Trying to find something, anything for Michigan fans to fret about is not easy these days.
So here’s something: Jim Harbaugh’s choice of eyewear Saturday might raise a few proverbial eyebrows in Ann Arbor.
Harbaugh told the Big Ten Network television crew before Michigan’s game against Illinois at Michigan Stadium he was going to wear glasses permanently. While Harbaugh gave a shout out to Michael Douglas’ character in the movie “Falling Down,” he also said he went with “the Woody Hayes frames.”
Interesting resemblance ? pic.twitter.com/6SohJhwCmm
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) October 22, 2016
What in the names of Bo Schembechler, Fielding Y. Host and Bennie Oosterbaan is Harbaugh thinking? Maybe this is Harbaugh’s way of engaging in psychological warfare with Ohio State, copying the fashion sense of a Buckeyes idol to cause confusion in Columbus.
Or maybe he just liked the way they looked when he put them on, and it doesn’t mean anything. Whether Harbaugh is having some fun with his friends in Central Ohio or not, his football team remains on a clinical, punishing march to an epic showdown in Columbus.
Consider the first drive of the day for Michigan against the Illini, a 10-play, 75-yard Saturday afternoon stroll to the end zone. The Wolverines used 10 different formations. They used three different players at quarterback, and used Jabrill Peppers at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. They flashed the 10-man, I-formation on the goal line before lining up tight end Jake Butt as a wideout and sending him on a crossing pattern that left him wide open for a touchdown.
Even the slightest tweaks, like having a tight end stop his motion behind the right guard to give more of an H-back look, led to a huge hole on a simple running play. Harbaugh’s crew is using formations and motions the way NFL teams do, only it’s against college kids.
The results hardly seem fair.
Look, Illinois had very little hope of winning this game, but just being competitive would have been a nice building block for first-year coach Lovie Smith. Instead, this game was over late in the first quarter.
Illinois had to start its third-string quarterback because of injuries. The starting running back and best offensive player was injured during the first half.
At one point, Michigan had outgained Illinois 200-8. The Wolverines had 9 first downs at that point. Again, the Illini had 8 yards. The Wolverines showed up, took care of business and left no doubt during a surgical first half.
This is the new normal for Michigan. Harbaugh’s attention to detail, an excellent coaching staff’s meticulous game plans and oh yeah, a ton of freaking talent has made the 2016 Wolverines a scary, veteran machine.
Obliterating teams, especially conference opponents, on a consistent basis, is not easy. Look at Nebraska, which is undefeated and ranked in the top 10. Yet, the Huskers barely scraped by Indiana last week and were losing at halftime to Purdue on Saturday.
Look at Clemson, which reached the national championship game in 2015 and was an obvious title contender this season. The Tigers are still on track to reach the College Football Playoff, but they needed a missed chip-shot field goal by N.C. State to remain undefeated earlier this season.
Yes, Michigan only beat Wisconsin by a touchdown earlier this month. But so did Ohio State. The Badgers are very good, and pretty obviously the third-best team in the Big Ten at this point. Michigan responded to being pushed by Wisconsin by scoring 109 points in the next six quarters and while giving up zero.
Losing RB Chris Evans to a wicked hit to the helmet is a concern, but the Wolverines have lots of options at that position and the big, veteran offensive line is opening holes for all of them. Sure, Illinois did get to Wolverines quarterback Wilton Speight a couple of times Saturday, but the Illini have a few really talented players in the front seven, and otherwise Michigan moved the ball pretty much at will.
Trips to Michigan State and Iowa will not likely be as easy, but home games against Maryland and Indiana probably will be. The chance to avenge a bad loss last season against the Spartans will be a nice marker to put down next week, but everything for these Wolverines is about that date with the Buckeyes on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in Columbus.
That is going to be a lot fun for everyone, especially if Harbaugh is still wearing “the Woody Hayes frames.”