What’s left to say at this point? What’s left to discuss? In a season full of lows, Michigan reached a new one Saturday night, losing to Wisconsin in a game that was every bit as uncompetitive as the 49-11 final score would indicate. The only reason the final margin wasn’t more lopsided is that the Badgers largely called off the dogs in the second half. Wisconsin extended its lead to 28-0 early in the second quarter and coasted from there.
In such a thorough thrashing, rehashing statistics isn’t really necessary. But here are a couple anyway. At the end of the first quarter, Wisconsin had outgained Michigan 129 yards to one. By the time Michigan completed its first pass, the Wolverines were down four touchdowns. Let that sink in. Want another? For the second week in a row, Michigan’s defense surrendered more points than its offense was able to muster rushing yards. In short, it was ugly.
Wisconsin is a very good team. Despite a two-week layoff and multiple players sidelined due to COVID concerns, the Badgers looked sharp from beginning to end. One of the pre-season conference favorites, if the Badgers can stay healthy, they could give Ohio State a fight in an eventual Big Ten championship game. So losing to Wisconsin is no sin. But losing in the manner in which Michigan did is another story. To be so utterly uncompetitive, to offer so little resistance, is alarming. Just how bad have things gotten in Ann Arbor? For the third consecutive week, Michigan never led. For the second consecutive week, Michigan never challenged.
Michigan’s performance against Wisconsin was so anemic, that even head coach Jim Harbaugh could offer no excuses afterward. A week after asserting that Michigan was “really close” to turning its season around despite being dominated by Indiana, Harbaugh offered no such delusional reassurances Saturday. There was no Pollyannish praise after this Badger beatdown. Instead, Harbaugh conceded that, “(Michigan is) not in a good place as a football team right now.” It’s an assessment that anyone who has seen Michigan play this year already knew.
A 1-3 record through four games is certainly not the start that Michigan or its fans expected. But what’s most disconcerting isn’t Michigan’s record. It’s the lack of preparation. The lack of discipline. It’s the lack of emotion. The lack of any discernable fight.
Harbaugh may have acknowledged that there are serious problems with his football program, but accepting reality and doing something to change it are two very different things. And the way this team has performed this season, the way it’s regressed year-over-year, it’s hard to imagine much changing for the better. It’s hard to imagine the ship being righted in any significant fashion.
After Saturday’s game, Kirk Herbstreit, who called the game for ABC, didn’t mince words when discussing the state of Michigan football. “It’s sad,” Herbstreit said. “It’s sad that Michigan is this bad.” You won’t find any argument in Ann Arbor.