The Detroit News' John Niyo and Angelique S. Chengelis break down the Wolverines' 26-19 loss to South Carolina. Angelique S. Chengelis
Michigan finished Year 3 under Jim Harbaugh with eight wins, a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten East, the conference’s only bowl loss and plenty of questions.
Those questions mostly center around the offensive line, and the play of the quarterback, which again, appeared to be at least one of the issues in Monday’s 26-19 loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Peters was 20-for-44 with 186 yards and two interceptions in the loss, likely failing to seize an opportunity to be the front-runner in the quarterback derby heading into the 2018 season — a competition that will include Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, if he’s ruled immediately eligible.
Peters appeared in six games, including four starts, and was one of three quarterbacks to start this season. Wilton Speight opened the season as the Wolverines’ starter, but suffered three fractured vertebrae in the Big Ten opener Sept. 23 against Purdue. He announced his decision to transfer in November. Senior John O’Korn relieved Speight but, after helping the Wolverines beat the Boilermakers, was largely ineffective this season. He threw for 973 yards, with two touchdowns and six interceptions, in 10 games.
“When the full obit on the Michigan season is written,” Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports tweeted Monday, “cause of death will be quarterback play.”
Joel Klatt of Fox Sports appeared to agree, tweeting after the Outback Bowl, in which South Carolina erased a 19-3 deficit.
“Solid comeback from #SouthCarolina,” Klatt tweeted. “That is a great spring board win into 2018...#Michigan had subpar QB play all year and again today...they were very tough at every other position all year...QB position cost them 3-4 games.”
The quarterback play was part of a larger issue on offense, and is the No. 1 issue facing Harbaugh next season, Bill Bender of the Sporting News wrote Monday.
“Harbaugh isn’t on the hot seat,” Bender wrote, “but he will be if there isn’t a turnaround on that side of the ball before the Wolverines open at Notre Dame in prime time on Sept. 1 to start 2018.
“Michigan didn’t have it at quarterback, the skill positions, offensive line and didn’t with a well-compensated offensive coaching staff,” Bender continued. “That was exposed one last time in brutal fashion at every level in sloppy conditions against the Gamecocks.”
Tweeted Stewart Mandel, editor-in-chief of the The AthleticCFB: “Needless to say Jim Harbaugh did not earn his $7 million this season. That was a bad loss to end a uninspiring season.”
Cris Carter of FS1’s “First Things First,” and a former Ohio State wide receiver, went a step further.
“Harbaugh is the most overrated coach in football,” Carter tweeted. “No creativity after a month of practice.”
Harbaugh is 28-11 in three seasons at Michigan, including back-to-back 10-win seasons his first two seasons, but hasn’t been able to finish higher than third in the rugged Big Ten East, and is 1-5 combined against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.
That doesn’t figure to get any easier next season. Though Michigan returns a load of talent on both sides of the ball, so does its rivals, including Michigan State and Ohio State, which each get Michigan on their home turf next season.