Jim Harbaugh’s uncertain future is main storyline hanging over Michigan-Washington clash
The noise isnt going to die down.
In fact, it is likely to grow in volume as the national championship game gets closer.
Jim Harbaughs coaching future at Michigan is very much in doubt, with rumors persisting that this could be his last game as the Wolverines coach before returning to the NFL.
It sets up a fascinating dynamic as Michigan prepares to meet Washington at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday.
Harbaugh has the Wolverines on the doorstep of their first title since 1997, coming off its third consecutive Big Ten crown.
But this season has been full of chaos.
It began with him serving a school-imposed three-game suspension amid an investigation into alleged recruiting violations.
Then, he was suspended for three more games by the Big Ten in the wake of the sign-stealing, in-game scouting scandal.
Just recently, Harbaugh reportedly hired a new agent, Don Yee, who has endless NFL connections.
Meanwhile, Michigan has offered him a lucrative contract extension, believed to be worth $125 million for 10 years, that the 60-year-old Harbaugh has yet to sign.
4Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh’s future at the school is uncertain after the national championship game. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConHey brother, Im working on it, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel told Fox Sports. Believe me. Ive been working on it.
With a victory in Houston, Harbaugh could leave his alma mater on top, having led the school to that elusive title in his ninth season.
But would he do so coming off a loss? Or is the pull of the NFL that strong, along with whatever sanctions could be coming Michigans way?
It is the biggest story of this showdown. Will Jim Harbaugh stay or will he go?
Heres a look at three other storylines in the national championship game:
On one side is Washington, the nations leader in passing yards per game (350.0) which is 11th in scoring (37.6).
It features Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. and arguably the best trio of receivers in the country in Rome Odunze, JaLynn Polk and Jalen McMillan.
4Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. Getty Images## see also
Nick Saban’s wife reveals how Alabama coach coped with heartbreaking loss
Then there is Michigan, which was third nationally in passing efficiency defense, second in passing yards allowed per game (150.0) and first in points allowed (10.2).
The Wolverines front seven is elite they sacked Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe six times in the Rose Bowl and they are an opportunistic bunch, producing 25 turnovers as a unit.
They held Alabama to their second-lowest point total of the season in a dominant performance, although it should be noted that Washington shredded a strong Texas defense to the tune of 532 total yards and 37 points.
It promises to be a terrific matchup when the Huskies have the ball, an explosive offense against a dominant defense.
SEC left out
The powerhouse SEC wont be represented in the national championship game for the first time since the first year of the playoff back in 2015.
It had crowned the last four champions and five of the previous six.
4Miguel Camboia #19 and Kobe Prentice #6 of the Alabama Crimson Tide react after losing to the Michigan Wolverines. Getty ImagesIn a twist, Michigan-Washington will actually be a Big Ten league game next year the teams play in Seattle on Oct. 5 next season.
If Washington prevails, it would mark the Pac-12s first champion since USC in 2004 in the last year of the conferences existence.
The other quarterback
Penix was the talk of the sports world on New Years Day, after his brilliant 430-yard passing performance in the win over Texas.
He will dominate the headlines when it comes to the quarterbacks in the championship game, particularly when it comes to his future in the NFL.
4Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy USA TODAY Sports via Reuters ConBut his adversary, J.J. McCarthy, shouldnt be forgotten. McCarthy has started 27 games at Michigan and has won 26 of them.
He was poised and under control when the Wolverines season was on the line, leading them on an eight-play, 75-yard drive to pull even with Alabama in the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl.
After the dramatic overtime win, Harbaugh said: Ive said it before, but right here, this is the greatest quarterback in University of Michigan football, college football, history. Hyperbole, of course, but McCarthy finds a way to win games, even if his numbers are usually not all that impressive.
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