Michigan and Jim Harbaugh got back atop college football. How long with they stay there?

Hail to the victors.

Michigan, the winningest program in college football history, reclaimed the sport’s throne for the first time in 26 years with Monday night’s 34-13 national championship victory over No. 2 Washington.

It is Michigan’s first national title since splitting the 1997 championship (with Nebraska) and the school’s first solo crown since 1948.

Michigan took an early lead on two long touchdowns runs by Donovan Edwards.

Then the nation’s top defense held the Huskies to a season-low 13 points, nearly 25 points below their average.

Washington trailed by seven midway through the fourth quarter — and had five possessions with an opportunity to even the score in the second half — but Heisman Trophy runner-up Michael Penix Jr. struggled all game, missing multiple open receivers and throwing two interceptions.

By snapping Washington’s 21-game win streak, Michigan (15-0) avenged back-to-back years of losing in the College Football Playoff, capping a dominant season that couldn’t have been envisioned just a couple of years ago.

A pair of first-quarter rushing touchdowns by Donovan Edwards (left) propelled Michigan to a 34-13 victory over Washington in the national championship game. Getty Images

The Wolverines lost at least three games in each of Jim Harbaugh’s first six seasons. The former Michigan quarterback was on the hot seat in 2021 and asked to take a pay cut by the school after a 2-4 2020 campaign.

Now, Harbaugh will be immortalized in Ann Arbor, achieving what the legendary Bo Schembechler never did. The question is whether Harbaugh has done everything he wanted at his alma mater, whether he seeks to return to the NFL.

Following a season in which Michigan’s coach served a pair of three-game suspensions — he could face additional discipline next season — Harbaugh will draw significant interest from the NFL, where he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl and three NFC Championship game appearances in four seasons.

Harbaugh, 60, interviewed with the Vikings two years ago and had discussions with the Broncos after last season, but opted to return to Michigan and lead a roster capable of winning the national championship.

Prior to Monday’s triumph, Michigan reportedly made Harbaugh a 10-year, $125 million offer to stay at the school. He can finish his career at home, forever revered by all on campus.

Or he can chase the championship that’s eluded him.

Today’s back page

New York Post New York Post

Blue Monday

Brian Daboll is the first Giants head coach since Tom Coughlin to survive multiple Black Mondays. Still, his staff couldn’t escape without significant shakeups.

The day began with Daboll announcing the firing of special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey and offensive line coach Bobby Johnson.

Hours later came the surprising resignation of defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, following the firings of outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins and his brother, Kevin, a defensive assistant.

Though Brian Daboll said he expected Wink Martindale to return to the team, the Giants defensive coordinator resigned Monday afternoon. Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Daboll had said Monday morning he expected Martindale to return to the Giants next season.

Though the Giants ranked 27th in total defense this season, they also tied for the league lead with 31 forced turnovers.

The Post’s Paul Schwartz put together a list of possible targets for the Giants’ defensive coordinator job.

Patriot games

Atlanta fired Arthur Smith. Washington dismissed Ron Rivera.

Bill Belichick remains a Patriot — for now.

Following Belichick’s worst season as a head coach (4-13) and a reported divide with owner Robert Kraft, Black Monday in the NFL ended without any greater sense of whether the 71-year-old legend will return for his 25th season with New England.

“I’m under contract,” Belichick said Monday. “I’m going to do what I always do, which is every day I come in, work as hard as I can to help the team in whatever way I can.

“As far as any decisions or directions or anything like that for next year is way too early for that.”

Bill Belichick has not given any indication that he plans to leave the Patriots of his own choice. AP

The potential delay in the anticipated breakup may simply be a matter of the Patriots gauging the trade value of the coach who led them to six Super Bowl titles. Belichick, who is 27 wins from breaking Don Shula’s all-time wins record, may need to move on to contend again.

Should he leave New England, he should have options.

There are currently five open head coaching jobs (Chargers, Falcons, Raiders, Commanders, Panthers).

Playoff collapses could expand the list (Cowboys, anyone?).

Belichick gave the impression he’d be willing to relinquish control of personnel decisions and strictly focus on coaching, though that message easily could be interpreted as an optics ploy.

Like he said, Belichick remains under contract. He doesn’t get to decide what happens next.

A wild weekend ahead

The NFL postseason is upon us. Last year, it accounted for the five highest-rated telecasts of 2023. The six wild-card round games averaged roughly 28.4 million viewers.

