#B1GCoachRank: No. 3 Jim Harbaugh
Ranking coaches in the B1G can be a pretty easy task. It’s easy to place a number beside a guy, failing to give any reasoning behind his placement on a “power rankings,” list.
At Saturday Tradition, though, we don’t want to just give you the rankings. We want to provide you with a detailed description of each head coach and why he’s ranked in his selected spot.
This was a practice that was kicked up from the ground last year and, since there’s still several months until football season gets underway, it’s worth revisiting. So, let’s continue our 2017 #B1GCoachRank:
Coach: No. 3 Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)
Record: 29-21 (Stanford), 20-6 (Michigan)
Record vs. top 25: 6-6 (Stanford), 4-4 (Michigan)
Where team was when he was hired: Michigan had essentially become a program trying to keep afloat after the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras. Sure, there was still talent pouring into Ann Arbor – Hoke brought had two recruiting classes ranked in 247Sports’ top 10 – but the talent wasn’t translating to wins.
That’s when the fan base started to show its ugly side.
Following an 11-2 mark in his first year in 2011, Hoke struggled to put a consistent winner on the field. The Wolverines went 8-5, 7-6 and 5-7 in the next three seasons. They weren’t a B1G contender and were falling out of the national spotlight fast. Ultimately, it led to Hoke’s firing and athletic director Dave Brandon lost his position, as well.
Harbaugh’s arrival was well-received and everyone believed this his presence would be monumental in restoring the pride and tradition in Michigan football. It’s safe to say that he’s put Michigan back on college football’s major stage in just two short years.
Biggest win: Oct. 1, 2016 vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
Just the second week of B1G play in the season, a heavyweight bout between a pair of top 10 teams was set to take shape. Both Wisconsin and Michigan were unbeaten heading into the matchup and it was a chance for both programs to get a marquee win on its potential College Football Playoff resume.
With the score knotted 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, Michigan was able to find the end zone as Wilton Speight connected with Amara Darboh for a 46-yard touchdown pass with under eight minutes to play. The Wolverines’ second touchdown of the game was enough to secure the victory, taking down the Badgers 14-7.
Michigan improved to 5-0 after the game and looked the role as a B1G contender. After the monumental win, Wilton Speight said the locker room was as loud and excited as he’d ever seen.
Most embarrassing loss: Nov. 26, 2016 at No. 2 Ohio State
There aren’t many losses during Harbaugh’s tw0-year run that can be labeled “embarrassing.” But considering what was at stake for the Wolverines last year – not to mention blowing a 10-point lead – the season finale against Ohio State has to be one that still makes Michigan fans cringe.
Michigan held a 17-7 lead in the third quarter against the Buckeyes in Columbus. While both offenses struggled, the Wolverines defense was relentless and looked like it had completely shut down J.T. Barrett, Mike Weber and the Ohio State offense.
Thanks to some poor play calling late in the game, the Buckeyes were able to wiggle back into the contest and tie things up with a Tyler Durbin field goal to send this one to overtime. In double-overtime, Michigan was able to get a field goal from Kenny Allen, but a 15-yard touchdown run from Curtis Samuel capped a come-from-behind win for Ohio State and shattered Michigan’s hopes of a B1G title or a College Football Playoff berth.
Sure, there were some question calls down the stretch that irked Harbaugh, but it was an ultra-conservative offensive strategy late in the game that cost Michigan a B1G East title and a chance to play for a conference championship.
Best recruiting class: 2017Both of Harbaugh’s classes have been remarkable, each ranking in the top six nationally, according to 247Sports. But his most recent class is most certainly the best.
Harbaugh landed five-star commitments from defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones. He also signed 19 four-star prospects in his 30-man class. Overall, the Wolverines ranked fifth nationally and second in the B1G.
Solomon and Peoples-Jones are expected to see playing time relatively quickly, but Cesar Ruiz, Ambry Thomas, Drew Singleton and Luiji Vilain are just a few other names that might be contributors early in their career. It’s a class filled with its share of home-grown talent – eight incoming freshman hail from Michigan – but Harbaugh was able to pluck some pretty good talent out of Ohio and Connecticut, too.
It’ll be fun to see what the 2016 and 2017 class can do as they continue to develop over the next few years.
What could get him fired: Being so high on this list, you wouldn’t expect there to be much that could get Harbaugh fired. After all, he has resurrected a program in relatively short amount of time. That’s probably true. Nobody is going to be calling for Harbaugh’s job at the end of the year, except maybe former NFL running back Brandon Jacobs.
But there is a scenario in which things might get somewhat interesting. After back-to-back 10-win seasons, if Michigan falls short of that mark in 2017 and loses to Ohio State again – which would be 0-3 for Harbaugh – would the seat be a little warmer for the “Michigan Man” heading into 2018? Maybe, maybe not.
For now, though, Harbaugh has restored pride in the program, has brought in top 10 recruiting classes and has Michigan competing for B1G titles and College Football Playoff berths. He’s safe for now.
Why he’s at No. 3: Harbaugh has made his mark early at Michigan. So quickly, Harbaugh has rescued a program that was sliding down hill at an alarming rate and has molded it into a regular contender. In his first two years, the Wolverines won 10 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003. They’ve come close to claiming a B1G East title and competing for a conference championship.
To do everything he’s done so abruptly is rather impressive. Not to mention his success in recruiting and his popularity in the media.
Say what you will about Harbaugh and his personal quirks, the man knows how to coach football. He took a 5-7 team and turned it into a 10-win club. Fans have faith in the program once again and Michigan is headed in a positive direction. He’s been the breath of fresh air that Ann Arbor has needed.
No. 3 Jim Harbaugh (Michigan)
No. 2 TBA