Michigan had a golden opportunity to win the programs first National Championship since 1997. However, they blew that opportunity by losing 51-45 in the college football playoff semifinals. The Wolverines were heavily favored vs. the overachieving TCU Horned Frogs but they picked the worst possible day to have their worst performance of the season. Below, I have a list of numbers that really tell a bleak story of the game for Michigan.
-QB J.J. McCarthy threw 2 pick sixes which directly led to 14 TCU Points
-Michigan had two possessions inside the TCU 3-yard line that led to 0 points
-Michigan’s defense had previously allowed 13,4 points per game. TCU scored 51 in the CFP semifinals
-Michigan’s rushing defense had previously allowed 85.2 points per game. TCU rushed for 263 yards in the CFP semifinals
-Michigan scored 45 points and lost
As you can see, the Wolverines did not deserve to win that game. However, this is a familiar tune for Michigan. The biggest kryptonite for the Michigan program is its history of losing big bowl games.
Michigan Under Bo Schembechler
Bo Schembechler is one of the best coaches in Michigan football history. However, he struggled to win big bowl games. Under Schembechler, the Wolverines were a putrid 2-8 in Rose Bowls. Despite winning multiple Big Ten titles, Michigan also never won any National Championships under Schembechler.
Michigan’s biggest missed opportunity under Schembechler was undoubtedly the 1971. They had an undefeated 11-0 regular season in which they outscored their opponents 409-70. They were the best team in the country all season. However, they lost to a 3 loss Stanford team in the Rose Bowl by a score of 13-12. If the Wolverines win that game, they are National Champions and would be considered one of the greatest teams in college football history. However, the reality is that they blew a golden opportunity.
The trend continued under Bo Schembechler. Between 1976-78, Michigan went to 3 consecutive Rose Bowls and lost all 3 of them. The Wolverines also lost the 1986 and 1989 Rose Bowls in very disappointing fashion. They could dominate the Big Ten, but they would always lose the Big Bowl games. Does that remind you of something?
Michigan Under Gary Moeller
Unlike previous coach Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller was 4-1 in Bowl Games. However, the one loss was a Rose Bowl loss in 1991. During the 1991 season, Michigan had a regular season record of 10-1 and a conference record of 8-0. However, the Wolverines lost to the eventual National Champion Washington in the Rose Bowl. If they would have won that game, they may have been National Champions that year. However, like most seasons, they dominated the Big Ten and didn’t show up for the game that mattered most.
The Lloyd Carr Era
Under coach Lloyd Carr, Michigan did break through and win a National Championship in the 1997 season. They went 12-0 and defeated Washington St. in the Rose Bowl to give the Wolverines an undefeated National Championship season. This was the greatest season in Michigan football history.
However, under coach Lloyd Carr, Michigan could never quite replicate that season’s success. They did win a Big Bowl game in the 1999 season which was a Rose Bowl victory. However, the Wolverines would never win another National Championship under Lloyd Carr. Michigan would make it back to the Rose Bowl 3 times in 4 seasons under coach Lloyd Carr but lost all 3 of them. Despite breaking through and winning a National Championship in 1997, Michigan could not maintain that level of success. For the most part, the Wolverines were who they have always been which was Big Ten great, but not an elite college football powerhouse.
After the disastrous tenures of Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke, Jim Harbaugh became the Wolverines head coach in 2015. Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan was disappointing between 2015-2020. They weren’t even Big Ten dominant. They were a step below what they have always been. However, in the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the Wolverines won back-to-back Big Ten Titles and made two consecutive college football playoff appearances. However, they lost in the semifinals in both seasons. Furthermore, Jim Harbaugh is 1-6 in bowl games during his tenure at Michigan. Once again, they were Big Ten great, but not an elite college football powerhouse.
Michigan had the opportunity to become a National Powerhouse this season. They had a National Championship opportunity right in front of them. However, they squandered it away in the game that mattered most. However, that is a tradition with Michigan football. Michigan is now what they’ve always been at their best. Big Ten great only.
Photo Credit: Ross D. Franklin)