Brian Kelly and Jim Harbaugh Looking for Statement Win
It’s no secret that a lot of eyes will be on this game Saturday night. This is a perfect opportunity for both coaches to get an impressive win that could be a great resume builder for the 2018 College Football Playoff — as well as for each of their respective careers — thus far.
Jim Harbaugh isn’t necessarily on the hot-seat, but after going 8-5 last year following two consecutive 10-win seasons to start his career with Michigan, there are some people looking at his resume and wondering if he’s capable of bringing Michigan to a higher level.
Harbaugh is 28-11 since taking over in 2015, including 18-8 in Big Ten play — which is very respectable. However, much like Brian Kelly’s critics point out, Harbaugh hasn’t delivered in big-time games. He is 1-5 vs Ohio State and Michigan State combined, and has yet to finish higher than third in the Big Ten East.
Though not a Big Ten opponent, this will be his first time taking on the Irish. He will be on the road, in the season opener, with the chance to get a statement win during primetime — likely propelling Michigan into the Top-10 the following week.
Suffice to say, this is a huge game for both Harbaugh and his critics.
When it comes to Brian Kelly, the situation is very similar. Kelly is 69-34 since becoming head coach at Notre Dame in 2010 — including three 10-win seasons and a 4-3 bowl record. On paper or without context, that isn’t terrible. However, there are different expectation that should come with being a head coach for Notre Dame, and eight-win seasons with Pinstripe Bowl wins aren’t part of those expectations.
Kelly and the Irish certainly rebounded after the disaster that was 2016, and going into year nine, there should be higher expectations for the Irish. Notre Dame hasn’t had back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1992-1993.
This is the perfect opportunity for Kelly to add a huge primetime win to his resume — a resume that doesn’t feature many of them. He can make a statement and put the Irish in a good position moving forward, or he can drop the ball and continue to carry the label as “good, but not good enough.”
For Kelly and the Irish, week one is a must-win.