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Wednesday, December 15, 2010
What Harbaugh touches turns to gold

By Zach Jones

He’s already received a contract extension offer from Stanford and is the subject of countless college football coaching rumors. It’s not likely to be a quiet month off the field for Jim Harbaugh – plus he still has to coach his team in its BCS bowl game against Virginia Tech.

But Harbaugh has only his success at Stanford to blame for the extra attention. Over the last two years, Stanford has posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1995-96. The Cardinal’s No. 4 spot in the AP Poll is its highest since 1970.

Here are a few areas where Harbaugh’s golden touch has elevated the Stanford Cardinal program:

TURNAROUNDS
In 2006, Stanford was one of six FBS teams that won one or fewer games. Four seasons later, Harbaugh took the Cardinal from losing 11 to winning 11.

That kind of turnaround doesn’t have a lot of company. Over the last 40 years, Stanford is just the third team to go from one win to 11 wins in as short as four seasons.

The other two were Louisville, which did it in 2001 under coach John L. Smith, and Pittsburgh, which won the 1976 national championship under coach Johnny Majors.

OFFENSIVE RECORDS
This year’s Stanford team has already set school season records for points (484), scoring average (40.3 PPG) and total offense (5,608 yards).

In the last two seasons alone, Harbaugh has coached Heisman runner-ups (Toby Gerhart and Andrew Luck). Both were named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year.

And under Harbaugh, Stanford has posted three of the top four rushing seasons in team history.

RIVALRIES
Stanford is 3-1 against USC under Harbaugh, including wins over the No. 2-ranked Trojans in 2007 and No. 11-ranked Troy in 2009 in Los Angeles.

The Cardinal won in South Bend for the first time since 1992 and beat Notre Dame in back-to-back seasons for the first time ever.

And two of the rivalry wins have come in especially punishing fashion. Stanford scored 55 points in a 2009 showdown with USC, its most ever against the Trojans. Then the Cardinal put an emphatic stamp on this year’s season, hanging 48 on California -- the most Stanford has ever scored in the history of The Big Game.