When Jim Harbaugh was hired to coach Michigan, his alma mater, in 2015, it was with one thing in mind: a championship. The last time the Wolverines took home a share of college football's ultimate prize was in 1997, when Charles Woodson and Co. were crowned champion by the Associated Press.
Harbaugh, who is 47-18 in five seasons with the program, says that they are close ... really close.
He sat down for an interview in the 247Sports "Social Distance" series and shared his thoughts on the current state of the program.
"I mean, just look back over the last the last years that we've been here last five years," he said. "About as close as you can possibly be. But you got to put it over the top. That's what drives us."
How close has Michigan been in reality? In Harbaugh's second season, they lost to Ohio State 30-27 in double overtime in the infamous game that spawned the saying "J.T. was short." If Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett had been ruled short of the line to gain on fourth-and-1, Michigan would have won the Big Ten East and moved on to the Big Ten Championship Game with a College Football Playoff berth on the line.
Could Michigan have made the CFP in 2018? Maybe. They again entered the matchup with Ohio State with one loss and the division title on the line, but got blown out 62-39 in one of the most embarrassing losses in the rivalry's history.
Those are the only two seasons under Harbaugh that Michigan has even had a chance to make the Big Ten Championship Game, much less the CFP. If the Wolverines are going to break through that glass ceiling, they're going to have to first prove that they're the class of the Big Ten East. Only then can they set their sights of reaching the same level as Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, LSU and the other familiar playoff faces.
Sorry Harbaugh. Close, but no cigar. The cigar might not even be in the humidor yet.