Luke Fickell has earned all the accolades coming from his impressive start to the season, which is why the Cincinnati head coach being linked to the likes of Michigan shouldn’t be a surprise.

In fact, it makes a ton of sense.

With Michigan floundering at 1-1 following a 27-24 loss to Michigan State this past Saturday, the Jim Harbaugh era is under scrutiny. Fickell is this year’s hot coach, seemingly ready to make the jump to a ‘Power Five’ program.

At 5-0, Cincinnati is at No. 5 in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll.  And while they haven’t exactly played a murder’s row in terms of strength of schedule, they’ve still been impressive in beating a ranked Army as well as SMU. This year has been the culmination of the Bearcats growth under Fickell.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed by the likes of ESPN’s Paul Finebaum, as influential of a voice as there is in college football.

“I can think of somebody who’s not that far away and really has impressed me this year and really has done one of the most phenomenal jobs in college football,” Finebaum said this week in an appearance on ESPN’s ‘Jalen & Jacoby’ program. “That’s Luke Fickell.”

Finebaum pinning Fickell as a candidate to replace Harbaugh makes sense on multiple levels.

Fickell has an intricate understanding of the Big Ten, having been an assistant at Ohio State from 2002 through the 2016 season, a span that includes the 2011 season when he was the program’s interim head coach. He also has a track record at Cincinnati, rebounding from a tough first 2017 season with the Bearcats to post double-digit win totals the past two seasons and consecutive bowl wins.

This year’s hot start and top 10 tanking is no fluke certainly.

A knowledge of the Midwest recruiting landscape, including the state of Ohio, could be a big selling point for a Fickell candidacy to land in Ann Arbor. Michigan has always cherry-picked top talent from Ohio over the years.

In their last recruiting class, the Wolverines didn’t land a single player from Ohio. This year, they have a single commit from the state for their 2021 class. Fickell, who has recruited Ohio extremely well over the years both as an assistant with the Buckeyes and now manning the Cincinnati program, could re-open an extremely important pipeline for the Wolverines.

And as important as recruiting Ohio could be for Michigan moving forward, so too could Fickell’s insight into the Buckeyes recent success over Michigan in their storied rivalry.

Since 2002, Michigan has beaten Ohio State just twice. For the Wolverines, it might be a case of if you can’t beat them, steal one of their top coaching products. Even if that coach is now with Cincinnati.