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Mailbag: Harbaugh is Over-Rated?

Mailbag Ponders Coaching Changes, Bowls, and Harbaugh

NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State
Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s your mailbag for December 13, 2016...

Q: Is Jim Harbaugh overrated? - ICEICETHATGUY13

Stew: No

DJ: No

Candystripes: Maybe, but he’s still delivered double digit wins, so if his ceiling is just “really good coach” instead of “national champion”, that’s pretty OK. Or at least, it would be for places that aren’t Michigan.

BRT: I don’t know. What’s he rated? My inclination is to say no, he’s not. He’s an obnoxious person by every appearance, but he appears to be a good coach and recruiter. Anyone can lose to Iowa, IMO. ;)

Aaron: He took over a team that won five games and went on to win nine regular season games during his first year and now 10 regular season games during his second year. Harbaugh was a couple of plays away from going undefeated in 2016. I’d say he’s still an excellent football coach. Just wait to see what he can do at Michigan when he gets his hands on a great quarterback.

GF: I would say, properly rated. Lots of great coaching moves in his past (and at Michigan)...lots of erratic personality things also. You know he’s going to coach up QBs. You know he’s going to be combative. You know your team is going to improve under his watch. Not much hidden here. If he sticks around Michigan for a bit, we might get an actual longer study as to how his offenses evolve, if he’s able to retain assistants or react to losing assistants to other jobs…

Zuzu: No, I think he is an excellent coach, but is easily disliked. When people dislike someone who is skilled, it’s very easy to try and throw around the word “overrated” hoping that it sticks. Some may say yes, but I do not.

GF3: Nope. Michigan just expects too much.

Townie: I’m going against the tide to say yes. Until he can beat everybody and play for a natty, he’s over-rated. He’s the September heisman of the B1G. All talk, right now. When he pulls an Urban and plays for back to back natty’s, I’ll take this back. RIght now, he’s a big mouth who can’t get it done.

Q: Most obnoxious fanbase on OTE? - EastLosRandy

  • 2013 MSU
  • 2015 Iowa (also consider this your "Pete Mote" option)
  • 2016 PSU
  • Surprise write-in candidate of your choice.

Stew: 2013 MSU

BRT: I want to say Iowa with all my heart, but really, I think it was 2013 MSU. This is for a couple of reasons: first, loudness of trolls. Donald Trump couldn’t out-shout a lot of those guys. Second, the ratio of terrible trolls to good posters was not in MSU’s favor. Relatively few good MSU posters were established here compared to the flood of crazy that arrived with the advent of the all-galaxy defense. Iowa and PSU are lucky enough to have quite a few sane posters to counteract the more embarrassing elements of the fanbase.

WSR: You’re all my favorite jerks.

Graham: I think Penn State should get a shout-out for being relatively restrained in 2016, and so the fact that OTE wasn’t taken over as part of a bloodless coup in the name of PSU fans upset over being left out of the a good thing and reflects well on our PSU readers.

Zuzu: Wasn’t here for 2013 MSU. I’m going to say 2016 PSU? Idk. Deep down, I don’t actually hate this because I hope that in the next decade Rutgers has a year where we swarm OTE saying things like, “THE GIANT HAS AWOKEN, RU RAH RAH.”

Townie: Man, it’s hard for me not to say Iowa 2015, thanks to the Long Legend diatribe. That one guy who kept saying…”It was medically impossible for him to play, but he played!” But the Spartans of 2013 were something special. And so many of the really loud ones are long gone.

Q: If 2015 Iowa and 2016 Penn State played, how many points would 2015 Iowa win by? -MarylandPrideinMA

Stew: Eleventeen

BRT: Penn State would win.

babaoreally: Is this being played in 2015 or 2016? It really depends on whether or not Ferentz has signed that extension before this game.

GF: Why do you wish to see OTE burn? What did we do to you?

Zuzu: Given how Stanford rolled over Iowa, I’m going to say 2015 Iowa wasn’t actually that great, and I think 2016 Penn State is a solid team and would have no problem beating Iowa. Sorry.

Aaron: The closest thing we have to that game is 2016 Penn State vs. 2016 Iowa, and Penn State won that game by a lot. I don’t think 2015 Iowa was different enough from 2016 Iowa to make up the difference.

