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Roundtable: Discussing Michigan’s win in the National Championship, more

Winning the natty calls for one more roundtable of the 2023 season.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Monday night in Houston was one Michigan fans — myself included — will never forget. It was an unbelievable experience that capped off one of the most improbable 15-0 seasons we will ever see from a college football team.

Maize n Brew staff members got together for one final Roundtable for the 2023 season.

Michigan is the king of college football! The Wolverines beat Alabama and Washington in the CFP to be the final champion in the four-team bracket. Give us your initial thoughts and reactions once the clock hit 0:00 on Monday night, and where were you when Michigan won it all?

Von: It was a moment of pure joy and bliss. I was at the game with my dad and got to celebrate with him and a ton of other fans around us. When Corum scored his first touchdown in the fourth quarter, NRG Stadium nearly erupted. It was a game unlike any I’ve ever been to, and it couldn’t have been a better experience.

Kellen: I didn’t get up and yell. I didn’t sing a fight song. I kind of just sat there in disbelief. I knew how dominant this team was, and it earned every bit of this national championship. Maybe it’s growing up a Detroit sports fan. Maybe it’s being 24, with most of my childhood memories of Michigan football consisting of the Rich Rod and Hoke eras. Maybe I’m just a masochist. But part of me was convinced I would never witness one of my favorite teams win a title in any sport. I’ll never forget watching that game, which I had the pleasure of viewing in my childhood home with my parents and two of my brothers. Like many of us, I associate amazing sports memories (and frankly, life memories) with watching my favorite sports teams with the people I care about the most. A core memory was formed last night, and I couldn’t be happier.

Adam: I was in my family room with my best friend (who is also a huge Michigan fan) as we celebrated something we thought would never happen. I was old enough to remember the 1997 title, but this was different. This was for the undisputed championship and we beat an SEC power on the way. We were so happy we went through Alabama instead of playing an undermanned Florida State team. They couldn’t say Michigan had the easy way out. It was pure joy in my house as we finally could erase the really dark days of the Rodriguez and Hoke eras.

Matt: I drove two hours away to go to my parents house to watch the game. It was a childhood dream of mine to watch the game with my dad, and I would have made mountains move to make it happen. At the end of the game, I was in a state of disbelief. I genuinely didn’t know if I would ever see Michigan win a National Championship in my lifetime as of a few years ago. The turnaround this program and this team has had will be talked about for ages. It is the stuff of legends.

Andrew: A state of disbelief and jubilation. When Blake Corum scored his first fourth-quarter touchdown, I let out a scream of joy that had been built up from decades of fandom. It was a moment I’ll never forget because — for the longest time — it was a moment I never thought would happen. The Michigan Wolverines are national champions.

Erik: Words cannot describe the feelings that rushed over me when the game concluded and Michigan was crowned National Champions. I have waited for this moment for so long. After many years of watching Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and LSU absolutely dominate the college football landscape, it seemed almost like a pipe dream the Wolverines would ever be at a level to compete with these programs. When NIL surfaced and these programs started hauling in five-stars left and right, it seemed like the talent gap could get even wider. We all knew this year would be one of Michigan’s best chances to win a title in the foreseeable future, making this game even that much more stressful. It was dream of mine from a very young age to watch Michigan win a National Championship with my father. Sitting in the basement of their West Michigan home with my parents and wife — that dream came true on Monday night.

Dan: I was watching the game at home with my cousins and my wife. The first thing I did was belt “Who’s got it better than us?” and they heartily responded, “Nobody!” Now my wife wants to use the mantra for our family once we start having kids!

I just soaked in every moment, watching through the entire SVP show afterward, scrolling through social media, called my brother and dad. It was everything I wished it could be and I never wanted that feeling to end. Then my mind wondered to a bit of sadness knowing we won’t see this team on the field again. Just thankful for being able to watch guys like Blake the Great, Mikey, Zinter, Barrett and others on the field again. It sucks knowing there is an end, but that’s part of what made this journey so great.

Nick: I was overjoyed. I couldn’t help but think back to all the lows of the previous Michigan seasons throughout the course of the game, from the Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke eras, to trouble with the snap, all the Ohio State losses and the 2020 season. It was all worth it to get to this point right now with such a likable collection of players and coaches. I’ve gone to games at the Big House with my dad since I was a little kid, but since 2021 its been our superstition to watch games in separate rooms when we’re not in attendance, and we did it once again for the title game where it worked to perfection.

