ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan needs a signature win. Jim Harbaugh needs a signature win.
And a win Saturday at No. 2 Penn State (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) could fill those needs.
In this two-plus seasons with the Wolverines, Harbaugh has beaten Michigan State once. He has yet to beat Ohio State. The Wolverines’ biggest win in the Harbaugh era is the 2015 Citrus Bowl, a 41-7 trouncing of Florida. If Harbaugh and his coaching staff can put together the pieces — a fluid offense, a sound defense and a mistake-free game — a win at Penn State could happen.
Michigan dropped from No. 17 to No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. That they fell in the polls despite a win flummoxes the Wolverines.
It also motivates them.
Michigan might be making chicken salad out of chicken scratch; Indiana has yet to earn a Big Ten win, and the Wolverines’ only loss came to a Michigan State team that is now ranked.
None of Michigan’s 5 wins has many saying, “This team deserves to be a College Football Playoff contender.” This team hasn’t helped its cause with an offense that has an identity crisis. A win against the Hoosiers or Cincinnati doesn’t carry the same weight as one against a top-ranked team.
Still, Michigan has a chip on its shoulder, and it will get a national stage to prove that it is capable of beating a team that, as of now, might be the Big Ten’s best bet to make the College Football Playoff.
Many have already counted out Michigan, not just against Penn State, but from serious Big Ten title contention.
But a win at Penn State — a win against the No. 2 team in the country — wouldn’t just help Michigan earn what it believes is a rightful spot back in the top 10 in the national polls. It would give Harbaugh a much-needed signature win, one on par with a win against the Buckeyes or the Spartans.