DJ: This pains me but Penn State would win. The closest thing we saw was Penn State vs Wisconsin this year and we know how that went.

GF3: Either way the world loses.

Townie: /long suffering sigh.

Q: With the firing of Wilson and Hazell and infinite extension of Ferentz, who is on the hot seat next year and what record will force them out? Which head coach is at most risk of jumping for another job (NFL or other college)? GTom

MNW: It’s gotta be Tracy Claeys, doesn’t it? No one in the East is going anywhere unless Harbaugh jumps ship or Chris Ash puts up another 2-10 season while taking a whole month away from scoring. In the West, you’ve got...Lovie (who is my pick for jumping to the NFL), Ferentz, Chryst (nope), Fitz (lolno), Riley (has time), Brohm. That leaves Claeys.

And on that level, what do we think the Big Hotdish would have to do to get the ax? (Heh, sorry Minnesotans, that’s a sore subject.) He turned in a completely nondescript 8-4 season and failed to bring home a single rivalry trophy, and yet Minnesota’s in good-not-great bowl with a chance to run it to 9 wins for what, the fifth time in school history? Say what you will about the schedule, but what more can that program ask for?

Now, if Minnesota has more off-field problems or it turns out Claeys is a Mangino-level asshole, perhaps that’s the death knell. But I feel like he’s on the hot seat and I don’t know whether he deserves to be.

Stew: Claeys is an almost slam dunk to get canned, I think. The schedule gets significantly harder, and if he goes 6-6 with losses to Iowa and WI, he’s gone. Shout out to Riley, who I doubt gets fired, but is a decent longshot bet to get canned if he goes 7-5ish.

BRT: Maybe no one is on the hot seat, at least to start? That’s a possible scenario, isn’t it? I think Franklin would leave for greener pastures if given the chance, which would not be hilarious at all.

WSR: It’s Claeys, assuming he makes it to next season.

Graham: Great question. Very few are coaching with a heated seat next year, but let’s talk about Dantonio if we can, because MSU is in da//////////run over by mob of angry Spartans.

Zuzu: Hot seat is Claeys. Harbaugh is the most NFL jump ready. Methinks Lovie may want to bounce too.

Aaron: Claeys will get the most hot seat hype in the preseason, but maybe Dantonio starts to feel a little warm if Sparty doesn’t bounce back immediately? It wouldn’t make sense given the amount of success he’s had in East Lansing, but the hot seat stuff never makes sense. It would be fun to see James Franklin turn heel and leave after winning the Big Ten title, but Harbaugh and Lovie are more realistic options to bolt given their long NFL histories. Of course, we can’t rule out Paul Chryst because Wisconsin.

DJ: Claeys and if I have to pick another coach it would be Lovie because the recruiting looks awful in his first full cycle of it. It’s not going to be better next year, Illini fans.

Townie: I have to agree with Graham here. Mark Dantonio came in with a load of returning talent and turned in a 3 win season? What in actual fuck was that? If there is a hot seat in the B1G, it isn’t Tracy Claeys, but Mark Dantonio.

Q: Are the only Ohio State losses that ever matter those that occur to Michigan? - M1EK

MNW: It’s been so long I don’t remember how I felt when Ohio State lost to Michigan.

Candystripes: I’m pretty sure “the darkest day in the history of Ohio State football” wasn’t a Michigan loss.

BRT: Who else have they lost to recently?

Stew: #Disrespekt

Zuzu: I don’t think Ohio State fans can hear your question over the sound of the Playoffs.

GF3: Or over the sound of PSU little brothering.

DJ: When is the last time Ohio State lost to Michigan?

Townie: Ha ha ha ha...Harbaugh hasn’t beaten them yet.

Q: The B1G has hired NINE new head coaches since 2015. How many of them will still be at their respective universities in two years? - rzor

  • Illinois Lovie Smith 2016
  • Indiana Tom Allen 2017
  • Maryland D.J. Durkin 2016
  • Michigan Jim Harbaugh 2015
  • Minnesota Tracy Claeys 2015
  • Nebraska Mike Riley 2015
  • Purdue Jeff Brohm 2017
  • Rutgers Chris Ash 2016
  • Wisconsin Paul Chryst 2015

MNW: Tom Allen, DJ Durkin, Harbaugh, Riley, Brohm, Ash, and Chryst.

