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NFL coaching carousel begins, so get ready for the rumor mill to spill over to college football

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Today is Bloody Monday around the NFL as the regular season has come to a close. Head coaching vacancies have been made with the Denver Broncos, New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and more. And with the NFL coaching carousel now in full swing, do not be surprised to hear some conversation pick up about potential candidates coming from the world of college football.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has been one of the trendy names to follow in the NFL rumor mill, although the head coach of the Wolverines appears to be keeping his distance whenever asked about the possibility of pursuing a job in the NFL. Harbaugh has stated he does not really have representatives, and the Jets have turned aside the rumors suggesting the franchise was looking to make a push for Harbaugh.

For years, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has been seen as a likely candidate to make the jump to the NFL at some point in time. Coming off an undefeated regular season only to be shown the exit from the College Football Playoff in dominant fashion against Clemson will certainly have some suggesting Kelly may have tapped out at Notre Dame and could be willing to look for a new challenge. Confirming his allegiance to Notre Dame is nothing new for Kelly, as he’s been doing it multiple times during his time in South Bend. We’ll see if anyone kicks up some dust on his name for a potential job opening.

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley has had his name thrown around by some NFL folks, and with the success of Baker Mayield in his rookie year with the Cleveland Browns, it’s not difficult to understand why. Former Texas Tech head coach and current USC offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury has also had his name tossed around at times, more likely as a coordinator however. There are also reports that Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald could get a look from the Green Bay Packers. Former Washington and USC head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian could be out of a job as Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, so it would not be out of the question Sarkisian makes his way back to college football in some capacity either. This thing works both ways, right?

Then there are the college coaches who have some previous NFL head coaching experience. Good luck prying Nick Saban back to the NFL when he is the God of Alabama football at the height of his career, but might an NFL franchise be willing to give a guy like Herm Edwards another shot after proving some doubters wrong in his first season at Arizona State? Given how coaching hires are made, recycling a veteran coach like Edwards would hardly be a surprising move by some NFL franchise.

This time of the year, nothing should be considered completely off the table, so brace yourselves, college football fans. This coaching carousel isn’t quite done just yet (and it was already potentially in motion with some recent vacancies already opened up at Houston and Temple).

Dominant second half powers No. 10 Florida past No. 7 Michigan in Peach Bowl

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The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl was supposed to be a bit of a defensive battle between No. 10 Florida (10-3) and No. 7 Michigan (10-3), but the Gators cued up some big offensive plays in crucial situations to break the game wide open in their favor. Florida’s 41-15 victory over Michigan in Atlanta gave new head coach Dan Mullen a 10-win season in Gainesville with a bright future on the horizon in the SEC moving forward.

The reality of the outcome probably sunk in on the Michigan sideline when Jim Harbaugh opted to punt the ball back to Florida from the Michigan 43-yard line with 7:20 to play in the game with Michigan trailing 34-13. The game had already gone off the rails for Michigan. Playing without some key players hurt Michigan’s chances, but the game was there for the taking entering the second half as Florida led just 13-10 at the time.

But the second half started on the wrong foot for the Wolverines. A Shea Patterson interception deep down the field by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was returned 53 yards to the Michigan 44-yard line, and six plays later the Gators were in the end zone with a Feleipe Franks touchdown pass to Lamical Perine. Michigan went back five yards on the ensuing possession, and Florida put together a 63-yard touchdown drive keyed by a 30-yard run by Jordan Scarlett to put the Gators on the doorstep.

After Michigan responded with a field goal to cut the deficit to 27-13, Florida responded when it looked like the Michigan defense picked up a big stop. On 3rd-and-20 from the Florida 47-yard line, Perine took off running right up the middle of the Michigan defense and dashed 53 yards for a crushing touchdown.

Michigan’s defense may have been short-handed, but one of the best defenses in the nation certainly ended the year on a disappointing note. After giving up 62 points to Ohio State in the regular season finale, the Wolverine defense gave up 34 points (Florida scored a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter to add to the final score).

