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Scully’s NCAAF takeaways: Harbaugh is on his way out at Michigan

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November 17th, 2020

Notre Dame avoided a letdown, with a 45-31 defeat of Boston College, but Week 11 lacked some flair, with 15 games canceled or postponed because of COVID-19 and related issues.

There were still many highlights, and Week 12 will feature a number of games of significance.

Here are my three takeaways from Week 11.

Harbaugh’s tenure winding down at Michigan

It has become obvious — Jim Harbaugh won’t be back at Michigan next season.

The situation looked bad after Michigan lost to lowly Michigan State in its home opener, and the misery has continued in Ann Arbor.

The 1-3 Wolverines are no longer playing with maximum effort and lost by an embarrassing, 49-11 margin to Wisconsin in Week 11.

The Wolverines are in the midst of their worst season in at least 80 years — it’s difficult to envision Michigan winning more than two games — and both sides will agree to mutually part ways when it’s over. The situation, with Harbaugh at the helm of the program, has become untenable.

Entering his sixth season, this was a make-or-break campaign for Harbaugh. It didn’t work out, because he never could find a competent quarterback to direct his offense, and the 56-year-old coach can’t afford to deteriorate his professional credibility by staying in the college ranks.

Harbaugh guided San Francisco to Super Bowl XLVII, and he is eligible to land on his feet quickly with an NFL coaching job in 2021.

It's strange to see Penn State at 0-4

After a loss to Nebraska last week, Penn State is still without a win this season.

I won’t compare Penn State to Michigan — the Nittany Lions are at least competitive — but the results have been disappointing, considering the program entered the season ranked eighth in the nation.

Quarterback Sean Clifford’s struggles were unexpected. The redshirt junior was mentioned as a pro prospect, but turnovers and incompletions have doomed him.

Penn State compiled 245 rushing yards, often pushed Nebraska around up front last week, and outgained its opponent by a 501-298 margin in total yards. But Clifford helped put the Nittany Lions behind, 27-6, at the half because of missed passes, an interception, and a fumble recovered for a touchdown.

Penn State head coach James Franklin had to bench Clifford midway through the second quarter. Redshirt sophomore Will Levis looked rocky at first and wasn't very accurate (he completed 14 of his 31 passes), but he eventually settled into the role. And Penn State rallied around him in the second half.

It was too big of a hole to overcome, but Penn State can take away some positives from the 30-23 setback. Its home matchup against Iowa in Week 12 will now take on added significance.

Penn State can still salvage a 4-4 regular season if it defeats the Hawkeyes. The Nittany Lions then finish against Michigan, Rutgers, and Michigan State.

Carolina comeback

Ranked fifth nationally in mid-October, North Carolina fell out of the top 25 after losses to Florida State and Virginia in a three-game span.

The Tar Heels appeared headed toward another setback in Week 11, when they trailed Wake Forest, 45-31, late in the third quarter, when the offense erupted.

North Carolina scored touchdowns on four consecutive fourth-quarter possessions to seize control. The onslaught carried the Tar Heels to a 59-53 win, and they are close to rejoining the top 25, with a 6-2 record.

Quarterback Sam Howell posted a school-record 550 passing yards and completed 32 of his 45 passes for six touchdowns. North Carolina recorded only 59 rushing yards in the first half, but its superb running back duo of Javonte Williams (101 rushing yards) and Michael Carter (74 rushing yards) got things going in the final two quarters.

Defense remains a major liability — Wake Forest gained 606 yards as a double-digit underdog — but the Tar Heels feature one of the most exciting offenses in college football.

After a bye week, North Carolina will host No. 2 Notre Dame in an anticipated Nov. 27 showdown.


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