So that’s Lovie (who will get fed up and go back to the NFL as a DC or something to get away from the suck that is Chambana) and Claeys (who gets fired after back-to-back mediocre seasons when Minnesota decides it’s something other than a mediocre program).

BRT: I think I agree exactly with MNW. Most of them are too new to get fired in two years, or not quite bad enough.

babaoreally: 7

Stew: Claeys is gone for sure. Ash, Durkin, Allen, and Brohm are still too new to fire, and not successful enough to move on, yet. Chryst isn’t going anywhere. I think Smith wants out, but I doubt IL fires him that soon. I think MI does whatever it takes to keep Harbaugh. Which leaves Riley. I think UNL really wants to like Riley, and really doesn’t want to fire him. I also don’t think he’s going to be getting them to 10 regular season wins any time soon. If after 4 years he has a worse record than Pelini? Could be a close call.

Zuzu: 6. The three out are Claeys.Harbaugh, and Lovie.

Aaron: Six. Allen, Claeys, and Riley will be out.

DJ: 7, Claeys and Lovie are gone.

GF3: 4.

Townie: I’d be shocked if we lose more than one or two next year. The one I’d figure is Lovie Smith. His team is bad and he doesn’t look like he’s having fun.

Q: Excluding the caliber of the game, what's your favorite bowl site to travel to? - Jon Ross

MNW: I was in the Northwestern band, and through both that and my last two trips to Jacksonville and Tampa, I will say Tampa based on my lived experiences (because the other options are Dallas and Houston, which...ugh).

Tampa and the Outback Bowl roll out the goddamn carpet for visiting fans. The day at Clearwater is amazing, parades through Ybor fucking rock, there’s New Year’s Eve in Tampa, Treasure Island was wonderful, St. Pete is underrated for food, and the Tampa beer is delicious.

Just don’t go when you might have to interact with Tennessee fans.

BRT: I haven’t gone to many bowl games: the Orange Bowl for the 1997 season when the one true champion team was crowned, 1999 Fiesta Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl, and the Dallas playoff game last year. I liked going to the Orange Bowl, but that’s because we went to Disney World before, and that was awesome, and is also not in Miami, so that doesn’t really count. I don’t know. I probably had the best time in Dallas (definitely game notwithstanding), but that’s also the only one I’ve attended as an adult, which makes a difference in city and bowl game experience.

WSR: Oh, It’s El Paso. When you could wander across the border to Juarez and live like a depraved King for next to nothing, El Paso was the best bowl location of them all assuming you didn’t end up a guest of the Federales.

Zuzu: My freshman year Rutgers went to the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, the band attended, and I got to ride roller coasters and see Harry Potter world and Jurassic Park dinosaurs at Universal Studios... Orlando was GREAT! Also, I actually really enjoyed the Quick Lane Bowl and thought Detroit was pretty cool. Pinstripe Bowl was meh, but that’s what happens when NYC is your second home. I hope to add more bowl venus to the list.

DJ: The only bowl I’ve traveled is the Military Bowl in Annapolis so I have nothing else to compare to.

GF3: Not the Retiree Filing Cabinet of Glendale that's for sure.

Townie: I went to four bowls, all in Florida: Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, and Tampa. For my money, I’ll take the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. It’s setup to handle tourists, lots of great bars and restaurants to go to. And there are plenty of hotels to handle the crowd. The downside is the lack of a beach.

Q: Are 8 teams the right number for the CFP? - verbosedutch

MNW: I want it to be 6, with byes for the top two teams, just to really piss people off. Think about it: You get all five champions, there’s a reward for the best two conference champions, and a sixth CHAOSTEAM in there would likely cause multiple meltdowns and I love that.

BRT: You know, I actually don’t care. I’m unlikely to see my team in them, whether there are four, or eight, or sixteen. Well, maybe if there are sixteen. But there won’t be.

babaoreally: The correct number is zero. Let's go back to having random people decide who is champion, rather than having random people decide who gets to play for the championship.

Graham: 4. 4 is perfect.

Stew: 0 is the perfect number. OLD BOWL SYSTEM!!

Zuzu: 4. Ha ha, 5th team.

Aaron: Yeah, eight is good. Get all the conference champs in there and hand out some at-large bids to underdogs.

