With both Jim Harbaugh and Urban Meyer in place for the foreseeable future, what does Big Ten football have in store for fans?
It’s just beginning. Over a decade of dominance for the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Michigan Wolverines took a step in the right direction, hiring Jim Harbaugh in December of 2014. Big Ten football will feel the wrath of the two programs for years to come.
Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were regressing by the year, going from 11 wins in 2011 to just five in 2014. “Hoke-amania” was gone as quickly as it flashed onto the scene.
With the program in shambles, under Michigan’s standards, there was really only one direction to turn following the bowl-less 2014 campaign. Harbaugh was at the end of his reign with the San Francisco 49ers and it was the perfect opportunity for the Wolverines to hire a ‘Michigan man’ who played quarterback under legendary coach Bo Schembechler.
What better way to turn a program around and bring back its winning ways than to add a Schembechler-molded man who had been successful at both Stanford and in the NFL.
Year One was an overwhelming success. Harbaugh not only led the Wolverines to their first 10-win season since 2011, but he also began his trek toward immortality with one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, headlined by the No. 1 overall prospect, Rashan Gary.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Urban Meyer is always one step ahead. Putting together constant No. 2 classes, nationally, and he has an incredible 50-4 overall record in four seasons with the Buckeyes and one national championship.
Both coaches are setting the rivalry up to be epic once again, but that doesn’t mean the Harbaugh-Meyer storyline will be prevalent for very long.
Why do I say this? Well, it’s easy to find elite coaches who want to lead these programs when there is immense talent in place — which is present for both due to top-notch recruiting — and the Wolverines and Buckeyes will be two parts of the conference’s ‘Big 3’ for quite some time.
However, I don’t expect these two coaches to stick around for much longer. Meyer seems built more for the college level while Harbaugh will always have one eye on the NFL. Failure is not part of his vocabulary so not winning a Super Bowl had to seem like just that for the former Michigan quarterback. Leaving the 49ers without a ring and losing to his brother, John, and the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVIII left a bad taste in Jim’s mouth.
Repeating himself like a broken record, Harbaugh has made it clear he doesn’t plan to leave Michigan anytime soon. Key word there is ‘plan.’ While he might not be planning on leaving, due to no offers at the moment, there’s a good chance the right deal may his mind.
Harbaugh will always be an NFL coach to me because of all the success he had at that level, going 44-19-1 with two division titles, three trips to the NFC Championship Game and one Super Bowl appearance. That kind of success in four seasons will leave any coach hungry for more.
Meyer, however, will likely be around for 5-10 more years. He retired once due to health concerns after talking it over with his family, and there’s a chance those could arise once again if he’s not careful. Taking care of his health is a top priority, but he will be in the running for a few more national crowns, at least.
The first matchup between Harbaugh’s Wolverines and Meyer’s Buckeyes took place on November 28, 2015, in Ann Arbor. The Buckeyes, coming off their first loss of the season at home to Michigan State, were hoping a blowout win would jump them back into the College Football Playoff discussion.
No. 10 Michigan, though, was hoping to upend the eighth-ranked Buckeyes at the Big House and take back the rivalry that they led 58-46-6 all time. A halftime score of 14-10 gave hope to all Michigan fans in attendance. This new era was off to a better start than imagined, on the verge of regular season win No. 10 and a potential New Year’s Six Bowl.
Two quarters later, the Buckeyes were walking off the field spouting the Buckeye Battle Cry after a 42-13 stomping of their hated rival. The Big House was silent and nearly cleared of Wolverines fans. Still, hope was evident. For 30 minutes, Michigan fans believed again. Harbaugh has brought back life to the program which seemed dead not too long ago and a top-five recruiting class in 2016 means only a brighter future.
Meyer will still put together top recruiting classes and the two teams will go at it every November like heavyweight prizefighters. College football is no longer about the SEC, but rather the Big Ten’s two traditional heavyweights, thanks to a resurgence due to perfect coaching hires.
Michigan and Ohio State no longer have to hide in the shadows of SEC rivalries as the matchup is now back to being ‘The Game’ instead of ‘Just Another Game.’
Harbaugh and Meyer won’t last the decade against each other due to better opportunities at the next level and/or potential retirement, but the effects of their hard work, dedication, and hatred for one another will be positive and long-lasting.
Don’t look now, college football, the Big Ten is about to be ‘big brother’ once again.