Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh don’t seem to get along very well, and the events that transpired late in the Citrus Bowl on Wednesday serve as further evidence of that.
Leading by 12 with 6:04 left in the fourth quarter, the Alabama Crimson Tide embarked on a nearly six-minute drive that crushed Michigan’s chances of mounting a late comeback. The real talking point came on the final play of said drive. Alabama could have easily taken a knee on 3rd and goal at the Michigan 2, and not had to run another play. Saban and the Tide, however, opted to run up the score, handing the ball to running back Najee Harris for a two-yard touchdown.
That was eye-opening enough, but Michigan added to the intrigue on their brief ensuing drive. The already-beaten Wolverines opted to spike the ball with two seconds left to set up a Hail Mary try from the Alabama 41, even though it would have had no bearing on the outcome. The attempt was intercepted by Alabama in the end zone.
In other words, in a game that was already over, both teams kept trying to hurt the other. One might chalk that up to attitude and two programs with elite ambitions, but it would also be easy to point to some enmity between the two coaches.
While both were very cordial speaking before and after the game, some words were exchanged back in 2016, when Harbaugh was establishing satellite camps in SEC country. Saban raised concerns about that practice, which led to Harbaugh publicly going after the Alabama program. Saban tried to downplay any tension between the two, but the fact is he probably hasn’t forgotten that response. It may well have been in the back of Saban’s mind on Wednesday when he had the chance to make a point to Harbaugh on the field for the first time head-to-head.
The Carolina Panthers are looking for a new head coach after firing Ron Rivera this week, but don’t expect them to turn to Jim Harbaugh.
Peter Schrager appeared on FOX’s NFL pregame show prior to Thursday night’s Bears-Cowboys game and said Harbaugh is not the team’s top target.
There really never was any rumor suggesting the Panthers had interest in Harbaugh. The only place the two were linked was through a betting website that sent press releases to many sports writers about the odds on the next Panthers coach, which isn’t a report or even a rumor.
Schrager says Panthers owner David Tepper will be open to a potential college coach to fill the position.
Tepper has already stated what he is looking for in a coach.
“What I want for the organization in general is a mesh of old and new,” Tepper said. “Old football discipline, modern processes, modern analytics. But I respect old school discipline, too.”
Wow, that sounds like the perfect coach! Does this person actually exist in the NFL, outside of maybe New England? Best of luck in finding him, David.
Jim Harbaugh finally got to take on an Ohio State team that was not led by Urban Meyer on Saturday, but the result was the same for Michigan. And even though Meyer no longer coaches the Buckeyes, one of his daughters is not finished trolling Harbaugh.
Following Ohio State’s dominant 56-27 win at Ann Arbor on Saturday, Meyer’s daughter Gigi took to social media to take a shot at Harbaugh.
— Gigi Meyer (@GG_40) November 30, 2019
Meyer owned Harbaugh when the two coached against one another, and his protege Ryan Day is now picking up right where the three-time national champion left off. It makes sense that the Meyer family is enjoying the win, as the 2019 Buckeyes are still Urban’s team in many ways. If they end up winning a national championship, his fingerprints will certainly be all over it.
This isn’t the first time one of Meyer’s daughters has thrown shade at Harbaugh, and it may not be the last. Rivalries as big as the one between Ohio State and Michigan don’t just disappear overnight for those who were involved with them.
Saturday’s 56-27 loss to Ohio State forced the Michigan Wolverines to answer more difficult questions. One of them, though, was not to coach Jim Harbaugh’s liking.
Harbaugh told off a questioner who suggested that there is a talent or coaching gap between the Wolverines and Buckeyes. Harbaugh called the question an insult and acknowledging that the Buckeyes outplayed Michigan.
Some context. He was asked whether it was a talent gap, a scheme gap or a coaching gap. On the phrase “coaching gap,” Harbaugh turned and stared down the guy asking the question. Then he offered that quote. https://t.co/zL8QAPIl6S
— Andy Staples (@Andy_Staples) November 30, 2019
Jim Harbaugh asked why there’s a gap between Michigan and Ohio State. Says “I’ll answer your questions but not your insults. They played better today.”
— Anthony Broome (@anthonytbroome) November 30, 2019
The question is leading and a shot at Harbaugh by saying there’s a coaching gap.
Harbaugh will point to the fact that Michigan could have played a more competitive game if not for some silly individual mistakes, and he’d be correct. He has a talented team, but there’s a reason Michigan wasn’t expected to win. The Wolverines do not have a Chase Young on defense or a J.K. Dobbins on offense, and Justin Fields is a better quarterback than Shea Patterson. Michigan is talented. Ohio State is exceptionally talented. You can understand why Harbaugh won’t want to acknowledge that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Jim Harbaugh is one of several college football coaches who believe the College Football Playoff needs to be expanded to include more teams, but it sounds like he has given the idea a lot more thought than some of his counterparts. While Harbaugh said previously that he wants the playoff to expand to 16 teams, he has since come up with a more complicated idea.
ESPN’s Heather Dinich polled 62 college head coaches and asked whether or not they believe the CFB Playoff should expand, and 30 are in favor of it. A lot of them think eight teams would be sufficient, but Harbaugh would like to see 11. He explained how he came up with that number.