DJ: I actually love MNWildcat’s suggestion, let’s go with that.

GF3: 4 unless you wanna shorten the regular season. College ball isn't built for 16 games.

Townie: Quit fucking changing stuff. I’m old. I don’t like change. Cut it out.

Q: Age old question, seems relevant again, if you have to get blown out, would you rather get blown out in the CFP playoffs or in the Rose Bowl? - Abbas_Cincinnatus

MNW: This is not a relevant question to someone of my fandom.

Candystripes: Ditto.

DJ: Copy that.

BRT: Playoffs, I guess? Getting blown out in the Rose Bowl would suck as much as getting blown out in any other bowl game.

WSR: Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl. I don’t care if we get Iowa’d, I want to go to the Rose Bowl.

Graham: There is something Midwestern and noble in getting crushed in the Rose Bowl. “Yeah it was 0-38 but the parade was something else!” “Hey, Bo Schembechler had a losing record in the Rose Bowl too!”


Zuzu: Winning bowl games just makes your season feel so complete... I’d rather get blown out in the Playoffs because hey, you made it to the Playoffs.

Townie: /reads first three answers. Injures self laughing hysterically. The answer is the playoff for sure. You never want to show your ass in the Rose Bowl against the Pac 10, dammit.

Q: What is your favorite Christmas song, and why is it "All I Want for Christmas"? Bagels are for champions

MNW: I assume you’re talking about the Mariah Carey version, which causes the crack in my windshield to widen each time it comes on. That is a very good song, it’s true.

But my favorite, for which I am competely unapologetic, is the Barenaked Ladies’ rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings.”

It is delightful singing and I play it so much that my girlfriend threatens to take away my music playing privileges every time but then has to admit that it’s still a REALLY GOOD CHRISTMAS SONG. Not even Sarah McLachlan coming in and making me think of that ad with the abused animals can ruin it for me. It’s so goddamn good.

If I’m in more of a “I’m alone in my car and totally want to fail to do an amazing song justice,” though, it’s Josh Groban’s “O Holy Night.” Shit that man can sing.

Candystripes: That’s a weird way of spelling Straight No Chaser’s 12 Days of Christmas (

), Bagels.

BRT: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is almost always good, no matter who is singing it. I also like “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” “O Holy Night” is a great one too, I agree with MNW. I guess I like the slightly more serious songs. It also helps that these tend to not get quite as overplayed as some of the other “standards.” Oh, and the Nutcracker Suite, especially the criminally underrated “Arabian Dance.” And I also have an somewhat embarrassing love for Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” No, I don’t care that you hate that song.

WSR: Christmas In Hollis.

The Original GF: Oh, Mariah. My favorite vaguely recent Boy Band song is 98 Degrees “This Gift”. Really a great pop song.

Stew: I have a soft spot in my heart for Handel's Messiah. When I was going to Luther during the weekend of the Christmas at Luther concerts there was also a performance of the entirety of the Messiah. It was open to all students and alumni. It was so big that the performers often outnumbered the audience by more than 2:1. It was quite the experience with a choir of ~2000.

Zuzu: I despise Christmas music and the Holiday Season because all it feels like is me living in some fantasy nightmare where everything is the same every day I wake up. NOTHING CHANGES ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS AAAHHHH! However, I’m partial to the instrumental version of Sleigh Ride only because of the musicality.

Aaron: Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song is my favorite Christmas song.

GF3: I Saw Three Ships.

Townie: TIL GF3 likes navy christmas carols. I’m a fan of instrumentals. If we’re making cookies, you’ll hear Carol of the Bells and Christmas Canon performed by George Winston. If we’re just hanging out, we’re probably listening to the original Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.

Q: What is the worst Christmas song and why is it “Christmas Shoes”? - Boilerman31

MNW: That one is fucking terrible, you are absolutely right. Might I add two options for your consideration, though?

  1. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas”. That song is fucking trash and whenever someone plays it I burn whatever presents I’d bought for them.
  2. Anything featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks. That shit is so bad.

BRT: That one is terrible, but “Wonderful Christmastime” is the worst. Worst worst worst. The biggest abomination in a genre that has more than its fair share of abominations. “Hippopotamus” is also terrible. “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is weird, not cute, and usually sung by some talentless child. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is creepy. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is 500 years too long.

WSR: All I Want For Christmas Is You.

