Jim Harbaugh sat on a makeshift stage on Wednesday outside the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino pool with his Navy blue Michigan cap, light blue dress shirt, royal blue V-neck sweater and dark blue slacks at the Capital One Orange Bowl head coaches’ news conference.
As Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher listened a few feet away, a very serious Harbaugh awaited a question from the media.
“How hard is it to get over that last loss?”
Harbaugh, publicly furious about Michigan’s double-overtime loss to Ohio State that likely caused his Wolverines to miss out on the College Football Playoff, paused for an instant.
“It was a tough loss,’’ the coach began, “but as Sir Andrew said, ‘Fight on me man,’ Sir Andrew said. ‘I’m a little hurt but not slain. I’ll lay down and bleed a while and then I’ll rise to fight again.’ ’’
Fisher was not nearly as dramatic and did not quote any poets, let alone the ballad about Scottish sailor Sir Andrew Barton, who died in 1511.
Fisher’s CFP No. 11 Seminoles (9-3) meet the No. 6 Wolverines (10-2) at 8 p.m. Dec. 30 at Hard Rock Stadium. Unlike Harbaugh, he comes into the game feeling grateful with four consecutive victories over N.C. State, Boston College, Syracuse and Florida — and his fifth consecutive major bowl appearance.
“It’s a great honor to be up here and represent Florida in a prestigious bowl game as the Orange Bowl,’’ said Fisher, who has coached in the Orange Bowl only once, a 31-10 victory over Northern Illinois on Jan. 1, 2013. “If you look at the history of bowl games throughout this country and over the years watching the Orange Bowl … with the festivities, halftime shows and great games, to be a part of this history, it’s amazing every time you come back and you’re reminded of the great players and great coaches and teams that have played in this game.”
Michigan (10-2) of the Big Ten Conference and FSU of the Atlantic Coast Conference have faced each other twice in the regular season, both times in Ann Arbor — in 1991 when the top-ranked Seminoles defeated the No. 3 Wolverines 51-31 and in 1986 when No. 5 Michigan beat No. 21 FSU 20-18.
This year, the Wolverines fell in two of their last three games, a 14-13 squeaker at Iowa and the 30-27 heartbreaker at Ohio State.
The always intense Harbaugh lost his cool, to say the least, during the OSU game, throwing his play sheet and headset to protest an offside call before drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. He then bitterly criticized officials in the postgame news conference, much of it about Buckeyes quarterback J.T. Barrett’s fourth-down rush being short — the refs gave OSU the first down, and it scored its winning touchdown on the next play — and was subsequently fined $10,000 by the Big Ten.
But Wednesday, Harbaugh, whose one trip to the Orange Bowl came on Jan. 3, 2011, a 40-12 Stanford victory over Virginia Tech, insisted his players were excited about playing in a bowl they don’t know much about.
“I know I said it,’’ Harbaugh replied. “I know Coach Fisher said it. I’ll say it again. It’s a football game. We’re excited about the competition. The Orange Bowl doesn’t take a back seat to any bowl. The team we’re playing, I mean, it’s all at the highest level, as we look at it.
“Maybe Coach Fisher can say it better a fourth time.’’
Said Fisher, amid laughs: “You’re right. It don’t get no better than this.’’
Added Fisher: “There’s not a greater opportunity to take … to go to a New Year’s Six bowl game and … play against an opponent such as Michigan, who was, I’d say right there in playoff contention all the way through, one of the best teams in all the country.”
Harbaugh said it one more time in a more succinct way.
“We want to win the next game. Desperate. Desperately want to win the next game. That’s where our focus is.’’