There were so many good individual performances — the offensive line, Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards stole the show on offense, while Mike Sainristil and Will Johnson made incredible plays all night long for the defense. Which ones were most impactful in your mind, and who would you give the MVP to for the game?

Von: On offense, it’s the bullies up front. LaDarius Henderson, Trevor Keegan, Drake Nugent, Karsen Barnhart, Trente Jones and Myles Hinton put Washington’s defense in bad situations all night long, resulting in the production from the running backs. Defensively, the secondary was stellar. What Will Johnson and Mike Sainristil did was incredible, and Josh Wallace and Keon Sabb both had a hell of a game as well. All in all, it was an all-team effort, but those individual position units excelled on Monday.

Kellen: The offensive line. This has been the backbone of Michigan football for three seasons now. They kicked Washington’s ass and proved they deserve to win the 2023 Joe Moore Award for the third year in a row over the Huskies. 303 rushing yards (!!!) is a CFP/BCS title game record, and when you watch the replays of the big plays, you could drive a truck through most of those holes the offensive line developed. Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards deserve a ton of credit, but Sherrone Moore’s dominant unit won Michigan the natty.

Adam: The offense was great, but they had stretches where they went stagnant. The MVPs would have to be the Wolverines secondary. Sainristil made a couple huge tackles and the clinching interception. Johnson was locking down receivers, but the one guy that didn’t get mentioned much was Keon Sabb. He missed a tackle early, but he had numerous pass breakups that thwarted drives for the Huskies. He was an unsung hero among the big names of the Wolverines’ defense.

Matt: The defensive line won the game up front. The Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line of the Washington Huskies couldn’t stop the Michigan front even when they only rushed four. This allowed the secondary to contain Washington’s vaunted receivers. Even without the sack numbers, seeing Penix be hurried, rushed and hit over and over again won the game for Michigan. My MVP is Mason Graham.

Andrew: Not to cop out, but the MVPs are the big boys in the trenches on either side of the ball. Offensively, the front protected J.J. McCarthy, sustained a good push at the point of attack and opened up numerous running lanes for the running backs. Defensively, you do not beat Washington without stopping the run and developing a consistent pass rush. Michigan built its identity through the trenches and reaffirmed its position as the most physical team in college football.

Erik: I think Donovan Edwards’ touchdowns at the beginning were probably the most impactful, in my opinion. Michigan needed to get out to a fast start to set the foundation for the game. Michigan fell behind early last year and it ultimately forced them into a shootout with TCU. Washington was going to want a similar style game where both defenses get gassed and it comes down to which offense could be more explosive. Those runs by Edwards showed Michigan was going to play its game regardless and it was up to Washington to stop it. A huge momentum boost I thought was crucial as well was Colston Loveland’s huge reception in the fourth quarter. That play really gave Michigan’s offense momentum down the stretch. My MVP has to go to Blake Corum, though. He came back to win a National Championship, and he delivered on that promise and came up huge.

Dan: The interior defensive line was most impactful to me. Michael Penix Jr. was a broken and beat up man by the end of the game and it’s because of the constant pressure he was on by Kenneth Grant (including that beast mode sack he had), Mason Graham, Kris Jenkins and Cam Goode. Those dudes lit up the Joe Moore Award-winning offensive line.

Nick: For me the MVP goes to the entire secondary, but Will Johnson and Mike Sainristil made the biggest impact. They helped to cut off the one route Washington had to win the game, and that was through the air. They helped to make an otherwise elite quarterback look like a shell of himself, and because of their efforts we never really saw Washington look like the elite offensive team they had been all season.

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, the 2023 season is going to be one we remember for the rest of our lives. When it’s all said and done, what memory will stand out to you the most about this season?

Von: There are SO many places I could go, but my mind immediately goes to the overtime win over Alabama. Michigan very well could have — and arguably should have — lost that game based off all the mistakes it made. But when adversity struck the Wolverines time after time this season, they rose up and punched right back, with no better example than coming back to beat Nick Saban and the Tide in Pasadena.

Kellen: I’m going to remember Sherrone Moore serving as interim head coach and winning two must-win games over top-10 opponents, one of them on the road. He already has more wins over AP top-10 teams than James Franklin. His profanity-filled speech after the Penn State game is now part of Michigan lore, and Michigan doesn’t win a natty without him.