Graham: Oh you shoudn’t have WSR. It’s “Simply Having A Wonderful” whatever. Gahhh.

Zuzu: All of them. Except Instrumental Sleigh Ride for reasons mentioned above.

GF3: I don't drink bad whiskey and I don't listen to bad music. I'll take your plebeian assessments as fact.

Townie: Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer is the worst song. But if you want a terrible slate of Christmas songs, check out Faith Hill’s Christmas album. Ugh. Terrible.

Q: if your team isn’t in the CFP or the Rose Bowl, what’s the next best postseason destination? - verbosedutch

MNW: How is this different from the above question? Whatever, this is better than studying.

For bowl experience, my limited time so far says it’s Tampa and it’s not close.

I tell you where I still just can’t wait to go, though: Nashville. I am so mad that Northwestern has yet to be invited to the Music City Bowl. I don’t particularly need the whole sun-sand-surf thing, but I also like decent weather and absolutely love Nashville, so that’s my pick for places to go. I’m really curious to hear how people like the Insight and/or Holiday Bowls, though. Just not Texas. Please. Never Texas.

Candystripes: The postseason IS the best destination.

BRT: Well, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has a dancing potato mascot and is named in honor of an excellent starch, so that’s my pick.

WSR: Somewhere warmer than Minnesota in the last week of December or the first week of January.

Zuzu: I agree with Candystripes.

Townie: Some great beach or warm part of the country. Southern California, Florida, or Texas.

Q: Michigan lost to Iowa because...A) All teams, at some point in the middle of a 12-game season, have a bad day.B) All underachieving teams, at some point, play well.C) It was at Kinnick at night—which is why, preseason, I thought this (along with OSU) was our most likely loss.- 97allstars

MNW: Can I take all of the above? Is that cool?

Candystripes: I’ll take A and B, but not C.

DJ: A and B, but definitely not C.

BRT: I heard it was refs?

Stew: More A and B, though C definitely had an effect once it became clear it was going to be a competitive game. But I’ve experienced a few complete dud night games at Kinnick, too. This is also when I remind everyone that Ferentz has a better record against Michigan than Iowa State.

Zuzu: D, all of the above.

GF3: Yes, surely it was the fearsome Kinnick At Night dynamic.

Townie: Harbs just can’t get it all together in one year...Lol.

Q: My mailbag questions:What are your way-too-early predictions for 2017? Will PSU repeat as B1G champion? Will MSU rebound? Will Michigan win the Heisman again? Minnesota remember what an axe looks like? Will the Scarlet Knight wake up? Will Purdue exist? Who might get harbored? - theguyfromy-wega

MNW: Some teams will be better than others, your state will remain a cesspool of horrible people, my team will find new and creative ways to colossally let me down and build me up the following week. So has it been since I began following college football, so shall it remain until the day I die.

Candystripes: All 2017 predictions are way too early at this point. That’s my prediction.

BRT: PSU will not repeat as B1G champion. MSU will be better and will go bowling. Minnesota will not remember what an axe looks like. The Sleeping Giant remains slumbering. Purdue will exist and be better, but will win at most one more game than last season (not a great schedule).

Stew: No, yes, no, no, no, no, no one qualifies, though they win a home conference game.

Zuzu: Depending on the OC Rutgers gets, I think we could have a very real shot of “waking up.” I mean, let’s be honest, isn’t it Joe Moorhead who helped PSU out the most this season? MSU will have a mediocre, but bowl worthy season. PSU will have another solid year since they’re a young team and will still have Moorhead. Purdue may actually break through the upside down with Brohm. I think OSU has a surprisingly down year. Michigan does more of the same.

DJ: Michigan State gets back to bowl eligibility (Barely) and Ohio State wins the conference because this year’s Ohio State is a young team at that. I’ll take a stab since no one else did: B1G East, in order: Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State, Maryland, Indiana, Rutgers. Michigan State could very well finish not bowl eligible again if they don’t find a QB. B1G West: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, PURDUE, Illinois

Townie: Penn State will repeat as B1G champs and will make the playoff next year. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Coach Brohm re-institutes the Harbor at Purdue and gets two B1G wins next year.

There you have it...Your Mailbag for December 13, 2016. You are welcome OTE.

Your Friends,

The OTE “Writers”