By: Will Burchfield
Both Jim Harbaugh and Mark Dantonio have put their respective football programs back on the map.
According to a ranking by CBS Sports, they are two of the best coaches within the Power Five conferences.
Among the 65 coaches evaluated, including Brian Kelly from Notre Dame (independent), Harbaugh checked in at No. 5 and Dantonio was slotted at No. 11.
They’re trending in different directions, however.
Harbaugh is up five spots from last year’s ranking while Dantonio is down six. That’s probably to be expected. Michigan is coming off a 10-3 season during which they were ranked as high as No. 2 in the country, while Michigan State struggled through a 3-9 campaign.
The rankings were determined by a five-person panel with each vote compiled into a final poll.
Tom Fornelli, who provided commentary on each coach, thought Harbaugh’s ranking was a bit lofty.
“I’m just going to be honest here,” he wrote. “I think Harbaugh is a great coach. I would be thrilled if Harbaugh was coaching my favorite team. I still think he’s ranked too high. While I feel like it’s only a matter of time until it happens, he’s yet to win a conference title on the FBS level. In fact, he hasn’t even won a division title yet.”
Harbaugh has a record of 20-6 at Michigan but the big win has eluded him. Last year’s finish for the Wolverines felt like a particular disappointment, given their terrific start.
“He may end up being a top-five coach sooner rather than later, but I just don’t think he has the overall resume to be considered one now,” Fornelli added. “My fellow voters disagree, obviously.”
Of the Spartans head coach, Fornelli wrote, “You knew Dantonio would suffer in these rankings after a down season in East Lansing. Still, overlook Dantonio and the Spartans heading into 2017 at your own peril. Dantonio’s teams have won at least 11 games in five of the last seven seasons.”
Dantonio and Harbaugh each made a swift impact upon their respective hires.
Michigan State was 14-21 in the three seasons prior to Dantonio’s arrival in 2007; the Spartans have gone 90-42 in the ten seasons since. Harbaugh, meanwhile, took over a Michigan team that had gone 5-7 in 2014 and has led them to back-to-back 10-win seasons.
Last year Harbaugh said Dantonio has done “one of the best college football coaching jobs in the history of the game.” Dantonio returned the love shortly thereafter.