Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett hit a grand slam in being able to lure Jim Harbaugh from the NFL to coach his alma mater. Bovada has an NCAA football prop with UM at 8.5 wins next season, with 'over' at -130 and 'under' at even.
Michigan's Dream Hire
There were three very high-profile jobs open when the college football regular season ended: Florida, Nebraska and Michigan. That's three of the best jobs in the country, no question about it. UF decided on Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain, while the Cornhuskers grabbed Oregon State's Mike Riley. Two solid hires. Probably grade those with a B. Hackett getting Harbaugh is an A+ without question, along the lines of when Alabama was able to get Nick Saban from the Miami Dolphins and Ohio State lured Urban Meyer out of temporary retirement. In many people's minds, Saban, Meyer, the Patriots' Bill Belichick and Harbaugh are the four best football coaches on the planet right now in whatever order.
I personally expected Harbaugh to stay in the NFL because he's so competitive and wanted to win a Super Bowl, which of course his brother John's Baltimore Ravens did two seasons ago against Jim's San Francisco 49ers. But the Harbaughs grew up around the Michigan program. Jim was raised in Ann Arbor when his father worked as one of Bo Schembechler's assistants in the 1970s. Jim was a quarterback under Bo for Michigan in the 1980s, winning Big Ten Player of the Year in 1986 and finishing third in the voting for the Heisman Trophy. Schembechler was huge influence in Jim Harbaugh's life.
That Hackett got Harbaugh for only $5 million a year -- what he was making with the 49ers -- instead of the rumored $8 million annually makes Hackett look even smarter. Harbaugh told Hackett he didn't want to be the highest-paid coach in college football. He also wanted some money freed up to pay his assistants.
Harbaugh already has hired an offensive coordinator. It will be USC offensive line coach Tim Drevno. He spent 10 years as part of Harbaugh’s staffs at the University of San Diego, Stanford and with the 49ers. Harbaugh will still be the guy calling the plays, however. For defensive coordinator, Harbaugh is expected to hire former Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin. He was a defensive assistant for Harbaugh at Stanford in 2007-09 and has been on Florida's staff since. He rose to defensive coordinator two seasons ago under Will Muschamp. McElwain already has hired his own defensive coordinator at UF.
What kind of players will Harbaugh have? We don't know yet from a recruiting standpoint. The Wolverines finished 5-7 this past season under Brady Hoke and they were wretched offensively. Starting quarterback Devin Gardner is gone, but that's not a huge loss as he was turnover-prone. Gardner's former backup, Shane Morris, will be the likely QB unless an incoming freshman (or transfer) beats him out. Leading receiver Devin Funchess has declared for the draft. He caught 62 passes for 733 yards and four scores. Former touted recruit running back Ty Isaac will be eligible next season. He rushed for 236 yards in 2013 as a freshman at USC and then transferred, thus sitting out last year. Michigan has another highly touted recruit in the backfield in Derrick Green. He was off to a solid start in 2014 before suffering a season-ending injury in early October at Rutgers.
Defensively, UM will bring several starters back. Also, arguably the top defensive recruit in the nation last year was Jabrill Peppers. The five-star Peppers was redshirted by Hoke. Peppers had been hampered by injuries. He was the highest-rated Rivals recruit UM has signed since the founding of Rivals in 2002 and has major star potential. The biggest defensive loss is senior linebacker Jake Ryan. He was the team MVP this past season, a Butkus Award finalist and first-team All-Big Ten.
As for the schedule. Michigan opens Sept. 3 at Utah. Think that Harbaugh debut game might get decent TV ratings? The Utes won 26-10 in Ann Arbor on Sept. 20. Also out of conference, Michigan hosts Oregon State (now led by former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen), UNLV and BYU. Winning in Salt Lake City will be a challenge, but the Wolverines will be favored in those three home games. The conference schedule is as follows: at Maryland, vs. Northwestern, vs. Michigan State, bye week, at Minnesota, vs. Rutgers, at Indiana, at Penn State vs. Ohio State. Getting the Spartans and Buckeyes in Ann Arbor helps. So does missing Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska from the Big Ten West.
NCAAF Free Pick: 'Under' 8.5 wins on college football odds. The total is only regular-season games, no conference title game or bowl. Expect Michigan to win the three non-conference home games, along with beating Northwestern, Rutgers and Indiana. Maybe you could squeeze Minnesota in there, but I don't see how you get more than eight wins.