What I Love, Vol. 5: Tom Harmon Highlights

Life must be hard when you're bigger, stronger and faster than everybody else on the field.

Here's what I wrote about Harmon's 1940 Michigan Wolverines last summer.

27. 1940 Michigan

Record: 7-1
Conference: Big Ten
Best Wins: def. Northwestern (6-2) 20-13, def. Penn (6-1-1) 14-0
Blemishes: def. by Minnesota (8-0) 7-6
Point Differential: +162 (196-34)

The Big Ten was still the class of college football in 1940. Though the Michigan Wolverines did not win a national title -- they did not even win their conference for that matter -- their performance through a brutal Big Ten slate gets them recognition on a list so dominated by strength of schedule. Led by Heisman winner Tom Harmon and quarterback Forest Evashevski, Michigan passed every test but one, coming up a point short at Minnesota.

Michigan began the 1940 season in Berkeley, where they unloaded on poor California, 41-0. All you need to know about this game comes from one play: Tom Harmon toying with the entire Cal defense on an 86-yard touchdown run. The Wolverines faced a brutal final month of the season. They took out No. 8 Penn, 14-0, before heading to Minnesota. The eventual national champion Gophers got a heroic performance from back Bruce Smith, who rushed for 116 yards and Minnesota's only touchdown. Minnesota made its PAT and Michigan did not, and the Wolverines fell, 7-6. With no time to rest, the Wolverines returned home and took out No. 10 Northwestern, 20-13, then blew past Ohio State in Columbus, 40-0.

A team like this reaches the top 30 because of both strength of schedule and size of schedule. The Wolverines played only eight games, four against big-time programs and only one against a cupcake. In a typical 11- or 12-game schedule, a couple more weaklings would have been involved, and it would have been tougher for this team to reach this high, especially with more opportunities for a loss. Regardless, Tom Harmon was amazing, and the team deserves celebrating.

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