Begrudgingly picking Michigan in spite of overrated Harbaugh
Ugh. I hate taking the side of Jim Harbaugh, the most overrated coach in college football, on just about anything.
But I will here, based on some simple facts and personal assumptions.
Michigan, No. 5 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, has a strong mathematical chance to make the field this season. I don’t believe the Wolverines will make it because I think they’ll lose at Ohio State on Nov. 24, but they certainly could win that game and subsequently get in.
Penn State, on the other hand, has no chance to make it this year.
So, let’s go to next season.
If you’ve read my columns at all recently, you know I’m of the opinion that PSU will have a dropoff in the post-Trace McSorley era. He’s an awesome college quarterback, and until Tommy Stevens proves he can do any of the stuff that McSorley can do or be as clutch, then I’m going to have my doubts about the Nittany Lions next year.
They also have to play at Ohio State next season, and any time that’s the case, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Lions to win the Big Ten East or conference title, let alone get into the CFP.
Oh, and Joe Moorhead isn’t coming back, nor is Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton. So there are no guarantees we’re ever going to see the tremendous offense that Penn State played in 2016 and 2017, and that explosive offense, more than anything else, was what got PSU on the cusp of the CFP the past two years.
Even if Michigan doesn’t get into the CFP this season, it will have a strong chance to do so next year.
First, Ohio State has to go to Michigan next season, so that’s to the Wolverines’ advantage. They have only two tough road games — at Wisconsin and at Penn State — but I think both of those teams will be a little down. They also play Notre Dame, and that game’s at home.
So the schedule is favorable enough, if Michigan can take advantage of it.
The Wolverines also will have their quarterback, Shea Patterson, back next year. That should be a major factor.
I say should be because I don’t really believe Harbaugh’s offensive philosophy is good enough to achieve great success in modern college football. He still prefers old-school Big Ten football, keeping things conservative and low-scoring games.
He still thinks it’s 1997 (the last time Michigan won a national title) and that those philosophies can still win a championship.
They can’t. Not today. You’ve got to open things up offensively and be able to score a bunch of points on anybody.
If Harbaugh figures that out this year or next, he has the quarterback in Patterson to put up big point totals. And the rest of the Wolverines’ team is good enough to get to the CFP.
Harbaugh just has to get out of the way, in a lot of regards, and let his talented players show their talents. If he does, then Michigan has a much better chance to reach the CFP over the next 14 months than Penn State.
Beyond that is anybody’s guess.
Cory Giger can be reached at email@example.com.