All are not created equal. Let’s rank the best games on the slate:

1. Rams at Lions (Sunday, 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC): Detroit will host its first playoff game in 30 years, looking for its first playoff win since 1991. The Lions’ (12-5) biggest game in decades takes on additional meaning in Matthew Stafford’s first game in Detroit since being traded away in 2021. Stafford, who made three playoff appearances in 12 seasons with the Lions, arrives with a Rams Super Bowl ring, seven wins in the past eight games and one of the league’s most dynamic receiving duos (Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua). The Lions counter with fellow former No. 1 overall pick and trademate Jared Goff, who finished second in the NFL in passing yards (4,575).

Matthew Stafford stands in the way of his former Lions team’s effort to collect its first playoff victory since 1991. Getty Images

2. Dolphins at Chiefs (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, Peacock): Another high-profile homecoming takes place at Arrowhead Stadium, where Dolphins star receiver Tyreek Hill will return for the first time since his 2022 trade to Miami. Both teams enter the playoffs after underwhelming finishes to the regular season, but the potential for fireworks remains high in a battle between Patrick Mahomes and the league’s second-highest-scoring team. The Chiefs won a Nov. 5 matchup in Germany, 21-14, contributing to Miami’s 1-5 record against teams that finished above .500 this season. The game will be shown exclusively on Peacock. I have already scheduled a reminder on my phone to cancel the service Monday morning.

3. Packers at Cowboys (Sunday, 4:30 p.m. ET, Fox): The uniform combination provides instant nostalgia. The product should also be exciting — the 50.5 over/under is the second-highest of the weekend — featuring the top two passing touchdown leaders in the league. Jordan Love had a strong finish to his first season as a starter, throwing 18 touchdowns and one interception in his past eight games. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys have won 16 straight games at home, but the league’s highest-scoring offense carries all the pressure, having gone 28 years since reaching the NFC Championship. The first step back pits Mike McCarthy against the team he led to its most recent Super Bowl title.

4. Browns at Texans (Saturday, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC): A 22-year-old Rookie of the Year favorite and a 38-year former Super Bowl MVP headline the first playoff game of the weekend. The Texans entered the season with the league’s worst playoff odds (+650), then won the AFC South behind rookie coach DeMeco Ryans and No. 2 pick C.J. Stroud. Joe Flacco, who has won four straight starts after being pulled off his couch to join Cleveland in late November, will be making his first playoff start in nine years.

Guiding the Browns to a fifth straight win with him under center may earn Joe Flacco a playoff date with the Ravens franchise he once quarterbacked to a Super Bowl. Getty Images

5. Steelers at Bills (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, CBS): Josh Allen could look like the best player in the NFL or its most careless. Either way, it is impossible to look away. Ignore the 10-point spread because the Bills have a tendency to play down to their opponent’s level with Allen throwing 18 interceptions this season. The Steelers suffered a tremendous setback with an injury likely to sideline T.J. Watt, but they have pulled numerous upsets this season, thanks to the third-best turnover differential in the league. Pittsburgh is 3-0 since turning to Mason Rudolph at quarterback.

6. Eagles at Buccaneers (Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET, ABC): The Bucs (9-8) are as appealing as a Todd Bowles press conference. The Eagles (11-6) are in a free fall, losing five of their final six games, including Sunday’s blowout loss to the Giants, during which star receiver A.J. Brown suffered a knee injury and quarterback Jalen Hurts dislocated the middle finger on his throwing hand. Philadelphia won a Sept. 25 meeting, 25-11, against Tampa Bay, which went 1-5 against playoff teams this season and failed to score a touchdown in its must-win Week 18 game against the two-win Panthers.

What we’re reading 👀

🏈 The Jets endured the “frustration” (Robert Saleh’s words) of a lost 2023 season with too much “bulls–t” in the building (Aaron Rodgers’ words). Now Rodgers has to prove he’s worth it, writes The Post’s Steve Serby, after the team has done everything to empower him.

🏈 Saquon Barkley to the Giants: If you’re going to franchise-tag me, at least do it quickly.

🏒 The Rangers got thumped, 6-3, by the visiting Canucks. And, as The Post’s Larry Brooks put it, “This type of deficient performance has been a recurring theme for the last five weeks.”

🏀 Quentin Grimes seems to have figured it out for the Knicks.

🏀 Grizzlies star Ja Morant is done for the season with an injury to his right (gun-toting) shoulder.

🏀 Tyrese Haliburton, who has the upstart Pacers in a five-way Eastern Conference tie (including the Knicks) at 21-15, also faces an absence due to a hamstring injury.

⛳ Tiger Woods and Nike are splitsville.

RIP Franz Beckenbauer. The German soccer legend and former New York Cosmo was 78.

🏒 The Flyers had to trade a top prospect who wanted absolutely nothing to do with them.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *