COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jim Harbaugh might not beat Ohio State on Saturday. But he’s already saved Michigan.
After foolish summer pontificating on Harbaugh’s supposed failures, a 10-1 season and No. 4 ranking entering The Game is proof that Michigan got just what it was hoping for when the Wolverines hired Harbaugh in December of 2014 while Ohio State was preparing for its College Football Playoff semifinal against Alabama.
The success is no coincidence.
Michigan hired a great football coach with something more - an inherent love for the program. That’s a formula that has worked more than once in the current Big Ten.
In former coach Rich Rodriguez, Michigan had hired an established winner who never fit. In former coach Brady Hoke, they had hired someone filled with Michigan love and dedication (as a former Michigan assistant) who never grew into the job.
In Harbaugh, the Wolverines found credentials - and a connection.
Like Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, Paul Chryst at Wisconsin, Scott Frost at Nebraska and yes, Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Harbaugh returned to coach at his alma mater. Like the Wildcats, Badgers and Buckeyes, the Wolverines couldn’t be happier. And as Frost finishes his first season at Nebraska, winning four of his last five after an 0-6 start, the Cornhuskers are hoping for just what the Wolverines have gotten in Harbaugh.
A former player who came home and saved them.
“The connection makes it different,” Frost said at Big Ten Media Days this summer before coaching his first game for Nebraska. "My effort wouldn’t be any different. But to be honest with you, Nebraska people are hungry for it, they’re excited for a program they can be proud of, a winning program, something they can relate to and be part of again. There’s some pressure that goes along with that.
"I know how much Nebraska football means to the state of Nebraska, because I was a kid who grew up there. ... I think that kind of intimate knowledge helps you. It helped me because I knew a lot of the things that made Nebraska special. And maybe a coach who wasn’t around here and didn’t know Coach Osborne didn’t see that.
“We know we’re carrying the hopes of Nebraska and we’re going to do the best we can with it.”
Can’t you hear Harbaugh saying the same thing about Michigan, while replacing the nod to legendary coach Tom Osborne with Bo Schembechler? Or hear Fitzgerald say it about Northwestern, or Chryst about Wisconsin - or Meyer about Ohio State and Woody Hayes and Earle Bruce?
Meyer has said those things about Ohio State - he’s said them over and over again.
While Harbaugh, Frost and Chryst all played quarterback at the schools they now coach, and Fitzgerald played linebacker at Northwestern, Meyer was a special teams player during a short undergraduate football career at Cincinnati. But when I mentioned he wasn’t an alum of Ohio State, Meyer quickly pointed out he has a graduate degree from Ohio State.
He is an alum. And just like Jim Tressel, Meyer carries the feelings of an alum as coach of the Buckeyes who grew up in Ohio and grew up on the rivalry.
“It’s a little bit of an overwhelming feeling when you love your state and you love your university,” Meyer said this summer. "And I consider Ohio State our university.
“It’s a lot of responsibility. There is a little extra. I took a job at Utah because we wanted to move out West and I saw great promise, not because of my love for Utah. Now, I ended up loving Utah. But there’s a lot of, I shouldn’t say pressure, but you really feel it when it’s your home school and your home state.”
“I just think from a pride standpoint, there’s no doubt it means more,” said Fitzgerald, who will lead the Wildcats against either the Wolverines or Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship next week.
This story could have been written when Ohio State played Nebraska or played Wisconsin or played Northwestern. But it makes just as much sense now. Winning programs in this conference are led by men who are more than just coaches.
Fitzgerald took over the Wildcats after the death of coach Randy Walker and is 94-69 in 13 seasons.
Chryst took over the Badgers after Gary Andersen unexpectedly bailed for Oregon State and is 51-11 in four seasons.
Meyer took over the Buckeyes after their 6-7 season in 2011, while dealing with some NCAA sanctions from the Tressel era, and the Buckeyes are 83-9 in the seven years since.
Harbaugh found a Michigan program that was 46-42 in the previous seven seasons, and he’s made them 38-12 in the four years since.
Meyer gave his answer to my questions in the context of Frost, who took over a Nebraska team that went 19-19 under Mike Riley for three years. But Harbaugh was in the same spot. Think about where Michigan was while chasing the Buckeyes when Harbaugh took over.
Ohio State was about to finish off a National Championship season that would lift Meyer’s record in his three years with the Buckeyes to 38-3. Over those same three years, Michigan went 20-18.
