College Football Daily Cavalcade: Nebraska might be a cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for when searching for the right head coach.
College Football Daily Cavalcade
Sorry if this take sucks, it’s not my fault …
Like Nebraska in Champaign, it also suffers from a disastrous early mistake along with a devastating fumble at the end of the first half.
At least they didn’t make you buy Pepsi.
I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT.
When Nebraska was down big to Illinois I tweeted out my bad lines about the timing being perfect for yet another Scott Frost contract extension – you know, in a vote of confidence sort of way – and how the Husker woes would probably be blamed on Jim Harbaugh.
And sure enough, like clockwork, out came the twitter comparisons of the Frost era in Lincoln to Harbaugh’s time at Michigan.
As always when I do this, full disclosure, 1) I don’t like Michigan, 2) I have too many dear friends who went to Michigan and whose kids go there, 3) I don’t like them – because, you know, Michigan – and yet 4) I’m the Grand Poobah of the Jim Harbaugh Apologists Club.
The season hasn’t even really started yet and Paul Finebaum already wants Harbaugh fired, everyone else loves to pile on whenever there’s a chance, and you can never, ever go wrong traffic-wise with a Next Michigan Coach list or podcast topic.
Be careful what you wish for when it comes to Harbaugh and Michigan, though. And why?
The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Here’s the one comparison between Frost and Harbaugh that fits – you just know that they’re both going to crush it at their next respective gigs.
It’s like wanting to dump the girlfriend who in every way should be perfect for you, and knowing she’s going to be with someone awesome the second you end it.
Here’s where the comp falls apart. Frost had one amazing season at UCF, and that’s it. Harbaugh came within a pass of winning a Super Bowl and a broken up play of going to another.
Harbaugh – for all of his issues – has won almost 70% of his games at Michigan, has three ten-win seasons and one nine-win campaign in his six.
Is that good enough for a place like Michigan? Of course not, but quick reality check here, the year before he arrived you could get into a Michigan football game if you purchased a can of Coke.
(By the way, try this for an irresponsibly misleading fun stat. Jim Harbaugh is 49-22 in his first 71 games. You know who was also 49-22 in his first 71 games at a school? Dabo.)
The harsh reality is that it’s really hard – and requires a ton of luck – to find a Dabo or a Riley or a Saban, even if you’ve got every advantage going your way.
Just ask Texas. Just ask USC. Just ask Tennessee.
Meanwhile, Nebraska – a former superpower of superpowers – is still trying to pull out of a brutal funk and simply win a college football game again.
Frank Solich won 42 games in his first four seasons at Nebraska, got the team to a national title game, had three top eight finishes, and he was canned after going 16-10 in his final two seasons because the powers-that-be didn’t want Nebraska football to “gravitate into mediocrity.”
Instead, Husker football rocketed there.
Bill Callahan stepped in, went 5-6 in his first year and 27-22 in four seasons. Solich went on to win 115 games at Ohio as one of the greatest head coaches in MAC history.
In came Bo Pelini, who won nine games or more in each of his seven seasons and got the Huskers to three conference championship games. However, he didn’t win the big games – sound familiar? – and things went off the rails late, which led to Mike Riley – a really good guy, but I totally memory dumped his era and had to look it up – who went 19-19, which then led to Frost.
Frost still might work, and stranger turnarounds have happened, but losing at Illinois isn’t a sign that things are going well.
That’s all not to say Nebraska would’ve stayed a killer with Solich, or Pelini, but when a program finds a coach who simply wins, be careful what you wish for when you want all that and a little bit more.
Michigan fans couldn’t wait to get rid of Lloyd Carr – the only Wolverine head coach to win a national title in the last 73 years – and then Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke combined to go 46-42.
So let’s cut to the chase here.
Michigan will go 9-3ish – okay, 8-4 – it’s going to lose to Ohio State, and it’s going to get whacked by some SEC team in a tasteful 2022 bowl game. That won’t be nearly good enough for the college football world, and …
Right now, 2021 Nebraska fans would take that in a heartbeat.