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Harbaugh, warts and all, has reestablished his alma mater among the college football elite. But the failures of bowl/playoff season have to be frustrating for a Michigan fan base satiating for success against other powerhouses on the biggest stage.

Since being hired at Michigan in December 2014, the Wolverines are 1-6 under Harbaugh in the postseason. In fact, they’ve lost six straight bowl game appearances, including losses in CFP appearances against Georgia in 2021 and again against TCU in 2022.

If Harbaugh and the Wolverines are going to snap this ugly skid, they’ll have to top the greatest college football coach of all time in Nick Saban and his Alabama Crimson Tide. What a task.

Jim Harbaugh turned 60 a week ago. To mark the occasion, Michigan brass presented him with a token of their appreciation: a white sheet cake with vanilla frosting, adorned with roses to commemorate Michigan’s trip to the Rose Bowl.

It was a small gesture, but with Harbaugh, the small stuff counts. He has said he wants to coach at Michigan as long as Michigan wants him. Michigan would like to keep him in Ann Arbor for years to come. Harbaugh just celebrated a milestone birthday, and he’s getting ready to take another crack at winning a national championship, one of the last items on his coaching bucket list.

Inside a massive tent in the Rose Bowl parking lot, Harbaugh was asked what it would mean to him to win a national championship.

“It’s not for me anymore,” he said.

A national championship would be a poetic ending to one of the strangest years any coach has ever had. It would infuriate Harbaugh’s haters and delight the supporters who stood by him during two suspensions and a maelstrom of allegations. Those supporters include Michigan’s administration, players on his team and fans who embraced the “Michigan vs. Everybody” mantra.

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“The support has been incredible,” Harbaugh said. “Our parents’ support, the players’ support, the galvanized team. The support from the staff, their families, their wives, their kids. Our fan base, people walking down the street in Ann Arbor. It’s been a joy, everybody pulling in the same direction.”

While the NCAA and the Big Ten had Harbaugh in their crosshairs, Michigan and its fans wrapped him in a collective bear hug. That tight embrace has carried through all the way to the College Football Playoff and a Rose Bowl matchup against Alabama.

Among casual fans, Michigan is hardly the CFP’s sentimental favorite. If anything, Michigan is the villain, the team that (allegedly) defied the rules by taping other teams’ signals, then responded with defiance and bravado.

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