COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Michigan at Ohio State
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On a typical National Signing Day, a college football coach is in their office, watching and listening to a fax machine purr with signed letters of intent streaming in from the players they've helped convince to join their program for the last two or three years. The coach celebrates with his staff, talks to the players before finding time to tell the assembled media how excited they are for the class, finishing with something along the lines of: "It's time to get to work!"

Jim Harbaugh didn't do that back in February. The Wolverines coach, who has always danced to the beat of his own drum, found a song nobody had ever heard before. He wasn't in Ann Arbor. He wasn't even in the state of Michigan. Instead, he was in Minnesota interviewing for a job with the Minnesota Vikings. On National Signing Day. Considering the timing, it felt like a strong indication that Harbaugh was finally doing what rumors had suggested every offseason: returning to the NFL.

The timing, though odd, made sense. Michigan was coming off a Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance. Harbaugh had finally slain the Ohio State dragon perched on his shoulder. Harbaugh ultimately wasn't offered the Vikings job and said he was done with the NFL, but the interview had an impact. A week later, Michigan offensive coordinator and Broyles Award winner (given to the top assistant in the country) Josh Gattis left to become the offensive coordinator at Miami. A week before the interview, the defensive coordinator that helped revitalize the Michigan defense, Mike Macdonald, returned to John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens from whence he came.

The Wolverines would lose a lot of key players from the team to the NFL Draft a few months later. It was fair to wonder if, given the turnover on the staff and roster, 2021 wouldn't prove to be an outlier season or at least an exception to Ohio State's rule. Then, despite the NFL interview, despite new coordinators on both sides of the ball (we still don't know who is calling plays on offense), a new starting QB and new stars on defense, Michigan did it again. It beat Ohio State convincingly, and this time it did it on the road, without its star running back and on a perfect fall afternoon.

It's not an outlier. It's not a program peaking at the right time to take advantage of a team that's better than it is. It's simply a team built to do what it's doing. Harbaugh's Wolverines are built to punch their opponent in the face as many times as necessary until the opponent refuses to get back up. For two years now, Ohio State has remained on the mat.

While the wins over Ohio State get most of the attention, it's not just the Buckeyes that Harbaugh seems to have figured out. While his record against the Buckeyes in his first six seasons led to the most engaging social media graphics, Michigan's struggles against the top of the Big Ten overall kept anybody from considering the program among the elite. The Wolverines might beat Penn State or Michigan State in a season, but it couldn't beat them both.

This season, the Wolverines beat Penn State by 24, Michigan State by 22 and Ohio State by 22. When Harbaugh returned to Michigan for the 2015 season, he intended to restore the program to glory -- to once again make it the preeminent program in the Big Ten and compete for national titles.

It took a few years longer than Michigan fans hoped, and there have been some weird detours along the way, but Harbaugh has accomplished his mission. Ohio State is no longer the big dog on the Big Ten block. Michigan runs the show. 

Rebuild Formula of the Week

USC will play for a Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff berth this weekend. We were already aware of the first part, but the second part was confirmed when the Trojans beat Notre Dame 38-27 in The Coliseum on Saturday night. It was another awesome performance from the USC offense and now-Heisman favorite Caleb Williams.

Williams threw for 232 yards while completing 18 of his 22 passes and rushed for 35 yards, finishing with four total touchdowns. Nowadays, every QB who makes a cool "off-platform" throw in practice is labeled as the next Patrick Mahomes, but there is no other QB in the country who reminds me of Mahomes as much as Williams does routinely. It's one thing to make incredible-looking throws; it's another to do what Williams does.

He spins and twirls in the pocket to keep plays alive, runs around in different directions and then suddenly unleashes a dart to the exact spot it needs to be for his receiver to make the catch. And he does it repeatedly in the kind of soul-crushing fashion Mahomes has done to opponents for years. Williams can run, but only when it's the design of the play or the best and only option when nobody is open, or he's under pressure.

