Jim Harbaugh

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Who will be the next first-time college football national championship coach?

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On Monday night, Virginia and Texas Tech will battle for the men’s basketball national championship. A victory will clinch the first national championship as a head coach for either Virginia head coach Tony Bennett or Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard. But if you want college basketball coverage, our friends over at College Basketball Talk have you taken care of. Here, we’ll take the football angle and try to determine what college football coach will be the next to win his first national championship.

First, a refresher of the recent history of championship head coaches. Unless you’ve been sleeping under Howard’s Rock, you know the last four national titles have been split evenly by Nick Saban of Alabama and Dabo Swinney of Clemson. Swinney is the most recent coach to win his first national championship, having done so three seasons ago with a victory over Saban’s Crimson Tide in the 2016 season. Before Swinney, the most recent coach to win his first national title was Jimbo Fisher, then at Florida State, in the 2013 season in the final BCS Championship Game before the College Football Playoff took over. Since the 2010 season, the only other coach to win his first national title was Gene Chizik at Auburn, doing so in the 2010 season with Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton topping the Oregon Ducks in the BCS Championship Game.

There are certainly some obvious candidates to be the next coach to win his first national title. The conversation likely has to begin with Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma. In his first two seasons as head coach of the Sooners, Riley has taken two Big 12 championship teams into the College Football Playoff with a Heisman Trophy quarterback, although the Sooners have yet to win a playoff game. Each time, Oklahoma was eliminated by the national title runner-up. It doesn’t look as though Oklahoma is going to be slowing down any time soon, although the competition just in the conference may improve and make a playoff run a tad more difficult. Tom Herman at Texas could be the most likely coach out of the Big 12 not named Riley to win his first national title.

There are still some coaches to watch in the SEC as well. Kirby Smart has already taken Georgia to the national title game, where they lost in overtime against Alabama two seasons ago. He will certainly be in the mix to win his first national title. He’s even taken out Riley and Oklahoma! Dan Mullen at Florida could be a coach in the running as well, although there may still be some work to do in Gainesville before Florida can crack the four-team playoff field. Or will the football gods align the fates just right for Ed Orgeron to take LSU the distance?

The ACC is tough to find a coach you can feel has a great shot to be the next coach to win his first national title, especially with Clemson continuing to roll for the foreseeable future. The Pac-12 looks like a difficult spot too considering the quality of play in the conference recently. The thought of Mike Leach being the next to win his first national title is fun to dream about though.

But what about the Big Ten? Ryan Day is taking over as head coach of a playoff-worthy candidate at Ohio State this season. Jim Harbaugh should have another strong Big Ten contender to work with this upcoming season. James Franklin and Penn State have a couple hurdles they need to prove they can clear again before making their case, but all three coaches would certainly be on the radar.

Or, if you dare to do so, do you think there is a Group of Five coach out there ready to make the jump to a power conference program and guide them to a national title in the next few years while Saban and Swinney go another couple of championship rounds? Call your shot in the comment section or on Twitter.

Jim Harbaugh continues to want to see transfer rules reviewed

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An increasing number of players are taking advantage of their opportunity to explore their transfer options this offseason, and it has become a growing concern for the sport as a whole. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has seen players come and leave via the transfer process during his time in Ann Arbor, remains one of the voices of college football who feels the transfer process does need to be reviewed.

“It needs to be decided, too, amongst everybody across the college football landscape how it’s going to be treated,” Harbaugh said in his podcast recently, as quoted by USA Today. “It was a case where, if you decided to transfer, you had to sit out a year from playing a sport – you’re ineligible. Or is that that anybody has a one-time transfer that they can make? A one-time transfer rule. Right now, I don’t know where we’re at. Somewhere in the abyss?”

The NCAA has adjusted the transfer process to make the system more accommodating for players. The introduction of the transfer portal allows a player to enter their name in a list to become eligible to have contact with other schools without withdrawing entirely from their current program. The NCAA has also relaxed the strictness of the one-year waiting period when it comes to waivers. The rule still stands that a player must sit out a year before being eligible to play at their new school (if transferring from an FBS program to another FBS program), but waivers continue to be approved at a higher number this offseason to allow a player to be eligible immediately.

Harbaugh recently saw the transfer process leave one of his players in jeopardy last offseason when Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson transferred to the Wolverines. Although that was more of a sticky situation given the Ole Miss sanctions looming over the program and former head coach Hugh Freeze. Just this offseason, Ohio State welcomed quarterback Justin Fields from Georgia, and Fields has been granted immediate eligibility for the 2019 season.

“It is different,” Harbaugh said. “It is different that more guys are transferring. We’ve experienced it this year. Talking to guys, as a parent, there’s not even a good reason. Were you shaving this morning and you woke up and decided I want to transfer?”

The NCAA will be reviewing the waiver transfer process amid growing concerns around the sport. And if Harbaugh is asked to share his thoughts, he has a few ideas ready to throw out there.

Jim Harbaugh says Michigan should build a statue of Tom Brady

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You may have heard this one before, but New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is pretty darn good. After winning yet another Super Bowl this past week with the Patriots topping the Los Angeles Rams, Brady won his sixth Super Bowl championship. Now, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh thinks the Wolverines should pay tribute to one of the NFL’s all-time greats who just so happens to be a former Michigan quarterback.

“I think it’s time, don’t you, for a Tom Brady statue to built right here,” the head coach of the Wolverines said in a recent episode of his podcast, according to Detroit Free Press (in case you forgot Harbaugh had a podcast). “Right in front of Schembechler Hall, or do you put it in the stadium? Where do you put the Tom Brady statue?”

That’s a good question, and perhaps it will one day be one that administrators attempt to answer in Ann Arbor. There is no formal discussion on the table about such a tribute to the former Michigan quarterback. But once Brady eventually steps aside from football, perhaps that conversation will kick up some dust. Brady may not have been a Heisman Trophy candidate or anything while playing his college football in maize and blue, but his success at the NFL level is certainly worth honoring at Michigan in some way. If not with a statue, perhaps by naming a part of the football facilities in his name? A plaque?

“You’re synonymous now with Babe Ruth, with Michael Jordan. The university he attended should build a statue,” Harbaugh added.

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.