With Harbaugh’s plan, each Power 5 conference champion would automatically get one of the top five spots. He would eliminate conference title games, however, and determine the champion through regular-season record and tiebreakers, essentially treating them like the NFL treats divisions. Harbaugh then wants to use the BCS system to rank the top six teams in the playoff, which would consist of the Power 5 champions and leave room for one non-Power 5 team. Of those six, five would get a first-round bye. In other words, every Power 5 champion would not be guaranteed a bye and one non-Power 5 team would still have a chance at the bye if its BCS ranking was higher than one of the Power 5 champions. The Power 5 champions are all guaranteed a playoff spot, but they would all need to be ranked 1-5 in the BCS system to get a bye. If a non-Power 5 team ends up ranked higher than one of the Power 5 conference champions, that team would get one of the five first-round byes.
From there, the BCS system would determine the remainder of the field.
Harbaugh believes his plan would be a way to expand the playoff without having certain teams play too many games. His suggestion is to have the playoff begin on the first Saturday of December, which is when conference title games are currently held. The six playoff teams that did not get a bye would play that weekend, leaving eight with the three winners and the five teams that had a bye. The losing teams would still be able to play in bowl games.
“You’d still have the same bowl structure that you have now, and teams that lost on Dec. 1, it’s like they would’ve been in a championship game and then they play in a bowl game,” Harbaugh explained. “Nobody would play 16 games.”
It may not work out exactly how Harbaugh envisions, however. As Aaron McMann of MLive.com noted, if a team played a 12-game regular season, did not get a bye in Harbaugh’s playoff system, and went on to reach the championship game, that team would have played in 16 games.
While complicated, Harbaugh’s system does not sound all that bad. Fans would probably be skeptical of eliminating conference championship games, but no one seems to think they are needed to determine postseason berths in other sports. While an expanded system might strip Dabo Swinney of some of the motivational tactics he will have the pleasure of using down the stretch, there are plenty of people in favor of it.
Year five of the Jim Harbaugh era at Michigan is set to see them once again miss the College Football Playoff and fail to even make the Big Ten Championship, and according to one report, the coach is exploring ways out.
According to Zach Barnett of Football Scoop, Harbaugh’s representatives are reaching out to NFL teams to gauge interest in a return to the pros. It is expected he would find significant interest, given his 44-19 record with the San Francisco 49ers.
Harbaugh has turned Michigan into a highly-ranked program again, but has been unable to find the breakthrough into the conference title game and beyond. It’s put both him and the school in a situation where he has been too successful to get rid of, especially coupled with his status as a favorite son, but still hasn’t done what he was brought to Ann Arbor to do. A departure for the NFL would free both sides up to move on amicably.
Harbaugh’s contract runs through the end of the 2021 season. He’s 43-16 as Michigan’s head coach, a significant improvement on predecessors Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke but still in the wake of Ohio State. He also has a mediocre record against other top programs, as he’s failed to beat the Buckeyes during his tenure and will not be favored to this year, either.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen Harbaugh lose another big game on the road and make some strange decisions in the process. That is illustrative of why everyone may be fine with it if his tenure ends after 2019 by mutual agreement.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 0-7 as an underdog as the head coach of the Wolverines. Saturday’s game at Penn State was following the trend, and he did himself no favors with a key decision late in the first half.
Stalled at the Penn State 41 and facing a 4th and 6 with 51 seconds left, Harbaugh inexplicably sent out his field goal team to try a 58-yarder. Michigan was already down two touchdowns at this point. Though kicker Jake Moody had missed only one attempt on the season, his longest make was from 43 yards.
Predictably, Moody missed, giving Penn State the ball at their own 41 with 51 seconds left and all three timeouts. Twitter immediately went in on Harbaugh for his bizarre decision.
That was as strange as South Carolina's 57-yarder last week, except with nowhere near as much upside.
— Noah Trister (@noahtrister) October 20, 2019
Not sure the idea behind that. Go for it.
— Aaron McMann (@AaronMcMann) October 20, 2019
Wth 56 seconds left and down 21-7, #Michigan just tried a 58-yard field goal.
It missed, well short.
And guess what? #PennState gets the ball at its own 41 with plenty of time to march it down.
— Ross Dellenger (@RossDellenger) October 20, 2019
Insanely terrible call. Punt the ball.
— Steve Lorenz (@TremendousUM) October 20, 2019
Dumb decision by Harbaugh. Punt, get to halftime still sort of in the game. Now you give PSU a chance to end it before the half. #MICHvsPSU
— Nathan Birr (@atruebluehusker) October 20, 2019
College kickers aren’t going to be trusted to make 58-yard field goals. If Harbaugh didn’t care about field position, he should have gone for it. Better yet, he probably should’ve punted, gone into the half down 21-7, and tried to pull it together at the break. Fortunately for him, Penn State didn’t score on the ensuing drive, so it didn’t actually cost him.
Harbaugh will need a big second half rally to avoid dropping to 0-8 as an underdog with the Wolverines. It’s pretty clear that his job is safe, but decisions like this aren’t going to help his standing among fans.