No. 9 Michigan

Jim Harbaugh, I am convinced, could take a bunch of Muggles and coach them to the Quidditch championship at Hogwarts. But this year, with Ohio State and Penn State looming like Gryffindor and Slytherin—I’ll let you decide which one is which—that’s not the way to bet.

Gould Headshot square

Before taking his team to practice in Rome, Harbaugh said arrivederci to 10 defensive starters, including Heisman finalist Jabrill Peppers. Sophomore DE Rashan Gary seems to have `next’ in the pantheon of Wolverine defensive legends.

Faster than you can say, ``Omaha, Utah, Sword, Gold, Juno,’’ Harbaugh announced that next year’s practice trip will be to Normandy, site of the Allies’ D-Day assault on Nazi Germany.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

I don't expect Michigan to win the fierce Big Ten East. But I do believe that poll of coaches is more over-rated than Harbaugh and, gulp, Nick Saban. Here's what I think was going on there: A mix of jealousy and honesty.

Saban is over-rated in the sense that some people believe he can walk on water. Harbaugh is over-rated in the sense that people like me say he could coach Muggles past Wizards.

I don't really believe that. I think he'd need at least one or two Wizards to beat an All-Wizard team.

I wish those pollsters had asked those anonymous coaches which coach they would least like to see on the opposite sideline. I'm guessing that Harbaugh and Saban would rank highly there, too.

They're excellent coaches. They're also in excellent positions to deliver. Positions they have earned by delivering in the past. Maybe there are better Xs-and-Os guys. Maybe there are better recruiters. Maybe there are better motivators. But all three in the same package? Not many of those out there.

If you want to bet against Harbaugh in some games this fall, OK. But Michigan will win lots of games, too.

Veteran defensive coordinator Don Brown has plenty of ingredients with which to cook up a defense. But the candidates will be sous-chefs learning on the job.

On offense, quarterback Wilton Speight again should be steady at the tiller. And the six new starters on offense gained experience last fall.

The opening game vs. Florida in Texas—do ‘ya think mere NCAA rules changes can keep Harbaugh from gaining exposure in fertile recruiting territory?—will tell a lot.

If the Wolverines pass that test, they still face road trips to Penn State and Wisconsin, plus an Ann Arbor visit by the Buckeye juggernaut.

That said, it will be a good year for Harbaugh. It just won’t be The Year. They'll be OK with Bludgers. But no Golden Snitch in Ann Arbor this fall.[/membership]