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Harbaugh's Handiwork

As Jim Harbaugh's squad prepares for Ohio State (noon EST Saturday, ABC), we look at five things he has done to rebuild Michigan -- and whether it'll be enough for the Wolverines to beat their rival.

By Luke Knox


He won big -- and right away

When Harbaugh was hired in December 2014 as the 18th head coach in the history of the Michigan program, he wasted no time in piling up convincing victories. Now that he has 24 games under his belt, take a look at Harbaugh's first 24 games at Michigan as compared to the program's previous 24 games under Brady Hoke. The improvement is clear in all phases.

Harbaugh has engineered an impressive maize-and-blue turnaround (+540 scoring differential thus far, compared to a +2 in Michigan's previous 24 games). How does it compare to the instant impact provided by other coaches? As it turns out, only Oregon's Mark Helfrich has produced a higher 24-game scoring margin to start off his tenure. We compared all Power 5 head coaches' first 24 games as compared to that program in its previous 24 games. The top 20, sorted by scoring margins in their first 24:

He refilled the talent pool

Under Hoke, Michigan saw its ESPN national recruiting class ranking tumble to 40th in 2015. Harbaugh has the program back in the top 10 for 2016 and 2017. Led by two-way superstar Jabrill Peppers (above), Harbaugh has a fully loaded roster: No other school has more players ranked in ESPN's top draft prospects database.
Michigan
10
Alabama
9
LSU
9
Notre Dame
7
Clemson
7
You can expect Harbaugh to be very busy around NFL draft time, as he has four players who could go in the first two rounds. While Ohio State had 12 players drafted in 2016, that left the cupboard somewhat bare as far as first-round prospects. Below are 2017 draft prospects for each school by projected round.

MICHIGAN

OHIO STATE

RARE

First-round

draft prospect

Jabrill Peppers, S

OUTSTANDING

Second-round

draft prospect

Jake Butt, TE

Raekwon McMillan,
LB

Jourdan Lewis, CB

Jehu Chesson, WR

SOLID

Third-round

draft prospect

Chris Wormley, DT

Tyquan Lewis, DE

Taco Charlton, DT

Pat Elflein, C

Mason Cole, T

ADEQUATE

Fifth-round

draft prospect

De’Veon Smith, RB

BORDERLINE

Late-round

pick or

undrafted

free agent

Kyle Kalis, G

Corey Smith, WR

Amara Darboh, WR


He went coastal for recruits

Harbaugh has made a concerted effort to recruit nationally and less in the Midwest. He did so by opening a slew of satellite camps (he had 39 of them by early July -- dozens more than any other school). The trend: more players from California, Florida and New Jersey and fewer from Ohio. Here's a look at the roster from Hoke's last two seasons through Harbaugh's first two, with the most common states:
2013
2014
2015
2016
State Total
Michigan 50
Ohio 24
Illinois 8
California 3
Florida 3
Maryland 3
State Total
Michigan 49
Ohio 23
Illinois 8
California 3
New Jersey 3
8 tied with 2
State Total
Michigan 49
Ohio 22
Florida 10
Illinois 8
New Jersey 5
Pa./Va. 3
State Total
Michigan 49
Ohio 14
Florida 11
New Jersey 9
Illinois 7
California 6

He made UM a good road team

After Lloyd Carr left in 2007, Michigan became a hapless road team. It went 0-11 at MSU, Ohio State and Iowa under Rich Rodriguez and Hoke and 12-26 in non-home games overall. Under Harbaugh, the Wolverines are 7-2 away from The Big House. He has built a team and a mentality to succeed in hostile environments. A win at The Horseshoe would be a huge step in that progress. Here is a chart of Michigan's non-home win percentage since Carr's departure:

ROAD WIN %

80%

70%

60%

50%

40%

30%

20%

10%

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

16


He built a bruising defense

While Hoke had a defensive background and recruited some of this year's stars on the defensive side of the ball, Harbaugh made a shrewd move in December, when he hired defensive coordinator Don Brown (above) from a three-win Boston College program to replace D.J. Durkin. Here are a few numbers to illustrate the unit's great performance this season:
10.9points allowed per game (1st in FBS)
20.9%third-down conversion rate allowed (1st)
245.6yards allowed per game (1st)
44.1%percentage of plays gaining 0 or negative yards (1st)

Can he topple Ohio State?

The Wolverines are just 1-11 in their past 12 meetings with the Buckeyes. But this year, Michigan has a +199 point differential against the teams' six common Big Ten opponents, compared to +143 by Ohio State. A head-to-head win is crucial for Harbaugh's recruiting campaign and legacy-building. Here are some FBS team rankings in a few key categories, comparing the dominant school's rank to the other school's rank on the other side of the ball (some rankings include ties):
Where Michigan has the edge
Category Mich rank OSU rank
Def. Completions/Game 1 (10.8) 48 (20.1)
Def. 3rd and Long Pct 2 (5.0%) 56 (21.4%)
Def. Completions, 20+ Yds 6 (23) 75 (32)
Rushes, 10+ Yards 15 (82) 33 (45)
Sacks Allowed 25 (16) 53 (24)
Where Ohio State has the edge
Category OSU Rank Mich Rank
Def. Passer Rating 1 (88.1) 31 (145.8)
Def. TD Rate, 4th Q 2 (10.7%) 33 (36.7%)
Fewest Interceptions thrown 4 (4) 38 (11)
Def. 3rd and Long Pct 8 (10.7%) 80 (17.4%)
Rushes, 10+ Yards 9 (90) 29 (44)
Where it's a tossup
Category OSU Rank Mich rank
Rushing TDs 2 (4 def) 2 (39 off)
Third Down Pct 9 (51.2% off) 1 (20.9% def)
3rd and Short Pct 3 (86.7% off) 2 (47.6% def)
Plays, 0/Neg. Yds 5 (24.1% off) 1 (44.1% def)
Points/Game 3 (13.0 def) 11 (42.3 off)

Photos by Getty Images. Data courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information and Sports-Reference.com.

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