Harbaugh focused on Irish, not coaching gossip

Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was greeted this week with questions about his coaching philosophy, the architectural plan he used to reconstruct the Cardinal football program and a couple of Rorschach ink blots intended to evoke the deep Harbaughian essence.

"That's one of those deep, probing questions," he responded to an inquiry about his coaching influences. "I'm just a coach trying to win a game."

It's not surprising reporters tried to tap into the Mind of Harbaugh this week. His Cardinal are playing host to Notre Dame on Saturday, and you may have heard that lots of intrigue surround the Fighting Irish and coach Charlie Weis at present.

As in: Most believe Notre Dame will be shortly looking for a new coach.

Some feel that Harbaugh might be a candidate, though Harbaugh has pooh-poohed such talk as only he can, telling the San Jose Mercury News this week, "I love Stanford, I'm only talking Stanford, and I will be at Stanford. God willing."

It's also not the best moment for Harbaugh during this mostly charmed season. A week ago, Stanford was the nation's hottest team after dispatching Oregon and USC on consecutive weekends. Then it lost the Big Game to resurgent California, taking a thorough statistical beating even though it only lost 34-28.

That dispiriting loss, which knocked the Cardinal out of the national polls and down a notch in the Pac-10 standings, did allow Harbaugh to share with reporters a behind-the-scenes look at his life.

He told of getting into his car with his family after the defeat and his son turning to his young daughter and saying, "Grace, you're only as good as your last game."

Ah, the life of a college football coach. They love you one week. Not so much the next.

But Harbaugh and his Cardinal can bounce back Saturday against the sagging Irish, who are riding a three-game losing streak that likely cut the thin rope tethering Weis to employment in South Bend.

Stanford (7-4, 6-3) is done with Pac-10 play. It will end up either second or third in the conference standings -- most likely in a tie for either spot. It already has qualified for its first bowl game since 2001. A win would just make it more appealing to bowl selectors as well as a national audience.

This one should feature some offense. Notre Dame has quarterback Jimmy Clausen and receiver Golden Tate, who may feast on a Cardinal secondary that ranks eighth in the Pac-10 in pass efficiency defense.

Stanford counters with Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart, who should secure at least an invitation to New York with an impressive performance. Gerhart leads the nation with 23 rushing touchdowns and is third in rushing with 139.18 yards per game.

Notre Dame ranks 80th in the nation against the run.

While Weis' goose is likely cooked, Harbaugh knows what he needs to do to restore the momentum of his rebuilding project.

"We know we've got to rise again, rise from that adversity," Harbaugh said. "This team has risen from adversity before."