At this point on the national coaching carousel it’s become apparent the University of Michigan is in a holding pattern as it pursues current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbuagh to be the next face of its program.

It’s likely Harbaugh won’t be back in San Francisco next year. He may go to Michigan, or he may stay in the NFL. We’re all in the dark regarding Harbaugh’s future plans, including Michigan, which makes the prospect of Harbaugh snubbing the Wolverines a terrifying one for fans of the Maize and Blue.

Let’s say Harbaugh does say no to UM. Where does Michigan turn more than a month removed from its first bowl-less season in decades?

One popular answer is Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. The Bulldogs sixth-year head coach led MSU to a 10-win regular season in 2014, finishing second in an SEC West division boasting seven bowl-eligible teams, and his name has been one of the hottest on the coaching carousel since the regular season came to a close.

Would Mullen even consider the Michigan job knowing he’d serve as a consolation prize to Harbaugh? His repeated declarations that he’s staying in Starkville lead us to believe he would not give the UM job consideration, especially knowing he’s not the Wolverines top choice.

Recent developments might give light to the idea that Mullen would still fork over the keys to an emerging SEC threat in Mississippi State to take over a proud Michigan program currently in shambles.

For starters, Michigan can offer Mullen more money than Mississippi State could ever consider offering. Reports surfaced last week that Michigan had offered Harbaugh upwards of $8 million annually to coach the Wolverines, and although many responded to those reports saying the number wasn’t that high, the consensus was that it was still in that general ballpark.

There’s no way Mississippi State can make Mullen an offer like that. The Bulldogs paid him about $3 million in 2014, and if he is to receive a raise and a contract extension from MSU it would likely be for about $4 million annually.

Even if Michigan drops its number to $5 million annually for its “consolation prize” it would still blow MSU’s offer out of the water. Mullen may not take the Michigan job if it’s offered, but you don’t have to be a math major to understand why he’d likely consider it.

The recent activity involving Mullen’s staff also leads us to believe he might consider the Michigan job if Harbaugh says no. The Bulldogs have been slow in pulling the trigger on a contract extension for Mullen (taking time to focus on the upcoming Orange Bowl is no excuse) and in the meantime his coordinators have shown interest in jobs elsewhere.

Defensive coordinator Geoff Collins left Starkville to take the same job at Florida, and although Mullen considers that a “lateral move” it’s also indicative that his assistants sense there are greener pastures elsewhere (and by green I do indeed mean money).

Offensive coordinator and longtime Mullen assistant Billy Gonzales also interviewed for the head coaching job at Colorado State late last week, and he, too, could depart for a better job due to not getting a raise from MSU.

The Bulldogs are dragging their feet in not only retaining Mullen but also in retaining his staff, and if the cupboard is bare by the time Michigan comes knocking Mullen may give the offer an honest listen.

There will certainly be pride at stake, and when framed in that context it is Mississippi State who has the edge. Mullen led MSU to unprecedented success in 2014, and he has a chance to be the savior of the program and a legend in the state if he stays.

Meanwhile, at Michigan, Mullen know he would be a secondary option not valued nearly as much as he was at MSU. He’d also be lost in a long line of historic coaches in the Michigan program.

It stands to reason that any prideful man would crave the admiration Mullen received this year at Mississippi State over being someone else’s “Plan B.” But every man’s pride has a price, and Michigan could possibly hit Mullen’s number with an offer if it really wants to.

There are countless variables and “what if’s” to consider to speculate where Mullen might be in two month’s time. But the door Mullen seemed to slam shut on Michigan may be opening a crack. A “no” from Harbaugh could blow the door wide open once again.

Would Mullen really slam it shut twice?