If Jim Harbaugh really does leave to the benefit of all the NFL snobs who have been clamoring for this for years, Moore should be the first interview Michigan conducts for the head job. Michigan’s got to make sure he’s taken care of.

Adam: Al of them were great in their own special way, but Blake Corum just always making plays at the end of the game right when we needed him to. He might have gotten shutdown for a lot of the game, but he always seemed to get that huge touchdown run that was the epitome of the toughness of this team.

Matt: Overtime at the Rose Bowl will be etched in my brain for eternity. Blake Corum would not be stopped by anyone or anything. Then the defense slammed the door shut in epic fashion.

Andrew: The Penn State game. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was suspended less than 24 hours before the game and Michigan has never had its back against the wall more than it did in those circumstances. This team answered the bell unlike 99 percent of all college football teams and delivered a performance defined by 32 straight runs to secure the victory in Happy Valley. That was the moment when I knew this team was truly special.

Also, kicking the living crap out of Michigan State 49-0 and beating Ohio State for the third straight time were enjoyable and memorable.

Erik: The resiliency of this team will stand out most to me. They faced so many outside distractions and coaching suspensions that could easily send any team crashing down regardless of how good they are. This team really is a brotherhood that stuck together and got the job done no matter what. What they did with the deck stacked against them will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments of any Michigan team. It truly was Michigan vs. Everybody.

Dan: Those last drives in the Rose Bowl will live in my head for the rest of my life. The fourth-down conversion pass to Corum, the Roman Wilson fingertip catch and touchdown, and the insane Corum touchdown run in overtime. Once that game ended, I knew they were destined to win the National Championship. I hardly sweated the Washington game, especially because of how they jumped ahead early. Just so sweet!

Nick: The Rod Moore interception against Ohio State will be my favorite memory of the season. As a Michigan fan, wins against the Buckeyes are the best kinds of wins, and its been really remarkable to see how Michigan has turned the tide in the rivalry in recent seasons. With a trip to the Big Ten Championship and perfect regular season on the line, Moore came up clutch with the play of his life to keep Michigan’s title dreams alive. Being in the stadium and seeing (and hearing) the crowd and sidelines erupt when that play happened will stay with me for a long, long time.

Two simple yes or no questions (that you can expand on):

1) Is Jim Harbaugh already the best head coach in Michigan history?

2) Is the 2023 team the greatest team in the history of U-M football?

Von: The answer is yes to both questions. I’m not going to disparage Bo, but Harbaugh has already surpassed his former coach and mentor — who, in my opinion, isn’t even the second-best all time coach at Michigan (hot take alert!)

And this team is without question the best at Michigan. It’s the first team in Big Ten history to go 15-0, and they won six of those games without their head coach. It’s truly remarkable what this team accomplished this season.

Kellen: The answer to both those questions has to be yes. Jim Harbaugh got the monkey off his back, beat OSU three times, won three Big Ten titles, made it to the CFP three times, and capped off the greatest three-year run in Michigan football history with a title in a season with many deserving title contenders. This 2023 team had depth coming out of its ears at pretty much every position. The title was years in the making, and I’m just happy I got to witness the ride.

Adam: With the National Championship win, he has passed Bo and Carr for the top coaches. Bo didn’t get that elusive title and while Carr did, the last three years have been the best consecutive years of football for Michigan. He has shown consistency that has been unmatched and he is the first coach to lead a Big Ten team to a 15-0 record, although I think the 1997 team would have also.

The 1997 team is the only team that rivals this one. The two teams are ridiculously similar. A great defense with an offense that does enough to win games. The ‘97 team was probably better on defense (they gave up a ridiculous 8.2 points per game), but this year’s team was better on offense. If they played it would probably be a 7-3 game. This team is awesome, but I would honestly put the two teams as 1A and 1B.

Matt: Yes and yes. Harbaugh’s win totals and Big Ten championships are nowhere near Bo or Lloyd’s, but he’s been at Michigan a considerably shorter amount of time. With respect to Fielding Yost and Harry Kipke, winning the National Championship in the modern era is drastically more difficult than it was in the early 1900s. I have to give Harbaugh the edge over Bo because Bo never won a national title.

Andrew: I love Michigan history and take both of these questions far too seriously.