Many will point to the quick turnaround that Lincoln Riley has performed at USC during his first season in Los Angeles thanks to the transfer portal. The Trojans went from 4-8 last season to 11-1 and a win away from a playoff berth. But this won't be the norm. There might be 500 transfers on USC's roster, and plenty have had a positive impact. Only one of them has genuinely mattered, however, and his name is Caleb Williams. He's the quick-fix option, not the portal.

Catch of the Week

First of all, shout out to Texas A&M for scoring 30 points in a game against an FBS opponent for the first time since, like, 1934. Second, thank you for taking care of my blood pressure and saving me from having to talk about a two-loss team's College Football Playoff hopes in a world with three undefeated Power Five teams and two contenders with only one loss.

But, mostly, thank you for this catch by Moose Muhammad. While Devon Achane was the star of the Aggies offense -- nothing new there -- in their 38-23 win over LSU, this catch was the supreme highlight.

Down Bad Fans of the Week

I understood why Oklahoma fans rallied around the program during the offseason. Nobody expected Riley to up and leave for USC and take everything from Norman. So when they lashed out at those from outside who had serious concerns about where the program was headed, it made sense. As I watched the events of Saturday unfold, I couldn't help but feel some empathy for what Sooners fans are dealing with right now. I hope they enjoyed the delicious beatdown of Oklahoma State last week because the fun all stopped Saturday.

Williams balled out against Notre Dame and might win the Heisman Trophy. Riley is a win away from his fourth College Football Playoff appearance in six years as a head coach and his first season at USC. Even Spencer Rattler, the QB who Sooners fans chanted to be benched in favor of Williams last season, has had a renaissance. A week after balling out in an upset win over top-10 Tennessee, Rattler had another great game in South Carolina's upset over top-10 Clemson.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma finished the regular season at 6-6 after an overtime loss to Texas Tech. I can't help but believe that even with the move to the SEC ahead, this season will be the exception to the norm, but that norm must feel light years away right now.

Coach of the Week

A lot of coaches have had fantastic seasons, but I don't think any coach or program has flown further under the radar this season than Oregon State. The Beavers came back from a 31-10 deficit late in the third quarter to beat rival Oregon, and they did it on the ground (and with some help from the Ducks).

Oregon State's final five possessions lasted 19 plays, all of which were runs. The first four resulted in touchdowns. The fifth and final possession ended with kneel downs. The win gave the Beavers a 9-3 record on the season, and while there was the blowout loss to Utah, the team's other two losses were a three-point loss to USC and a three-point loss to Washington.

It was another season of improvement under Jonathan Smith, who has done an incredible job rebuilding the program. Smith won two games in 2018 and increased the number to five in 2019. The Beavers went 2-5 in 2020, but nothing that happened in the Pac-12 during the COVID season was normal. The team rebounded with seven wins in 2021 and now nine in 2022. I have no doubt other programs have noticed the job Smith has done and will try to pry the Beaver from his alma mater this offseason.

Concussion of the Week

College football can pass every rule it wants to protect the players, but you can't protect the players from themselves. Please stop doing this! Slam your helmet to the ground, knock over a Gatorade cooler, scream at the top of your lungs, but don't smash your head into your helmet. You aren't going to win that battle.

The bench reaction is pretty epic, though, so at least this concussion wasn't for nothing.

Mascot Fight of the Week

I love Rivalry Week, and I love mascot antics.

College Football Playoff Projection of the Week

I don't anticipate the committee making any major changes other than the obvious, but don't rule out Michigan moving to No. 1 after its win against Ohio State. The Wolverines now have two three-score wins over teams likely to be in the top 10 (Penn State and Ohio State) while Georgia only has one now that Oregon has lost a third game. Still, I don't think they'll do it, because if both Georgia and Michigan win their conference championship games, they'd just be putting Michigan back at No. 1 anyway.

  1. Georgia
  2. Michigan
  3. TCU
  4. USC

Until the next Monday After!