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The expectations for Michigan football are sky high in 2023

The bittersweet reality of Michigan football winning back-to-back Big Ten titles is that the expectations for the Wolverines are sky high.



Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two seasons, Jim Harbaugh has gradually been raising the standard that U-M fans are used to. After Harbaugh’s announcement that he will be back in 2023 and a series of key players announcing their return to Ann Arbor, the expectations in Ann Arbor have never been higher.

Now, it is put up or shut up time for the Michigan Wolverines — a Big Ten Championship is expected, and even more is desired.

2021 broke trends and set a new expectation

From the start of the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor, it felt as if Michigan football was close but never quite there. Harbaugh’s worst season in Ann Arbor was an 8-5 finish in 2017; his best was a 13-1 season in 2022. Spread throughout Harbaugh’s eight years as Michigan’s head coach are five 10+ win seasons, an eight-win season, a nine-win season, a Citrus Bowl win, and two Big Ten Championships.

Still, after six years as head coach, Jim Harbaugh was not taking Michigan football to the next level. The Wolverines were stuck being a “good/great” program and not an elite one. Harbaugh’s results were good, but not what the fans and media expected. Harbaugh’s first six years as head coach:

  1. 2015: 10-3, Citrus Bowl Champs
  2. 2016: 10-3
  3. 2017: 8-5
  4. 2018: 10-3
  5. 2019: 9-4
  6. 2020: 2-4

The 2019 and 2020 seasons were a disappointing time to be a Michigan football fan — the Wolverines’ 11-8 record was far below average for U-M football and was a big turning point for Jim Harbaugh’s reputation as Michigan’s head coach.

In 2021 — coming off the heels of a piss-poor 2-4 season — the Wolverines needed a massive bounce-back season. Jim Harbaugh was on the hot seat, and his contract reflected it. It was time to deliver or find a new home, and Harbaugh knew it. Despite a 4-point loss in East Lansing, Harbaugh’s Wolverines went on to beat Penn State in State College, and finally, Ohio State in Ann Arbor.

Michigan’s 15-point win over Ohio State was the program’s first since 2011 and sent the Wolverines to the conference title game with an 11-1 record. Michigan proceeded to beat No. 13 Iowa, 42-3, and make its first-ever College Football Playoff.

Though the Wolverines lost by 23 points to the eventual National Champions, Georgia, U-M finished No. 3 in the polls with a 12-2 record — the programs most wins and highest finish since 1997. It was a breath of fresh air for Michigan football and was a turning point for the Wolverines’ reputation and image.

The standard is made official in 2022

Michigan was called a “one and done” — among other things — after its 2021 season. People called the Wolverines “lucky” and said that Michigan football would not win the Big Ten or overcome the Buckeyes again for another decade or more. Still, the Wolverines proved all of that wrong during its 2022 campaign.

Not only was Michigan’s 2022 season even better than its 2021 season, but the Wolverines dominated everyone in their way until the CFP semifinal. For the first time since 1997, Michigan started the year 12-0 overall; additionally, the Wolverines beat Michigan State by 22, Penn State by 24, and Ohio State by 22. If that was not enough, the Wolverines beat Purdue in the Big Ten Championship game by 21 points.

2022 was Michigan’s first-ever 13-win seasons, its first-ever back-to-back 12-win seasons, and its first back-to-back top-3 finishes since 1947-48. Without a doubt this had been the best stretch of Michigan football that we have seen in some time; heading into 2023, a new standard has been set and maintained for the football team in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Michigan football wants more in 2023

Michigan football has won 25 of its last 28 games — including two wins over Ohio State and two Big Ten Championships in a row. That being said, Michigan football is 0-2 in College Football Playoff games and is striving for more this fall. The Wolverines have already beaten Ohio State, won the conference, and more. Now, it is time to take another step in the right direction.

Michigan football is returning much of this year’s 13-1 football team, including its starting quarterback, its elite RB duo, its elite offensive line, its incredible coaching staff, and much more. With all of these pieces on their roster, the Wolverines have few excuses to not run the Big Ten in 2023.

Michigan’s biggest test will likely be heading to State College to face a loaded Penn State team; Michigan also gets a rebuilding Ohio State team at home to end the season, and frankly, nothing about Michigan State scares me right now.

Michigan football continues to take steps in the right direction, and in 2023, the Wolverines should again make strides towards winning a National Championship.

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