That’s Buckeyes plus-18 wins in three seasons.
In the last four years, here are the 10 best records by power conference teams:
1. Alabama, 52-3
2. Clemson, 51-4
3. Ohio State, 45-6
4. Oklahoma, 44-7
5. Georgia, 41-11
5. Wisconsin, 41-11
7. Michigan, 38-12
8. Stanford, 37-14
8. Washington, 37-14
That’s Buckeyes, plus-7 wins in four seasons.
Harbaugh brought Michigan back.
“I knew my way around, I knew Ann Arbor really good,” Harbaugh said of coaching at his alma mater. “It’s awesome being around people you’ve known for 30 years, that was different and great.”
Otherwise, Harbaugh referenced the movie “Spinal Tap,” when it comes to coaching at Michigan, asking if he could be more than a 10 out of 10 in his coaching desire, and whether Michigan, as the movie says, is his 11.
“I just poured my heart and soul into it wherever I’ve been,” Harbaugh said, “but maybe at your alma mater, possibly it feels that way a little bit - maybe it’s an 11.”
Maybe it is, like Frost and Fitzgerald and Meyer made clear it is for them.
There’s pressure at a place you love. There’s responsibility. And there’s something else.
“I think it’s more of a positive because your love is so sincere,” Meyer said. “You’re recruiting for a school and place you love.”
In the Big Ten, the alma mater coaches are also winning.
Trey Quinn is Projected to Have a Better Than Expected Week 12
Trey Quinn is Projected to Have a Better Than Expected Week 12
WEEKLY FANTASY VALUE
We are projecting a slightly above average week for Trey Quinn where he is projected to be the #64 wide receiver, slightly under his rest of season ranking of #70. He is projected to beat market expectations where he is the #102 wide receiver based on ownership. From Week 12 to 16, Quinn has 1 weeks that deviate from expectations which is typical of most players. Owners will like the projection that he is not projected for any really bad weeks but is projected for one good one.
|WEEK||FP||RANK||PROJECTION (Bold = Good WK)|
|WK 12 to 16 Totals||29.2||#70||17.2 Rec, 217 Yd, 1.21 Td, 27 Tar, 4 Rushyd, 0.02 Td, 0.19 Fl|
|WK 12 @DAL||4.8||#64||3.1 Rec, 38 Yd, 0.16 Td, 4.4 Tar, 0.73 Rushyd, 0 Td, 0.04 Fl|
|WK 13 @PHI||4.7||#74||2.9 Rec, 35 Yd, 0.18 Td, 4.4 Tar, 0.72 Rushyd, 0 Td, 0.03 Fl|
|WK 14 NYG||5.3||#66||2.9 Rec, 37 Yd, 0.26 Td, 4.6 Tar, 0.64 Rushyd, 0 Td, 0.03 Fl|
|WK 15 @JAC||4.5||#78||2.7 Rec, 33 Yd, 0.19 Td, 4.4 Tar, 0.65 Rushyd, 0 Td, 0.03 Fl|
|WK 16 @TEN||4.7||#75||2.9 Rec, 36 Yd, 0.18 Td, 4.4 Tar, 0.61 Rushyd, 0 Td, 0.03 Fl|
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REST OF SEASON FANTASY VALUE
Trey Quinn owners should hold on to Trey Quinn because he is projected to greatly exceed expectations. Owned in 1% of CBS Fantasy leagues the market ranks him as the #102 wide receiver but his projection based rank is #70 with an average of 4.9 fantasy points per week. With a better than expected projection rank there are other wide receivers you should avoid considering that are projected for fewer points. Kelvin Benjamin (28 FP), Rishard Matthews (10 FP), Pierre Garcon (20 FP), Jermaine Kearse (24 FP), and Martavis Bryant (15 FP) are all worse options. In PPR leagues, Trey Quinn is projected for 7.7 FPs per week and his projected position ranking improves to #67.
|Projected Average per Game||2.9||36.2||0.6||0.2||4.9|
|Actual Avg Since Last Season||3.0||25.0||0.0||0.3||4.5|
PAST FANTASY PERFORMANCE (2018)
Trey Quinn has only played in 3 games this season.
|2018 & Season||FP||REC||RECYD||RECTD||RECTARGET||RUSHYD||RUSHTD||FUML|
|Stats (3 Games)||14||9||75||1||10||0||0||0|
|WR Rank (Averages)||#96||#69||#114||#47||#111||#1||#1||#1|
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