.

When he took the job, the Wolverines weren’t even good enough to be on College Gameday. Heck, they probably weren’t even good enough for regular television.

The bottom fell out under Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were irrelevant on a national scale or even in the Big Ten as they were clearly behind not just Ohio State, but Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, and others.

Harbaugh leveled the playing field with those programs quickly and doesn’t have a losing record against any of them: (Wisconsin 3-3), Penn State (3-3), Michigan State (3-3), and Iowa (1-1). He’s also 1-1 against Notre Dame.

Those numbers are pretty solid and Harbaugh has won some big games. The 2018 wins over top-15 teams from Iowa and Notre Dame certainly count, as does the top-10 win over Wisconsin.

A legacy game for Jim Harbaugh

But in a College-Gameday type matchup, Harbaugh and company haven’t delivered. He’s 0-5 against Ohio State and in 2015, 2016, and 2018, the Wolverines had a chance to win the Big Ten East going into the final weekend.

There was also the 2015 Michigan State game which ended in disaster. That wasn’t a battle of top-10 teams but it was No. 9 vs No. 11.

In short, Harbaugh has won a lot of games with Michigan (56-22) and more “big” games than he gets credits for.

But he’s still searching for that defining win and Saturday is the perfect chance to get it.

If Michigan is going to be Michigan. It has to own the state of Michigan and that means beating Michigan State.

Next. 3 reasons Michigan will beat MSU. dark

It also means changing the narrative which Michigan can do with a win in East Lansing.