For Mullen, this marks his first 10-win season as a head coach since winning 10 games with Mississippi State in 2014. This is just the second 10-win season for Mullen, who improved his bowl record to a career mark of 6-2. He has now coached three straight bowl wins between his time at Mississippi State and now at Florida (Mullen left the Bulldogs prior to their bowl game last season). Harbaugh has now lost three consecutive bowl games and is 1-3 in bowl games at Michigan, 2-4 overall in bowl games. The last head coach at Michigan to lose three straight bowl games was Lloyd Carr, who lost four straight, although three of those bowl games were in the Rose Bowl.

Momentum from a bowl result may be overblown, but it should be easy to feel good about Florida moving on to 2019 based off the result of the Peach Bowl. For Michigan, there are just as many concerns and questions about taking the next step as there were after their regular season loss at Ohio State. This result may not add much more that wasn’t already there to stew on in Ann Arbor.

CFT Previews: Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl

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WHO: No. 7 Michigan (10-2) vs. No. 10 Florida (9-3)
WHAT: The 51st Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
WHEN: 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
THE SKINNY: The last time we saw the Michigan Wolverines, they were getting stomped by Ohio State in the regular season finale. The Wolverines were not as bad as they appeared in that game, but will they be able to regroup and finish the season on a winning note after once again coming up just short of their goal of playing for and winning the Big Ten title with a shot at reaching the College Football Playoff? More importantly, can Michigan rely on its depth to do so?

Michigan will be without four starters for the bowl game, including key defensive players like Rashan Gary and Devin Bush and leading running back Karan Higdon. Florida should be in a better position with their roster for the game. The Gators will likely hope that running back Lamical Perine can get some room to work against a Michigan defense missing some key players. The Wolverines will hope to see Shea Patterson provide some stability on offense as he has become more and more comfortable running the offense as the season progressed until that massive pothole in Columbus.

Of course, there should be plenty of Jim Harbaugh reaction shots, and Dan Mullen would love nothing more than to cause a few moments of anxiety for his coaching counterpart. Mullen still has some work to do at Florida before the Gators are a legitimate SEC contender, but ending the year with 10 wins would certainly be a nice way to cap this season and move forward in preparing for 2019. Mullen is 5-2 all-time in bowl games with Mississippi State. Harbaugh is 2-3 with losses in each of the past two seasons.

Michigan has won all four all-time meetings with Florida dating back to 2003 and including wins in each of the past two seasons.

THE LINE: Michigan -5.5
THE PREDICTION: Michigan 24, Florida 20

Michigan AD: Rumors Jim Harbaugh wants out have ‘no validity at all’

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The coaching carousel isn’t just in full swing at the college level. The NFL coaching changes are about to hit their stride as the NFL season begins winding down, and the latest opening with the Green Bay Packers has ignited those all-too-common rumors about the future of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. The former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers has been perceived by some as a possible candidate to return to coach in the NFL at some point in time, but Michigan Athletics Director Wade Manuel is confronting those talks head on.

“(People) tend to throw out things like that. ‘Sources say, my sources.’ Listen, I haven’t missed any sleep,” Manuel said in a radio interview with WTKA-AM in Ann Arbor this week. “Jim has not said anything to me about it, he’s on the road recruiting, putting in great effort,” Manuel added, according to Detroit Free Press.

“From my perspective, it has no validity at all.”

Manuel’s comments were in response to a comment made by FOX Sports 1 commentator and former Ohio State football player Cris Carter suggesting Harbaugh would be a likely candidate for the job with the Packers with the suggestion Harbaugh was “potentially trying to get his way out of Michigan.”

When it comes to coaching rumors, nothing should ever truly be considered completely off the table. Harbaugh is paid royally by Michigan and he has elevated the Wolverines program in a great way since his arrival at his alma mater even if it has yet to produce a division or conference title just yet. As noted yesterday by Mike Florio over on Pro Football Talk, one destination that could sway Harbaugh away from Michigan might be the Miami Dolphins. But if that is the case, then it would stand to reason suggesting Harbaugh isn’t leaving Ann Arbor any time too soon.

