The referendum on Jim Harbaugh's fifth season at Michigan had been set for Nov. 30, the day Ohio State visits Ann Arbor. No coach and team entered the season needing a single win more than Harbaugh and his Wolverines did against the dreaded Buckeyes.
But three games in, Michigan is already facing a crisis. Saturday's 35-14 loss at Wisconsin -- after an off week, which followed an unsettling double-overtime win over Army -- sparked a Maize-and-Blue panic. The Wolverines trailed Wisconsin 35-0, fumbled on their opening possession for the third consecutive game, failed to convert on all 11 of their third-down attempts, didn't score for nearly 43 minutes and were outrushed 359-40.
Michigan's struggles away from home under Harbaugh (14-11, 5-11 against winning teams) aren't new. Nor are its struggles against ranked opponents (4-15). But to no-show in a big game against a strong team -- but not one with superior talent -- in Year 5 of a coaching regime suggests problems that go beyond a new offensive scheme or losing four defenders to the first three rounds of the NFL draft.
"That was not a banner day for Michigan," Harbaugh said Monday. "We saw it, you saw it, the entire football world saw it. That wasn't good enough and it's not acceptable to us. There's not much more to say."
The mess in Madison sparks big-picture questions about Michigan and Harbaugh: How did the program reach this point? What can be done to fix things, especially with plenty of big games -- No. 14 Iowa, at No. 12 Penn State, No. 10 Notre Dame, No. 25 Michigan State -- before The Game? Is Harbaugh still capable of restoring Michigan to a championship level?
Here's a closer look at Michigan and the next steps.