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Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan football team lost their final three games of 2017, en route to an 8-5 season.

Michigan must have more stamina to finish games, season

Rachel Lenzi

During the week, Land of 10 reporters following the Wolverines answer questions on the minds of Michigan fans. Submit a question or suggest a topic by sending a tweet here to Rachel Lenzi or here to Kevin Goheen. Check back Monday through Friday as we answer the Michigan Question of the Day. Go here to see our previous answers.

Do you believe the team will have more stamina to “finish” this season? — Mark Paulino, via Facebook 

Michigan has to finish games — and finish the 2018 season. Too many players and coaches are tired of reliving the final few weeks of 2017, especially considering how this team has made it a tradition to limp through the final days of the last two seasons.

In 2017, four of Michigan’s five losses came to ranked teams. The Wolverines ended the season with losses to Wisconsin, Ohio State and South Carolina, and lost leads in all three of those games. Those conference losses also pushed Michigan out of contention for the Big Ten East Division title.

In 2016, Michigan was on the verge of making the College Football Playoff. A loss to Iowa on a last-second field goal in November put a dent in those plans. Then, a contested loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale — one remembered more for J.T. Barrett’s questionable first-down play in overtime than the Wolverines squandering a second-half lead — forced the Wolverines to hinge their hopes on a few teams helping them get into the College Football Playoff, instead of controlling their fate by winning games. That didn’t work, either.

Not being able to finish games isn’t how the Wolverines want to be remembered. Not Chase Winovich, who returned for a fifth year of eligibility with a checklist of goals, or Shea Patterson, who came to Ann Arbor for two specific reasons: to win, and to prepare to become an NFL quarterback.

Not Rashan Gary, who is eligible for the NFL draft in 2019 and who has made it clear that his goal is to win a national title.

“I need a national championship,” Gary said. “I need that. That’s something that me and [linebacker Devin] Bush and our whole 2016 class was talking about is winning that national championship.”

The Wolverines can’t afford any more late-season collapses if they want to be champions. Michigan must be physically and psychologically strong to be a national championship contender, and the Wolverines must sustain that through the year.

Bringing in Ben Herbert is a big help. Herbert, the director of strength and conditioning, has made physical and philosophical changes to the offseason training program. Jim Harbaugh’s mandate to self-scout and to make all his players compete for 110 roster spots is also a shift for the program.

Remember how the Amazon Prime series All or Nothing: The Michigan Wolverines showed how Gary cried on the sidelines after the loss to Michigan State in a rivalry game? And remember how palpable the disappointment was after the loss to Ohio State, an even more significant rival?

They’re lasting images, and neither is how Gary or the Wolverines want to finish in November.

Read more answers to questions about the Michigan Wolverines here.