Jim Harbaugh

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Saban, Meyer, Harbaugh, Swinney and more among 19 Dodd Trophy watch list candidates

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When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.

The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.

The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.

Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.

Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.

2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List

  • Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
  • James Franklin, Penn State
  • Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
  • Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
  • Clay Helton, USC
  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
  • Butch Jones, Tennessee
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Jim McElwain, Florida
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State
  • Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
  • Chris Petersen, Washington
  • Mark Richt, Miami
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • David Shaw, Stanford
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Jim Harbaugh and Year 3 at Michigan

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Jim Harbaugh is entering what some may suggest is a pivotal third season at Michigan. I tend to give head coaches in a new job a full four-year cycle to prove whether or not they are the right fit for a job, but there are certain jobs that see that evaluation period trimmed down. Michigan, paying Harbaugh over $9 million, is most definitely one of them.

Last week on The Comeback, during Big Ten week on the college football preview schedule, Harbaugh was in the spotlight heading into the 2017 season. The question posed to the roundtable forum was how long the Harbaugh hype can continue to carry the load at Michigan. The premise of the question was based on the fact Michigan has finished the past two seasons in third place in the Big Ten East, during a stretch in which Harbaugh and Michigan are 0-2 against Ohio State. Overall, you would be silly to suggest Harbaugh has been a failure at Michigan after just two seasons (one of which was highly encouraging), but as time goes by it is fair to suggest Michigan should expect more out of Harbaugh if that trend continues in 2017.

Michigan will start the year far less experienced than they were a year ago, but the talent and potential for the Wolverines is still considerably high given how Harbaugh has recruited since arriving as the head coach and seeing what he can do to help develop the talent he brings in and inherits (see this past NFL Draft as an example). But in 2017, Ohio State figures to be the Big Ten favorite with a chance at making a third trip to the College Football Playoff. Penn State is also entering the season with some high expectations and some consider the Nittany Lions a viable playoff contender as well. Does that leave Michigan sitting in a reserved spot for third place once again?

While playing off the recent conversation on The Comeback on Twitter with some others on Twitter, I gathered a few collective thoughts and shared them in one Twitter post to recap where the discussion had gone. I will admit it comes off looking much more nitpicky and narrative-esque than I intended. In it, I looked at the results of some head coaches in their third years at their current jobs so we can get a sense of what Harbaugh may be up against as far as his job performance is concerned.

Fortunately for me, the president tweeted a video meme of him knocking down CNN so it got people off my back for a little bit.

Of course, we are comparing gala apples to red delicious apples here. For starters, building a foundation at Stanford in no way should be comparable to what any of the other coaches happened to do at their current jobs. The intro comes off misleading because it looks as though I am completely ignoring the previous head coaching stints of Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and James Franklin while including Harbaugh’s first FBS job. That was not the intention at all. But I would suggest that taking over as the head coach of a program like Michigan is on par with Saban taking over at Alabama at the time Saban was hired by the Crimson Tide. Alabama wasn’t the Alabama they are today before Saban took the job, and in his third year he managed to win a national title.

Ohio State was a well-oiled machine before Meyer took over as head coach (it just needed a one-year service check-up under Luke Fickell after Jim Tressel was removed), but he won a national title in his third year on the job and went undefeated in his first (and probably would have beaten Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game if not for a postseason ban). At Clemson, Dabo Swinney turned Clemson in the right direction and stunned Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship in his third season in charge. (nevermind what happened in the Orange Bowl after that).

And yes, Harbaugh is 2-0 against Franklin and smacked Penn State all around Ann Arbor last season, but Penn State was the one hoisting the Big Ten championship trophy at the end of the season thanks in part to wins against two teams Michigan lost to in November. Penn State also got on a fast track with a rebuidling roster that was inherited in worst shape than Harbaugh took over at Michigan.

Considering all that is being invested in Michigan football between the coaching contracts, a spring practice trip in Florida, an overseas trip to Italy (and more to come?), and so on, should Michigan fans begin putting more pressure on Harbaugh to deliver a Big Ten championship, if not a national championship? Absolutely, if he doesn’t do it this year.

Harbaugh entering Year 3 as Michigan’s head coach will do so starting the year with a younger roster in need of experience. Ohio State is a better team. Playing at Penn State in a revenge game could be difficult. Playing Florida in the opener should be a challenge. Michigan may not really have a shot at winning the Big Ten in 2017, and most will give Harbaugh a pass for that. That’s fair, but the pressure for winning big in 2018 will be high. By then, the entire program will have been modeled and developed by Harbaugh and his staff. The excuses will be gone, just as they expired for Brady Hoke taking over for Rich Rodriguez and Brian Kelly taking over after Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.

