The free fall for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan continues.
The Wolverines welcomed No. 13 Wisconsin, a team that hadn’t played in nearly a month due to a COVID-19 outbreak, to the Big House on Saturday night. But it was Michigan that looked like a team coming off a long layoff.
Wisconsin trounced the Wolverines 49-11 to hand Harbaugh’s team its third consecutive loss. It was really ugly, especially in the first half. Before Michigan’s offense had even scraped together a first down, Wisconsin already had a 28-0 lead.
Two of Wisconsin’s scores came after interceptions on the first two throws of the night from Michigan quarterback Joe Milton. The first interception allowed the Badgers to take an early 7-0 lead. The second was a completely telegraphed throw that went right to Wisconsin’s Leo Chenal, who returned it to Michigan’s 14 to set up another score.
That's two interceptions for Joe Milton 😬 pic.twitter.com/207mFiyjgp
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) November 15, 2020
The third touchdown drive from Wisconsin spanned nine plays and 60 yards. The fourth went for 74 yards on just six plays. By that point, with Wisconsin leading 28-0, Michigan had just five yards of offense.
The Wolverines finally got a first down near the 9:00 mark of the second quarter. That drive, like the others, ended with no points on the board. This time, the Wolverines advanced all the way to the 1-yard line, only for Milton to get stuffed on a rushing attempt on fourth-and-goal.
It pretty much summed up the night for Michigan, who ended up with only 219 yards of offense on the night while the Badgers racked up more than 300 yards on the ground alone.
Where does Michigan go from here?
It feels like Michigan and Harbaugh are trending toward an impasse.
Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel has reported extensively about Harbaugh’s peculiar contract situation. Harbaugh, currently in Year 6 as the head coach at his alma mater, has just one more year on his contract following the conclusion of the 2020 season.
With the Wolverines sitting at 1-3 with an embarrassing loss to rebuilding rival Michigan State and now a blowout loss to Wisconsin, it would be pretty hard for the Michigan administration to justify giving Harbaugh an extension, wouldn’t it? And it wouldn’t exactly be the best for recruiting for Harbaugh to come back in 2021 without a guarantee he would be there in 2022 and beyond.
Sure, Harbaugh has won a lot of games during his time in Ann Arbor, but he has also underachieved. The Wolverines have no Big Ten East titles under Harbaugh, nor have they beaten their biggest rival, Ohio State, during his tenure. Harbaugh’s 2-4 mark against Michigan State doesn’t help, either, nor does his 10-17 record against ranked opponents.
And in 2020, there are still four games to go — including what will be a dreaded trip to Columbus to face the Buckeyes. Next week’s trip to Rutgers could present a bit of a respite, or it could be rock bottom.
Wisconsin has huge game next week
As poorly as Michigan played, Saturday night’s performance was just as much about Wisconsin. The program’s COVID-19 outbreak could have completely derailed the Badgers’ season. The positive tests were scattered throughout the roster and coaching staff and even hit head coach Paul Chryst.
Games against Nebraska and Purdue were wiped from the schedule and the Badgers hadn’t played since Oct. 23. That was a 45-7 win over Illinois. Saturday night’s win over Michigan was an even more convincing blowout, and it came with several contributors sidelined.
Now 2-0 with four games left on its regular season schedule, Wisconsin needs to play six games to be eligible for the Big Ten title. Next week’s game could be the biggest of the year. The Badgers will travel to Evanston to face Northwestern, which currently sits at 4-0 and in first place in the Big Ten West. Northwestern, currently ranked No. 23, beat Purdue 27-20 on Saturday. It was the third straight win decided by one possession for the Wildcats.
More from Yahoo Sports: