Wednesday October 7th, 2015

One of the biggest surprises of the season has been the rapid improvement of Michigan in year one under Jim Harbaugh. Although Harbaugh was widely considered the biggest hire of the coaching carousel and his track record suggested he would make the Wolverines better, the near-instant turnaround that has them 4–1 and No. 18 in the country has still come as a bit of a shock.

But can it last? Michigan made a strong statement with its 31–0 pasting of BYU and followed that up with another shutout of Maryland. The Wolverines rank second in the country in scoring defense. But now they enter the more difficult portion of their scheduling, beginning with Saturday’s showdown against No. 13 Northwestern and ending on Nov. 28 vs. Ohio State. Is the early success a sign Michigan can compete with Michigan State and the Buckeyes for a Big Ten East title right away or will the Wolverines stumble against tougher competition.

After hosts Zac Ellis and Lindsay Schnell break down some of the biggest results from Week 5, SI’s Michael Rosenberg joins the podcast to discuss all things Michigan and Harbaugh, a coach Rosenberg knows well. Zac and Lindsay wrap the episode by handing out early grades to Harbaugh and other first-year head coaches.

Here are the games and topics Zac, Lindsay and Michael discuss:

• Clemson 24, Notre Dame 22: Are the Tigers playoff frontrunners after taking down the Fighting Irish? Can Notre Dame still recover to make the playoff?

• Florida 38, Ole Miss 10: Are Gators legitimate SEC East contenders now? What do the Rebels have to do to bounce back and still win the SEC West?

• Alabama 38, Georgia 10: Does this win mean the Crimson Tide are still the powerhouse of the SEC? What can we expect from the Bulldogs after they got exposed?

• Ohio State 34, Indiana 27: How vulnerable are the Buckeyes after another close win? Do they still deserve to be considered favorites for the playoff?

• Quick breakdowns of Arizona State’s upset of UCLA and Oklahoma’s win over West Virginia.

• How surprising is Michigan’s success? What has the fan response been like in Ann Arbor?

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• Is Harbaugh’s track record of building up his quarterbacks starting to extend to Jake Rudock? And what to make of his off-season antics? Does he really fit as a college coach vs. the NFL?

• Is Utah as good as it has looked in the early portion of the season? What impressions can we take from the Utes’ win over Michigan now that the Wolverines have looked better? What does that 24–17 defeat tell us about the Wolverines?

• Who will win Michigan’s matchup with Northwestern? The Wildcats have also been one of the bigger surprises of the season. Who can earn a critical early conference victory? Could the Wolverines take down Michigan State in Week 7?

•​ Zac and Lindsay break out their grade books to evaluate Harbaugh, Houston’s Tom Herman, Florida’s Jim McElwain, Wisconsin’s Paul Chryst and Nebraska’s Mike Riley. Who gets As? Who’s at the back of the class?

Subscribe to the SI College Football Podcast on iTunes here. You can find more great Sports Illustrated podcasts at http://www.si.com/podcasts.

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL:

• ROUNDTABLE: Which team has the best chance to go undefeated?

• STAPLES: Charlie Strong, Texas at risk of unraveling against Oklahoma

• BECHT: Power Rankings: Top 10 gets major shakeup after Week 5

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