You feel like Bo Schembechler is up in heaven with a satisfied smile on his face. On Sunday, the two sons of one of his dearest friends, Jack Harbaugh, coach against each other in the Super Bowl.
Jim and John Harbaugh, two rambunctious kids Schembechler used to shoo off his practice fields at Michigan, one ofwhom (Jim) played quarterback for him, are not only coaching at the highest level of the game, but coaching their teams with many of the same core values he and Jack lived by.
"I think the root of each team starts with just that — Jack Harbaugh-tough, hard-nosed, disciplined and smart football," 49ers offensivecoordinator Greg Roman said. "You can see how, just through every day, that kind of impacted John and Jim as they grew up. I think it is a great reflection on both teams."
Both have similarly-built teams, similar structures — particularly on defense and the offensive line — and stress team unity above all else.
Bo would be mighty proud.
Get ready for a street fight. The Ravens and 49ers are built around smash-mouth offensive lines and dynamic and violent 3-4 defenses. There won't be any tricks or gimmicks. This might take on the intensity of those old backyard one-on-one battles between Jim and John Harbaugh when they were kids in Ann Arbor. Yards will be hard-earned and turnovers fatal. The headline on the most recent Sports Illustrated was spot-on — "There will be blood."
The Ravens might have at least three future Hall of Famers on defense — Ray Lewis , Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed . But Lewis is 38, Reed 35 and Suggs 31, and all three have played through injuries this season. Since the 49ers started Colin Kaepernick at quarterback and brought RB LaMichael James into the rotation, they have added another gear to their offensive speed — a gear the Ravens haven't seen. Will the old dogs be able to catch them?
You want X-factors? For the 49ers, don't sleep on TE Vernon Davis . With the Ravens pre-occupied with the pistol formation and stopping QB Colin Kaepernick and the read option — not to mention the deep threat of WRs Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss — Davis will be left with single coverage, probably against LB Ray Lewis . For the Ravens, RB Ray Rice is the key, especially catching the ball in screens and check-downs. With the safeties fretting QB Joe Flacco 's vertical throws, Rice will be locked up on a linebacker underneath.
Super Bowls, the good ones, tend to produce surprise heroes and unlikely goats. For the Ravens, unheralded players like TE Dennis Pitta or pass rusher Paul Kruger could emerge. For the 49ers, players like DT Ray McDonald (who plays opposite Aldon Smith and Justin Smith ) or RB LaMichael James will be in positions to make plays. As for goats, 49ers K David Akers has struggled, and Ravens WR Jacoby Jones has been known to put the ball on the ground.