It’s not just about winning.
Throughout the Michigan football team’s first three games, to simply say “win” is a gross understatement. The Wolverines have completely obliterated their opponents, outscoring them by an eye-popping score of 166-17. But, that’s the expectation for a No. 4 team playing against bottom-tier competition.
Just three victories wouldn’t have been enough to start their season; they needed to create momentum heading into conference play.
And Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh thinks that his team did just that.
“The momentum has been good,” Harbaugh said. “The work ethic has been great, leadership has been great. And it’s been just selfless people all around and that shows up in practice.”
At his weekly Monday afternoon press conference, Harbaugh struck the same tone that he always does. He was coy with routine questions, not giving any significant update on the status of senior quarterback Cade McNamara.
But he was also smiling and joking, getting laughs from the room at certain points throughout his time at the podium. In other words, he was being normal Harbaugh, maybe even slightly happier than usual.
So far his team has excelled in meeting any challenges posed three games into the season and it boasts the nation’s top scoring offense along with the fourth-ranked total defense.
What’s not to like?
Many in the national media have criticized Michigan’s cushy non-conference schedule. Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde called it the easiest September, ESPN’s Chris Low said that the Wolverines had the easiest non-conference schedule and the reaction on Twitter to their win over UConn was met with such vitriol that Bleacher Report wrote an article on it aggregating all of the negative reactions.
But again, unflinching in his own belief of his process, Harbaugh just doesn’t care.
“Just like I said, momentum is just really good right now,” Harbaugh said. “… (We’re) excited for this next challenge this week. We know competition level is going to step up and the guys want to have at it.”
Michigan has a sharp increase in competition looming this weekend with Maryland coming into town. While the Terrapins aren’t a traditional power or a true test, the jump in talent will be notable.
Still, most aren’t giving Maryland a chance at the victory. Partially due to a talent disparity, but also because so many are already buying into Michigan. The discourse around college football going into the season was that there were three teams clearly above the rest — Georgia, Alabama and Ohio State. The Wolverines were never mentioned in the same breath, but now they’re No. 4 by consensus.
Since the start of the season, Michigan’s national title odds have jumped dramatically. Vegas now views them as nearly twice as likely to win a national championship as it did before the season.
The Wolverines did that all by beating three teams with just two wins total between them. Perhaps those outside the program are starting to see what Harbaugh has seen all along.
Beyond that, the excitement of those inside the program stems from what they think they can become. The Wolverines believe they can continue the upwards momentum of their last three weeks.
“I feel like there’s a lot of meat on the bone,” graduate receiver Ronnie Bell said. “I feel like throughout these first three games we haven’t necessarily finished our play, there’s a lot to still be shown.”
Harbaugh knows that better than anyone. He’s holding his hand close to his chest, waiting to reveal his cards at the right moment. He’s content watching his team garner hype and rack up style points.
To him it doesn’t make a difference. All that matters is that his team peaks at the right time, and if the momentum Michigan has created keeps up, maybe it just will.