The University of Michigan faces Georgia New Year’s Eve in the Orange Bowl with a chance to advance to the college football championship game.
And here is the kicker. The No. 2 Wolverines are facing an elite level SEC team that likely won’t blow them out. In fact, Michigan has a better than puncher’s chance against the Bulldogs. Michigan (12-1) can win this game with a game manager at quarterback, wrecking ball defensive ends at the corners and a youthful set of assistant coaches pulling the trigger.
There is something else Michigan has that is just as important and potent. Swagger and youth. My preseason expectations for this team was to load up on the light weights of the Big Ten, have a 50-50 shot against rival Michigan State, and then take that annual ass-kicking to Ohio State.
But then Oct. 2 happened. That’s when Michigan throttled Wisconsin and the world saw the jump men jump on the sidelines. This may be a ridiculous reason for football purists, but I began to think this team was different when the entire team jumped and danced when the Badgers played the song Jump Around by House of Pain between the third and fourth quarters.
The hype song was designed to jack up the Badgers and their faithful who jam Camp Randall Stadium. Instead, it unmasked a new Wolverine team, one that not only embraced the song but was allowed to bask in every drum beat and guitar rift. A team of stuffiness and fear turned into one of terror and joy.
This wasn’t the same team that underachieved under coach Jim Harbaugh and disappeared under Rich Rod. It was a new team with new coaches and a new attitude ready to embrace old traditions. This meant the messages from the new coaches resonated with these young men. It also meant that the tightness that sometimes gripped this program had melted away.
Of course, Michigan players and coaches spew the same tired cliché in Miami. They are having fun in the sun, but this is a business trip as it should be.
“We have to constantly remind ourselves we are here for a reason,” Wolverine offensive coordinator Josh Gattis told the media in Miami. “This is purely a business trip. It doesn’t matter if we are playing this game in Ann Arbor, Athens or Miami, we are here for a reason. And the college football playoffs are that reason.”
Of course there is talent on the field. Aiden Hutchinson and David Ojabo disrupt opposing offenses as the rush ends. Quarterback Cade McNamara has ignored the doubters and made the game manager sexy again. The offensive line is not just good. It is the best in the nation after receiving the Joe Moore award, a trophy that looks more like a piano in storage than an award for moving chess pieces around the field at your will.
Michigan is big, bad, and motivated. Let’s see if the Wolverines can make that next giant leap of faith.
It’s one thing to jump for joy in Madison; it takes things to a whole new level if the Wolverines can make the same leap in Miami.
Follow Foster at TerryFosterDet.