Harbaugh is not going to be thrown on any hot seats so long as the donors keep supporting Michigan and the Wolverines remain relevant. But if Harbaugh does not deliver a national championship in the next 24 months, the story could begin spinning a different direction.

Jim Harbaugh says Friday night is for high school football

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Beginning this season, the Big Ten will begin playing some college football game son Friday nights. The decision has widely been criticized across the footprint of the Big Ten, and now one of the most visible faces of the Big Ten is making his case against Friday night football. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh took a hard stance against the new scheduling effort during a radio interview on Monday.

I am not for it at all,” Harbaugh said today on the Rich Eisen radio show. “Friday night is for high school football.”

Michigan was not scheduled to play a Friday night game this season, but Harbaugh still was free to weigh in on the conference model because it would impact the Wolverines at some point in the future. Harbaugh said Friday night football could gain momentum in the future, but he will not back down from voicing his opposition to the idea.

“Sometimes the pendulum swings one way and they do something that’s not productive for the game of football and then has the ability to swing back the other way,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t know that that is set in stone, nor should it be… The opposition to playing college football games on Friday nights should be voiced.”

When the Big Ten announced the implementation of Friday night games to the conference schedule, Michigan was among the schools stating it would not host any Friday night games. Penn State was another. The logistical nightmares alone of having to host a Friday night game in a stadium that seats over 100,000 people was more than enough reason to say no to Friday night games, but not every stadium in the Big Ten has those same concerns. But even Northwestern wiggled its way out of two Friday night matchups this season.

It all seems as though the Big Ten made a decision fueled by money without any regard for what the schools had to say about it. Shocking, right?

Jim Harbaugh fires back at Tim Brewster’s NFL Draft shot at Michigan

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Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh may still be adjusting to being back on American soil and getting back in the swing of things after traveling abroad to Italy with the football program, but it looks like his Twitter game is back in good form.

Michigan set a school record with 11 players being drafted by NFL teams in last week’s NFL Draft, which the school was certainly proud of. Florida State assistant Tim Brewster, who has a track record of taking his shots at rivals and opponents on Twitter, aimed and fired at Michigan’s draft total by reminding his followers that NFL Draft picks don’t necessarily translate to wins.

Brewster was referencing Florida State’s come-from-behind victory against the Wolverines in the Orange Bowl last bowl season. Brewster’s comment could also be supported by the fact Michigan has not finished higher than third place in its division under Harbaugh. But Harbaugh may have been taking a somewhat veiled shot in retaliation to Brewster’s tweet on Wednesday.

Florida State had four players drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft last week, and two players drafted in 2016. Michigan had three players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft for those keeping score at home. However, in 2015, Michigan had just three players drafted while the Seminoles were sending 11 players through the draft.

We’ll stay tuned for any further exchanging of tweets between these two coaches.

Jim Harbaugh: Wilton Speight starter for now; competition still on

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Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight did not have a terrific showing in the spring game last weekend, but head coach Jim Harbaugh says he is still the top quarterback on the depth chart coming out of the spring. That said, Speight could be under pressure to keep it once the summer rolls along and the 2017 season gets underway.

“It’ll always be (a competition,)” Harbaugh said when speaking to the media, according to a Detroit Free Press report from Mark Snyder. “Still over the course of the whole spring practice, Wilton on our depth chart, he’s No. 1. But it’s a meritocracy. By your effort and by your talent you will be known. That’s a good thing for our football team.”

Harbaugh’s comments are none to surprising. The 2017 season could be a slight step back for Michigan coming off a big step forward for the program in 2016, but Harbaugh has always been one to ramp up the competitive fire in the program. It has not led to a Big Ten division championship yet, but there is no question it has helped get Michigan back on the right track as a program. No position is considered safe under Harbaugh, who will focus on playing the best possible players at every position for a chance to improve as a team and win games. That’s his job, after all.

Speight played 12 games for the Wolverines last season. In those 12 games, Speight passed for 2,538 yards and 18 touchdowns while completing 61.6 percent of his pass attempts and was picked off seven times. Other options that could replace Speight if a chance is deemed necessary would include senior John O’Korn (who previously started at Houston) and Brandon Peters, who was also less-than-impressive in the Michigan spring game.