No. 10 Ohio State makes B1G statement as they dump No. 4 Michigan from playoff chase in 62-39 rout

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If you wanted a bit of a shakeup in the College Football Playoff picture, then No. 10 Ohio State (11-1, 8-1 Big Ten) delivered. The Buckeyes were a rare home underdog against No. 4 Michigan (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten) on Saturday afternoon but they sure did not play like it. Ohio State scored the most points they have ever scored in a game against Michigan in a 62-39 blowout of the rival Wolverines. The win not only sends Ohio State back to the Big Ten championship game next week as two-time defending East Division champions, but the Buckeyes just scored a loud playoff statement worth considering against one of the nation’s top-ranked defenses.

Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins passed for 318 yards and five touchdowns in the win. His fourth touchdown pass, a short pass to K.J. Hill in the fourth quarter, set a new Big Ten single-season passing touchdown record with his 40th of the year (he later added a 41st for the season). The previous record was set by Drew Brees of Purdue in 1998.

Ohio State freshman wide receiver Chris Olave had himself a career day out of nowhere for the Buckeyes. Playing in just his fifth career game, Olave scored his first two career touchdowns in the first half and he blocked a Michigan punt in the second half that was returned for a touchdown to push the Ohio State lead to 34-19. It was pretty much over from there, as Ohio State turned a Michigan interception by Shea Patterson into a touchdown with a short run by Mike Weber to extend the lead to 41-19 just about 90 seconds later. Michigan didn’t roll over and quite, but enough damage had been done.

Ohio State scored the most points they have ever scored in the history of the storied rivalry since hitting 50 points in 1961 and again in 1968. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has now been the head coach of the Wolverines for two of the worst defensive performances against the Buckeyes after giving up 42 points in 2015 and now 48 points this season.

Michigan also got banged up on the field with injuries to key players. Devin Bush was treated for a thigh injury early in the third quarter. Later in the same quarter, Zach Gentry had to be helped off the field with a possible head injury. And in the fourth quarter, Shea Patterson was taken off the field for evaluation on his knee, the same one he previously injured at Ole Miss.

With the win clinching the East Division of the Big Ten, Ohio State will now head to Indianapolis to play in the Big Ten championship game for a second straight season. It will be Ohio State’s fourth trip to the conference championship game with a 2-1 record in the game entering next week against Northwestern. The Wildcats will make their first appearance in the Big Ten championship game after winning the West Division a few weeks ago. Ohio State leads the all-time series with Northwestern, 61-14-1, with a six-game winning streak in the series, although the two have not played each other since 2016.

Ohio State fans will also be eager to see where the Buckeyes move in the next batch of rankings from the College Football Playoff selection committee. The Buckeyes will absolutely be moving up in the rankings on Tuesday, jumping Michigan and a handful of other programs on the way, most likely. Where Ohio State ranks compared to Oklahoma will be what to pay close attention to as the Buckeyes and Sooners could be battling to impress the selection committee the most next week with a potential spot in the playoff up for grabs now that Michigan will tumble out of the fourth spot and Alabama or Georgia is guaranteed to lose next week in the SEC Championship Game (Georgia entered the week No. 5 in the rankings and will likely take over the fourth spot before championship week).

It remains to be seen if Ohio State will be in the College Football Playoff, the Rose Bowl as Big Ten champion, or some other bowl. For now, the range of bowl possibilities is pretty wide for Ohio State. For Michigan, the chance to still play in the Rose Bowl is a possibility, but it would only be an option if Ohio State is selected for the College Football Playoff. If the Rose Bowl is out of the mix though, a spot in a New Years Six bowl should still be on the table for the Wolverines, as they will more than likely remain within the top 12 of the playoff committee’s rankings, which would make them eligible for consideration for an at-large invite to an open bowl spot in the New Years Six lineup.

But for now, we sit and wait to see what comes next for Michigan and Ohio State. The one things we do know is Ohio State will begin preparing for Northwestern.