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Mailbag: Awkward Jim Harbaugh, Baylor's schedule

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Happy Thursday. Hope you have a wonderful July 4 weekend.

Follow me on Twitter. And you can correspond with me here: tedmillerespn@gmail.com.

To the notes!

Gary from Columbus writes: Harbaugh was a Pac-12 guy for a while -- what's your take on his interview -- AWKWARD! -- with [ESPN radio's Colin] Cowherd?

Ted Miller: Sometimes bad is good. This almost comic "interview" is getting more mileage than it would have if Jim Harbaugh had been full of wit and wisdom and insight.

My first take is to hope everyone is more amused than mad, and my Twitter feed is spinning about 70 percent that way, so good. No, this interview will not have any effect on whether Harbaugh recruits well or is successful at Michigan. No, Colin Cowherd isn't hurt that Harbaugh was pretty rude to him by willfully deciding to not play along with a non-confrontational interview. Yes, most Michigan fans are at the My-Coach-Wrong-OR-Right juncture with Harbaugh, so they will try to find a way to blame Cowherd and Michigan-hating ESPN! for why things went off the rails.

Fine. Ultimately, this is a tempest in a teapot, one of those new media moments that pops and then disappears. The only way it ever becomes relevant again is if Harbaugh flames out at Michigan inside of five years and folks trying to connect the dots as to why he failed dig this up as an early dot worth worth recalling.

As for the content of the interview, some have gotten on Cowherd for his open questions, and I agree his "buy" term used to describe the Big Ten was difficult to understand. If he was going all NASDAQ, he should have said "buy rating." But it's clear that Cowherd expected a casual chat with a guy relishing a chance to celebrate his program and alma mater on a very popular sports talk radio show. Cowherd is an outstanding interviewer. That's why he's at the top of the sports radio game. If he knew Harbaugh was going to be difficult, he would have prepared differently.

I am not inside Harbaugh's head -- thankfully -- but I do feel like I got a good feel for him when he was at Stanford. If I were betting on his motivations, he went into this interview planning to work the snark. Why? Because ... Harbaugh. Maybe he was mad about this story, but this was a purposeful display of his unpredictability. He's chaotic neutral. Being that way amuses and fuels him.

If we could erase all involved memories and reset this interview for Monday, I'd bet Harbaugh might spin the wheel in his head and opt for "Charming Quirky Harbaugh!" instead of "Standoffish For No Reason Harbaugh."

Some are acting like Harbaugh was responding to "types" of questions. I don't see that, though I do know Harbaugh has a pet peeve when asked to compare players or talk about injuries or strategy. I had an interview with him in 2009 when Harbaugh talked about everything. And I had one the year before that was comically awful.

That's how it goes. This past season, a coach with whom I feel I have a good relationship apologized to me after a game for being standoffish with me on the Pac-12 conference call. I told him no worries whatsoever, that his shortness on a pretty boring question actually made my story more fun.

So ... awkward? Whatever. We are all adults who just happen to be involved in games -- covering them, coaching them, playing them, watching them -- and if we take the media part of it too seriously then our perspective is out of whack.

That said: Please remain your loony, mouth-foaming selves. It's good for business.


Eric from Dallas writes: I read your scheduling imbalance for South teams article. Great information, but you did not mention that Arizona does not have a bye week during the Pac 12 season, let alone the entire regular season. This seems to be a major factor in schedule difficulty and a “read between the lines” reason that Arizona decided not to pursue a tougher non conference schedule this season. How big of a factor do you think 12 straight weeks is?

Ted Miller: Well, Arizona didn't know the setup for its Pac-12 schedule when it was making its nonconference slate, so that's no excuse. Athletic director Greg Byrne admits that he's not scheduling nonconference games ambitiously ... yet. Byrne has set up future games with BYU, Texas Tech and Mississippi State, but he's still of the mind his team is trying to pile up wins, not impress the College Football Playoff selection committee ... yet.

As to the 12 consecutive weeks, that's an unfortunate scheduling quirk. I know it sure didn't help Jeff Tedford in 2012 at Cal. If injuries and negative momentum start piling up, there's no time to pause and take a breath, and in the rugged Pac-12 South that's a significant disadvantage.

That said ... maybe it's not. More than a few studies have shown the bye-week advantage is a myth. I know more than a few gamblers discount it, or even view it as a variable they would prefer to avoid.

I know what Rich Rodriguez will say: "Just give me the schedule and we'll play it as is."


Jamie writes: I hope all is well in your neck of the woods. I noticed yet another potshot at Baylor's scheduling in your most recent post on the Pac 12 blog today. I think I speak for everyone when I say, "We get it. You don't like how Baylor chose to schedule back in 2008-2010." (As an aside, I could probably also speak for every Baylor fan if I were to say a few other choice words, but let's keep it PG today.) Anyway, in case you hadn't heard, Baylor is actively working to upgrade future schedules and, in addition to the 4 P5 non-conference games in the next 9 years already on the schedule, including two vs. Pac 12 participating member Utah, is working on a neutral site game vs. Cal for next season. Cal and Utah aren't necessarily world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination, but we'll take what we can get as Western Carolina told us they're booked solid with SEC teams for the next 10-15 years. I'm sure it produces loads of chuckles every time you take a swing at Baylor's schedule, but I'm equally sure it doesn't productively move the national dialogue forward in any way...unless that's your goal, in which case...ok? It gets a little old, but if you want to continue to club that dead horse, club away, my friend. At the very least, you won't be able to claim ignorance that Baylor is trying to up the ante, and maybe you'll feel that slight twinge of conscience the next time you make fun of Baylor but don't rightfully include SEC powerhouses Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, and Mizzou.

Ted Miller: Thanks for the note, but no rhetoric can make up for Baylor's scheduling, which has been aggressively and transparently cowardly. It's a fact, and Baylor administrators spent more time defending it than trying to change it.

First, this isn't a vendetta about Baylor. It's a vendetta about poor scheduling. Baylor isn't my first target -- ask my friends at Mississippi State -- and it only became one because the Bears are now part of the national conversation and are candidates for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

You mention four schools. Mississippi State plays no one this year, but it has scheduled series with BYU, Kansas State, NC State and Arizona starting in 2016. Texas A&M opens against Arizona State this year and has future series scheduled with UCLA, Clemson and Notre Dame. Ole Miss has no A-list foe this year, but it opens against Florida State in 2016 and has future series scheduled with California and Georgia Tech. Missouri plays BYU this year and opens at West Virginia next year.

And I don't view any of the teams you mentioned as national title contenders. None will be ranked in the preseason top-10, as Baylor will.

Look, I know you want to defend your team. That means you are going to trying to lawyer things around the edges. But when you type, "I'm equally sure it doesn't productively move the national dialogue forward in any way" that's simply false.

Every time someone rants about poor scheduling, including the CFP committee, it makes it less palatable to schedule like a coward trying to hide from competition. My goal, which should be shared by everyone who wants as much legitimacy as possible in rating college football teams, is to shine a light on the cowards.

In fact, as a Baylor fan, you should want a tougher schedule so you can watch better games instead of three annual patsies.

Jamie, it might bother you to know college football fans and observers view your team as cowardly. You might even try to spin things. But, really, come on. You don't even believe what you typed.