Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.
A beloved member of a program’s glory days gets hired as head coach. That guy transforms a seven-loss team into a 9-3 outfit, including two top-25 wins.
Oh, you thought this guy was Jim Harbaugh? It was meant to be Dan Mullen. On second thought, both fit the description.
The head ball coaches, Harbaugh in 2015 and Mullen this fall, produced very similar results in their first years in Ann Arbor and Gainesville.
As mentioned, both inherited seven-loss teams. Harbaugh turned around Brady Hoke’s 5-7 team from 2014, while Mullen took over the Gators after Jim McElwain floundered to 4-7.
In 2015, Harbaugh oversaw ranked victories over No. 22 Brigham Young and No. 13 Northwestern. This fall, Mullen led Florida to an upset over No. 5 LSU, plus one over his former team, No. 23 Mississippi State.
The deeper statistics show some differences. The following are rankings compiled with Bill Connelly’s S&P+ analytical model.
Michigan fielded a top-five team in 2015 despite just a 9-3 record. While the offense was overall less efficient, Jake Rudock led a resurgence in the last five games, culminating in a 41-7 blowout over..hey, look it’s Florida...in the Citrus Bowl.
Also, former Gator assistant D.J. Durkin coordinated the nation’s No. 3 defense in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, current Florida coordinator Todd Grantham improved the No. 54 defense in 2017 to No. 26 this season.
Mullen is looking to match Harbaugh’s 2015 turnaround with a Peach Bowl victory, which would boost his Gators to 10-3.
It would require Florida’s first-ever triumph over the Wolverines.