Wanted: Jim Harbaugh
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Stanford, 40, Virginia Tech 12. With their convincing win over the Hokies of VT in the Orange Bowl, Stanford and Head Coach Jim Harbaugh proved they are a true, legit top-5 team this season. The Cardinal were a well-oiled machine in 2010, and this was due to the attention to detail provided by Harbaugh. Now, the coach who just turned in the best season in school history will be courted by other teams in other cities in another league. The NFL is calling from a couple of different angles for this talented coach. But the NFL isn't the only place you will find his name swirling around. Even without an opening for the head coach position at this time, some feel Michigan - Harbaugh's alma mater - may also be calling his name.
Stanford owned this game. Up 19-12 in the third quarter, Tech was driving to tie the game up. But that is when Delano Howell intercepted a Tyrod Taylor pass deep in Stanford territory. On the very next play, Stepfan Taylor sprinted 56 yards. One more play and the game was blown open as Luck hit Coby Fleener from 41 yards for the touchdown that was a kick in the stomach to Tech. Instead of a tie game, Stanford was now up 14 and you could visibly see VT throw in the towel.
Luck finished 18 of 23 for 287 yards and four touchdowns. His counterpart for VT, Tyrod Taylor, was 16 of 21 for 222 yards and one touchdown. Each was picked off once.
For Tech, true national respect on the elite level still awaits. Year after year after year, the Hokies are a top-15 caliber team. And though the media tends to throw VT into the top five from time to time, the Hokies have yet to have that season - or even that huge win - to show America that Blacksburg is the home of elite college football. They opened and closed the year on Monday night on national TV with losses to teams from another region of the country.
Stanford, meanwhile, is the total opposite of VT in recent history. While VT has been a top 25 regular for 15 years, the Cardinal have done very little in the college football world. Then, bam, out of nowhere, Harbaugh comes in and makes them a nationally respected program. Two years in a row they have had a Heisman finalist, and now they have a BCS win.
Harbaugh played his college ball at Michigan under Bo Schembechler before being drafted in the first round. He played 14 NFL seasons. Though most of his career was with the Bears and Colts, he skipped around near the end of his career. He then coached for three years in the Pioneer football league (the what?), going 29-6. He was hired by Stanford in 2007 and has improved the win total every season, reaching twelve in 2010.
Harbaugh's teams aren't finesse teams that try to fool you (although they seem to do a good job of that). They run the ball first. They line up with a fullback and a tight end and they run it. It isn't hard to figure out what is coming, you just have to stop it. But it can't be stopped. Why? Because Harbaugh used Andrew Luck to perfection, creating a passing game that was simple enough to make teams respect it. Luck used the run game first, but picked apart teams who stacked the line. Basic football.
Harbaugh has two main suitors from the NFL: the 49ers and the Broncos. That said, there are surely lots of NFL teams that wouldn't mind having him.
And while I think there is a very good chance that he does indeed go to the NFL, there is also this little drama going on where he played his college ball: Michigan.
The Wolverines are not good. Yes, Denard Robinson at QB shows hope, and the talent is always going to be strong, overall. But as far as team chemistry goes, UM might as well have the GOP and the Dems trying to put together a gameplan without argument. On top of that, it is no secret that the Michigan fan base - for the most part - cannot stand this guy. Many think that he will be let go by the brass in Ann Arbor this week, though nothing has happened yet. Mississippi State just beat Michigan 52-14 to see UM finish 7-6 for the season.
Basically, the Rich Rod/University of Michigan marriage has just not worked. Plain and simple.
I am certainly not a Michigan fan and have no ties to the school. But if I did bleed maize and blue, then I would be down on both knees right now asking the good man in the sky to please deliver Harbaugh to the Big House, and the land where he was raised. You see, Harbaugh also played his high school ball in Ann Arbor within view of that hallowed stadium.
Honestly, I would like to see him go to Michigan. I think it would be good for college football to have the Wolverines back making noise again. And they certainly would with this man at the helm. He is a mean S.O.B. when he needs to be, and is an intimidating figure. He has won many a games in his own playing career, and with his grizzled face, he is a person folks listen to.
The one option that has not been discussed is that Harbaugh could stay at Stanford. As carzy and insane as that sounds, it is still a possibilty. But I think we all know that this Cardinal is about to take flight. Where he lands will be one of the better stories to keep up with in the coming days and weeks. Chances are he goes to the NFL, but nothing is set in stone at this point.
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