Ann Arbor — Without ever meeting UNLV coach Tony Sanchez, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had formed a solid, high opinion of the former high school coach.
Sanchez, who led Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas to six state titles and a mythical national championship, is in his first season at UNLV, which faces Michigan today at Michigan Stadium. The Rebels, near the bottom nationally of the major statistical categories, are enormous underdogs.
But Harbaugh earlier this week sincerely endorsed Sanchez.
"I like Tony Sanchez, I like him," Harbaugh said. "I don't know him, but I like him."
Perhaps Harbaugh appreciates Sanchez's somewhat unconventional rise in the college coaching ranks, jumping from high school to a head coaching job. Harbaugh didn't have a great deal of college coaching experience when he took over as the University of San Diego's head coach.
"Just dive in and start attacking it – that's really how I've learned everything," Harbaugh said. "So it's a process but I like that (Sanchez is) coming from a non-traditional way of doing it.
"I like following him. I like watching what his career's going to be like. He's had success. Looks good. I like the way he coaches his team. I like the way they're playing, but at the same time we've got to guard against and make sure we play well."
Harbaugh said there's no correct formula for working to a head coaching job.
"More than one way to skin a cat," he said. "He stepped up and Tony's doing a fine job."
Preparing for the unknown
UNLV is 0-2 so Michigan has had that film to break down in preparation, but it's still unknown if Rebels' quarterback Blake Decker, who is hobbled by a groin/hamstring injury, will play.
If Decker is not available, sophomore Kurt Palandech will play. Palandech was 4-of-15 for four yards and had an interception returned for a touchdown and a fumble last week in relief.
"They play with a lot of energy," Harbaugh said. "Pretty fast team. I really like the way they're coached. Very impressed with the quarterback, and they've got a lot of energy on their team."
The Rebels are ranked 94th nationally in total offense (365 yards a game), 114th in scoring offense (16.5 points per game), 120th in total defense (535 yards) and 114th in scoring defense (37.5 points).