Jim Harbaugh will make his Michigan coaching debut against Utah on Thursday night, but even if he doesn’t lead the Wolverines to victory in Salt Lake City, odds are he’ll be piling up wins in Ann Arbor before you know it.
“I think Jim Harbaugh is such a good football coach,” Lou Holtz said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show, “and he’s a Bo Schembechler guy. And let me tell you, having coached against Bo, they’re very good fundamentally. I mean, they block, they tackle, they’re unselfish and I think Jim Harbaugh will turn it around, no doubt. What he did at Stanford, he didn’t do it the first year, but the second year they started showing great improvement.”
Holtz, who coached at William & Mary, NC State, Arkansas, Minnesota, Notre Dame and South Carolina, recalls the speech he would give in his first season with a new program.
“What I did when I walked into a team for the first time, I’d say to them, ‘I know you had no choice in selecting the coach. If you did, I wouldn’t be here because you heard I’m a disciplinarian and a mean sucker,’” Holtz recalled. “But I want you to understand I did have a choice. I had a great job. I chose to come here because I wanted to be with you. I think we can do something great if we work together, and from that point on, they understood we had the same objective – which was to save my job.”
All kidding aside, Holtz was asked which four teams will make the playoff this year.
“I think you have to go with Ohio State or Michigan State,” he said. “I think that the Big Ten could possibly get two if Michigan State were to beat Oregon and then upset Ohio State. So let’s go with Ohio State. I’m going to go with Southern Cal from the Pac-12. They’re going to rally around Coach (Steve) Sarkisian with all the problems he had at the alumni meeting where he said he got drunk and mixed it with medicine. You want to say let’s go with TCU, but I think Florida State’s going to be back in there. I think Florida State will make it. Oregon could (make the playoff) with the transfer quarterback, (Vernon) Adams. But let’s go with Southern Cal, Notre Dame, Ohio State and TCU. If we go to eight, it would make it a lot easier.”
There might be a little bias in Holtz’ Notre Dame prediction; after all, the 78-year-old led the Irish to their last national championship, in 1988. As of now, Notre Dame, which went 8-5 last year, plays four ranked teams, but only one of them – No. 8 USC – is ranked in the top 10.
That game, by the way, is in South Bend on Oct. 17.
“I think Notre Dame has talent, they have coaching, they have schedule and they have something to prove,” Holtz said, “particularly after the way they lost their last (four) games in a row last year.”