No. 14 Michigan


A recent CBS Sports survey of anonymous coaches fingered Jim Harbaugh as college football’s most overrated bull-in-the-ring leader. The story got a lot of play in the dog days of August, as you would expect, even though there were plenty of climate deniers on the science.

The survey included only 26 head coaches and 48% of them chose not to answer. Harbaugh took home first prize with 13% of the “vote,” but get a load of this: there was a three-way tie for second at 9% among Nick Saban, Lane Kiffin and Lovie Smith.

Either CBS got “phished” on this or randomly hooked into some of the same guys who awarded Army and Toledo one point each in this year’s preseason USA Today coaches’ poll.

Back to the premise: Is Jim Harbaugh overrated?[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

That’s ridiculous. Loud, pompous, arrogant—yes. A rabble rouser who sticks his nose where it doesn’t belong, oh yeah.

But overrated?

There are a lot of reasons not to like Harbaugh, but coaching isn’t one of them.

The only reason Michigan made this year’s Super 16 is because of Harbaugh. Why else would you put stock in a team that loses 10 starters on defense, six on offense, but also returns a quarterback you wouldn’t confuse with Deshaun Watson.

And one more thing.

“We lost three of our last four,” Harbaugh noted of late 2016 season losses to Iowa, Ohio State and Florida State.

The knock on Harbaugh is that he talks big but hasn’t really won anything, other than an NFC championship. I watch “Hard Knocks” on HBO and winning the conference always seems to be one of the primary goals.

Harbaugh’s track record is more than a record. His MO is taking teams in bad shape and making them better. That’s harder to do but also tougher on your win-loss percentage.

Harbaugh “only” had a “49-27” record at Stanford, which would get you fired from 12 out of 14 SEC schools. Yet, what Harbaugh accomplished at the Farm was one of modern coaching’s great feats.

He took over a 1-11 door mat and built it up, in four seasons, to 12-1.

In his first season, 2007, he pulled off the upset of the century against Pete Carroll and USC.

In 2011, he went to the NFL and turned a 6-10 team to 13-3 in his first year.

Ky Snyder, AD at the University of San Diego, had it right when he hired Harbaugh in December of 2003.

“He has played for and learned from some of the biggest names in college and professional football, and I believe that will transcend into a very long and successful career as a head coach,” the statement read.

Harbaugh was a hit in San Diego, posting consecutive 11-1 seasons before behind called up to Palo Alto.

At Michigan, he took over a team bereft of identity after Rich Rod and Brady Hoke. And has posted consecutive 10-3 seasons.

Yes, he’s 0-2 against Ohio State, but last year’s double-OT gut wrench was the result of a terrible officials’ spot that would have changed that outcome.

Harbaugh’s biggest flaw is that unrelenting energy wears everyone around him out in five years-or less. This is year three in Ann Arbor so Jim’s patience is on the clock.

He’s got a lot of holes to fill, yes, but the talent to do it. The defense loses 10 starters but will rebuild around a beast-recruit in DE Rashan Gary. The offense must get more consistent play from returning quarterback Wilton Speight.

Michigan will be fine as long as Harbaugh is coaching and it’s not year six. A huge opener against Florida, in neutral Texas, looms on Sept. 2. That looks easier now that Florida has suspended seven players for the game. Win that one and it’s a pretty clear run except for at Penn State, at Wisconsin and home for Ohio State.

It could be another overrated 10-3 year for Jim’s rats, leading to another anonymous survey next summer.[/membership]