How for much longer will Jim Harbaugh final at Michigan after historic loss to Indiana?

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How much longer will Jim Harbaugh last at Michigan after historic loss to Indiana?

Prior to Saturday, Indiana beat Michigan in 1987, a year after Jim Harbaugh played his final season as quarterback for the Wolverines.

The Hoosiers' convincing 38:21 win against the Wolverines on Saturday makes two questions credible that would have been unthinkable after the opener against Minnesota on October 24:

Will that loss to the Hoosiers come a season before Harbaugh's last season as Wolverines head coach? Or is the Harbaugh era coming to an end after the 2020 season?

MORE: Michigan, Harbaugh is getting that sinking sense of loss to Spartans again

The two-week deciphering of Michigan's season, which began last week against Michigan State and didn't stop against No. 13 Indiana, is astounding. It looked even worse considering the mistreatment of Iowa Spartans 49-7.

How does that compare to the end of the last two Michigan coaches? Rich Rodriguez finished 2010 6-7, but five of those losses went to ranked teams. Brady Hoke ended 2014 5-7, and that included unranked losses to Maryland and Rutgers. The Wolverines have ventured into the same shaky area, even if this scenario is different.

Harbaugh was a perfect fit for Michigan (1-2, 1-2 Big Ten) when he arrived in 2015. It has now become clear that the program is the square hook in the college football landscape.

Indiana (3-0, 3-0, Big Ten) had comparable talent and countless more explosive games with coach Tom Allen on Saturday. They couldn't say that when they played in the 14:10 game in 1987. The Wolverines suffered opt-outs, injuries and a delay in the recruitment battle with the Big Ten Kingpin Ohio State, and that was again revealed against the conference's newest contender.

Michigan's shortcomings were exposed against Indiana for the second straight week. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed 22 of 32 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Hoosiers build a 24-7 lead at halftime.

Dan Dierdorf: "This is as bad as half of Michigan football that I've seen," he said since he was at the booth.

– Angelique (@chengelis) November 7, 2020

Penix did not give up in the second half: He finished 30 of 50 for 342 yards and those three points. Indiana converted 9 of 18 third downs and piled 460 yards. Unlike previous Wolverines fears in Bloomington, the Hoosiers closed the door.

Michigan had no starting tackles against Jalen Mayfield and Ryan Hayes on the offensive, and that was a bad omen for first year starter Joe Milton (18 of 34, 344 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions) who had two picks in fourth quarter threw that has held up all hopes of a comeback.

Defense Coordinator Don Brown's Defense Scheme appears after its expiration date. The Wolverines didn't get a sack against the Spartans or Hoosiers. Without star defender Aidan Hutchinson, who sustained an ankle injury in the first series, the same problems re-emerged on all three levels.

It's the same tired tales for Michigan on the field in Harbaugh's Losses, and it showed the worst of times. Michigan cut their lead to 24-13 in the third quarter and had Indiana reset to a third-and-9. At this point in time, cornerback Vincent Gray was called in for a faulty pass with a miss. The Hoosiers converted that mistake into another score (the Wolverines had eight penalties for 89 yards).

The offense still cannot let the ball go. A rewind through the committee didn't work and turned offensive coordinator Josh Gattis' attack into an all-or-nothing passing game with a young quarterback.

Michigan had seven first-down running games that resulted in 21 yards in the first half. The Wolverines finished with 18 stretches for 13 yards. That's less than a yard per carry. Until that changes, Michigan will continue to fail its efforts to return to the top of the Big Ten.

MORE: Michigan's most heartbreaking losses

What's next? Uncharted heat on Harbaugh. Michigan won't play for the conference championship in 2020. Next week's matchup against Wisconsin # 10 is in question, but the Wolverines will be strong underdogs when played. A 4-4 season now looks like a best-case scenario in Ann Arbor. The regular season finale against Ohio State No. 3 seems more of a formality. Harbaugh won quarterback there in 1986, but the Wolverines haven't won at Ohio Stadium since 2000.

Does that mean the end for Harbaugh after this season? That is the biggest question of all. Who could replace Harbaugh in Michigan? Could it be Matt Campbell from Iowa State? Cincinnati's Luke Fickell? One of the Stoops brothers? Someone with Ohio State ties? This is no longer just message board material. It's about finding someone who isn't a square pen.

The more realistic scenario? Michigan is chalking up to COVID-19 this year, giving Harbaugh another Proof-It season in 2021. This could be the more durable approach given that Harbaugh's contract position spans the 2021 season. However, that countdown is on. Whatever happens next, the past two weeks mark the low point in Harbaugh's tenure to date.

We'd say there's no other way than going up because Michigan can't go much deeper.