LOS ANGELES -- There is a different type of stress circulating at the Rose Bowl prior to Monday's first College Football Playoff semifinal. It's not about sign-stealing conspiracies or hacked data investigations. It's not even about deciphering Jim Harbaugh's latest theater-of-the-bizarre comment.

"Jesus would have been five-star [recruit]," Michigan's coach said, apropos of nothing, at Saturday's media day.

Rather, the participants in No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Alabama are talking openly about that stress prior to one of the most compelling semifinals in the CFP's 10-year history. This epic showdown -- or next week's CFP National Championship at the latest -- might set the stage for an epic walk-off by one or both coaches.

For completely different reasons, Harbaugh and Nick Saban have reached possible career terminuses. The chatter about their coaching futures has progressed beyond the speculation stage.

It's obvious Harbaugh may once again need to decide between his beloved alma mater and a step back into the NFL. While deciding, he will need to consider dueling NCAA investigations that could result in major penalties for him and the Wolverines.

This as Michigan has reportedly offered a monster extension with Harbaugh reportedly retaining famed football agent Don Yee -- known for his NFL connections -- as his new representation.

"I couldn't [blame him for leaving for the NFL]," veteran Michigan offensive lineman Trevor Keegan told CBS Sports. "One thing I do know, his brother [Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh] being in the Super Bowl is eating at him."

Not only has John been in the Super Bowl, he won his only championship over Jim's San Francisco 49ers in 2013. That was before Michigan's coach spent the last decade building the program to what may be its highest point.

Meanwhile, the Saban retirement buzz started bubbling up about a month ago. Will perhaps the greatest college football coach of all time actually consider stepping down? One agent told CBS Sports his phone started blowing up within the last 30 days with informed conjecture that this could be it for Saban.

In a way, that's nothing new. Such talk has surfaced from time to time as Saban, 72, gets older and continues to stack championships.

This might be more of that ... or it might mean eight national titles is enough for the legend should Bama win it all again.

Whenever he goes out, it's no secret Saban would like to do so on top at a time of his choosing. It has to be concerning that his mentor, Bill Belichick, is experiencing the opposite near the end of his career.

The New England Patriots have bottomed out at 4-12 in Belichick's 24th season. One source close to Saban tells CBS Sports that Alabama's coach has absolutely recognized that turn of events in New England.

"There has been a lot more rumors and stuff like that of him leaving," Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner said. "But what I'm seeing right now, he's investing in what he's doing. Of course, there's going to be a time and place where he's going to have to step down. Right now, there's no slowing down for him."

Saban does seem energized by Alabama's unique run. Following a sluggish Week 3 win to South Florida, it seemed like Bama would be a playoff afterthought. Amid Saban's best coaching job with the Tide, his team has won 11 games in a row and the coach's 11th SEC title. Monday's game will be his 14th CFP contest, an ongoing record.

"It was sort of inspirational to me that the players sort of bought into this," Saban said of the season's turnaround.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was asked flatly on Friday whether he would be shocked if Saban walked off should Alabama win another national title.

"Wow," said Steele, surprised at the line of questioning. (Note that he did not respond "Yes.")

"It's always going to be out there," said Steele, a veteran old enough to know talk of Saban's eventual retirement has circulated for years.

This version may be nothing more than a different variant of rumor, but it was obvious from speaking with Steele and Alabama players that they have heard it, too.

In fact, Alabama being Alabama, speculation has spread to include who might replace Saban. The first call might have to go to Oregon's Dan Lanning, who proved himself a skilled SEC recruiter and coordinator at Alabama (graduate assistant in 2015) and Georgia (assistant coach from 2018-21).

Harbaugh was casually looking over that Michigan contract extension a couple of nights ago, sources told CBS Sports. If reports of a nine-figure deal are true, he would have to consider it. Harbaugh would also have to consider a return to the NFL where there is no recruiting, no NIL and the transfer portal is much more regulated. It's called free agency.

It has been nearly a decade since Harbaugh left the 49ers to take over at Michigan. During his time with San Francisco, he won consecutive NFC West titles. The closest he came to a championship was losing to John 11 years ago in Super Bowl XLVII.

"It's cherry pie, apple pie. It's both great choices to make [between Michigan and the NFL]," Wolverines star J.J. McCarthy said. "I feel like he's going to do whatever he can to make the best decision for him. He loves the school so much.

Would McCarthy blame his coach if he left?

"No. He's a competitor," the quarterback said. "Having a national championship year and [another shot at] a Super Bowl, I could see him trying to get that. Finish his career off in the sunset."

Michigan has proved it can win -- actually, win big -- without Harbaugh. Offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore has won four games as acting coach, including the final three of the regular season against Penn State, Maryland and Ohio State. Harbaugh was suspended for half of the regular season, three games by Michigan to start the campaign and those three to end it by the Big Ten.

"He loves Michigan," Keegan said of his coach. "Everything he does is for Michigan. His three things are family, God and football. I really feel like he wants to be here. Every single offseason there have been rumors of him going to the NFL. As players, we talk about it. I want him to get a contract and be here forever.

"Michigan, give him a lifetime contract."

Keegan added: "He's on his way to being up there with Bo [Schembechler]. If he stays … he's going to have a statue. It's going to be the Harbaugh Football Facility."

Wait, that facility is already named Schembechler Hall. It is adorned outside with a statue of Michigan's coaching legend.

"They'll share it," Keegan said. 

The game's winningest program has captured three national championships but none since 1997.

The desperation to win at this level takes many forms. If Harbaugh stays, there may be NCAA cops waiting to suspend him -- again -- next season. That's one possible outcome of those dual NCAA investigations involving allegedly lying to the NCAA and stealing signs while improperly scouting future opponents

CBS Sports has learned the NCAA is unlikely to bundle those cases as one, making Michigan susceptible to the NCAA's repeat violator bylaw. That could lead to enhanced sanctions including -- in extreme cases -- the death penalty, though that is highly unlikely in Michigan's case.

Whatever the outcome, Michigan Men (and women) everywhere are riding with their guy.

"Every single other university in college football, they tore our coach down. There is going to be some stuff that comes out soon. People are going to respect us," said Keegan, who did not elaborate other than to say it did not involve Alabama.

Perhaps his remarks are fitting. With the decisions of two coaching icons yet to be officially made, well, that's an official definition of stress in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"I will tell you this," Steele said of Saban, "nobody knows that except him."