1 - Yes. Michigan is currently in its winningest stretch in program history during the most competitive era of college football. The Wolverines are 40-3 over the last three years with one national championship, three Big Ten titles and three wins over Ohio State. In six of Harbaugh’s nine years, this team has 10 or more wins, and has won at least eight games in all but one season under Harbaugh’s guidance.

2 - Yes. It is close with the 1997 team because of that team’s defense, but Michigan just went 15-0. The three extra games are the difference-maker because they represent three extra games for bad luck, injuries and all imaginable variances. It is tough to quantify how impressive it was to see Team 144 beat the greatest college football coach of all time with a month to prepare and then neuter a nationally-heralded passing attack to win it all by three touchdowns. The 1997 team reached the summit of the mountain, but 2023’s mountain was higher and more difficult.

Erik: I do believe Jim Harbaugh is the best head coach in Michigan football history, but primarily for what he has done the last three years. He took a team that had culture issues and was hitting rock bottom and turned them into National Champions just three seasons later.

I also believe this 2023 team is the greatest in Michigan history. I was very young when Michigan won the National Championship in 1997, but just to see what this team accomplished this season has been nothing short of miraculous. They proved all the haters wrong and controlled their own destiny despite what anyone thought of them. Not once did they let adversity drag them down and they accomplished what they set out to do.

Dan: 1. Yes - What he has done in this era is a better accomplishment than the 13 Big Ten titles Schembechler had and the 1997 title team Lloyd Carr had that shared a national championship. Michigan football was a laughingstock and Jim Harbaugh turned it into undisputed perfect champions.

2. Yes - It might be a little unfair because I was only a few months old the last time they won it all, but that team did not go through what this team did. Half the regular season without your head coach, beating Penn State in Happy Valley less than 24 hours after that head coach was suspended, beating OSU for the third year in a row, facing constant national media scrutiny...the list goes on and on. This was one of the best championship runs in the history of sports. What can anyone say that this Michigan team didn’t accomplish? What more adversity could they have faced?

Nick: 1. No, simply because I want him to stay and continue to stack up wins, conference championships and more national championships, if possible.

2. Yes. Despite the argument about a weak schedule, this team went 15-0 and went through a gauntlet down the stretch defeating four very good to elite level teams in its final six games. Also, this team could have a case for one of the best defenses of all time, especially after its performance against Washington’s high-powered offense. Not to mention the team showed it could win even when its head coach was away from the team for six games. That’s a testament to some serious culture and talent that few teams ever possess.

Now that the season is officially over, what are you going to do now (other than go to Disney World, of course).

Von: Patiently wait for September to roll around, because lord knows hoops won’t be a good time killer for me. But honestly, probably relax a little bit from the grind that is the football season and come back with some good content this winter/spring/summer for the site. We won’t be going anywhere!

Kellen: I’m going to enjoy watching the women’s basketball team hopefully get back to the NCAA Tournament and win a few games once they get there. I’m also going to attempt to find some optimism in the men’s basketball season that’s shaping into one of the worst the program has had in the past 15 seasons. The football team and the men’s basketball team can unfortunately never be good at the same time. The universe has appeared to have already decided that.

Adam: Spend a ridiculous amount on Championship gear and show it off to all my OSU acquaintances (definitely don’t have any Buckeye friends).

Matt: You joke, but I am actually taking my family to Disney World in February. Between that trip and the amount of National Championship merchandise I’m going to order, I will never financially recover.

Andrew: Take about two weeks off — I have a William Goldman book I am looking forward to reading — and then dive headfirst into the Michigan hockey homestretch. These are the best of times.

Erik: I will relish in this National Championship for as long as I can and then eagerly wait to see what this team will look like next season. Plenty of players will go pro and/or run out of eligibility. I fully expect this team will look much different next year than they did this season and will face a daunting schedule. No matter what the future holds for the Michigan football program and who is leading them, this season has been a historic rollercoaster that ended the best way possible — NATIONAL CHAMPIONS!

Dan: Do everything I can to soak in what happened this year. Rewatch every game, buy way too much merch, work on some offseason reflection and NFL Draft content, just live in the ecstasy that was the best season of Michigan football that I may ever see in my lifetime.

Nick: Ironically I was on a trip to Disney World when Jim Harbaugh was hired, but for now I’ll fume and fret over his looming decision on if he’ll be back next year. As good of a position as I think the program would still be in if he chooses to leave, he’s got something special going right now and there’s not a more perfect guy to lead this program into what will be a promising future.