B1G mailbag: As long as he wins, Harbaugh is basically bulletproof

Since our friends on the eastern edge of the Big Ten footprint got slammed with snow last weekend, it’s only fair that those of us on the western side receive a dose of the same treatment. It’s coming, according to AccuWeather, in the form of a “raging blizzard” that may just shear us from the map. So if this is the final mailbag ever to come from these parts, it’s been fun. On with the questions:

Mitch Sherman: Well, Jim Harbaugh needed all of one calendar year to earn the collective mistrust of seemingly all Big Ten followers outside of the Michigan fan base. Oh, who am I kidding? He achieved that status immediately upon his return to Ann Arbor.

Look, Harbaugh is no saint, evidenced by his recent dealings with former commits Rashad Weaver and Erik Swenson, both of whom lost longstanding Michigan scholarship offers when the Wolverines were ready to replace them with better players.

As colleague Dan Murphy wrote this week, this is not a good look for the coach and his school. But unsavory tactics are common in recruiting, especially at this time of year as programs face tough decisions before signing day. Harbaugh simply earns more attention for his every move, whether he’s climbing a tree or staging the “Greatest Football Clinic Ever.”

Michigan commands attention for everything it does. So this bad publicity comes with the territory. I’m interested to hear Harbaugh’s take on the scholarship decisions next week when he answers questions about this recruiting class -- which is ranked fifth nationally, by the way.

As long as Harbaugh continues to recruit top players and trend upward on the field, he’s basically bulletproof. If he slips like predecessor Brady Hoke, Harbaugh’s act will quickly grow tiresome. That’s the brand he’s built at Michigan.

And I think it’s going to work out just fine for at least a few years, regardless of his many critics around the league.

Mitch Sherman: No. The annual battle for the Cy-Hawk Trophy, which dates to 1977, is important to fans and the football culture in the state of Iowa. It’s good for both programs. The Cyclones have won 10 of the past 18 meetings, so it’s competitive and a healthy September measurement for Big Ten and the Big 12 -- even as Iowa State struggles to escape the cellar of its conference.

I suspect the vast majority of ISU fans and most who support Iowa want to keep this game on the schedule. I find it odd, though, that questions persist, in particular from the Hawkeyes’ side, about cutting the game. The nine-game league schedule ensures only that Iowa will stop playing FCS foes after it hosts North Dakota State this year and Northern Iowa in 2018.

As for the suggestion of a game at a pro-football venue against a regional foe, sure, go ahead and try. It likely won’t be a two-for-one deal, which offers little value to Iowa’s opponent. And these arrangements are often difficult to negotiate. A better chance exists to schedule a home-and-home series.

For now, Iowa State, on the Iowa schedule through 2023, is the only Power 5, out-of-conference opponent set to face the Hawkeyes. Embrace the Cyclones.

Mitch Sherman: The Hawkeyes have reached 10 wins in consecutive seasons just twice in school history (from 2002 to 2004). With C.J. Beathard and Desmond King back to lead the charge in 2016, I think Iowa stands a decent chance to reach double digits, though not again with 12 consecutive victories.

After next season, it’s a guessing game. Iowa slipped from 11 wins in 2009 to four in 2012. It’s not immune to a repeat slide. The Hawkeyes are recruiting about as well as usual this year, it seems, with a slew of three-star prospects ripe for development -- and landing punches beyond the group to sign next week.

Kirk Ferentz, at age 60, understandably appeared to enjoy the 2015 season, capped by his first trip in 17 seasons to the Rose Bowl. Surely, he’ll stay at Iowa as long as his former boss, Hayden Fry, who left after 20 seasons in 1998. Fry was 69 when he retired. Ferentz is on track to coach his 20th season at 63 in 2018.

Reason exists to believe he’ll keep the Hawkeyes on track. But I’m not offering any forecasts past 2016.