The Michigan Wolverines are going to the National Championship!
Despite facing Alabama head coach Nick Saban with a month to prepare, and even trailing 20-13 with less than five minutes to go in the game, the Wolverines found a way to steal victory from the jaws of defeat and win 27-20 in overtime.
Although it was an imperfect performance from the Wolverines, the 2024 Rose Bowl was an instant classic that Michigan fans will never forget. Before Michigan plays for its first national title since 1997, let’s hand out some position grades.
J.J. McCarthy delivered in the biggest game of his career. McCarthy finished the game 17-of-27 for 221 yards, three touchdowns, ZERO interceptions, and added 25 yards on the ground to boot. After some early overthrows and tipped passes, the now 26-1 starting quarterback for the Wolverines delivered with several clutch throws and a big run on Michigan’s most important drive of the season.
Running backs: A+
BLAKE CORUM LEGACY GAME! Corum rushed for 83 yards, the game-winning touchdown in overtime, and added a receiving touchdown in the first quarter. Corum is now Michigan’s all-time leader in rushing touchdowns after breaking a tie with the “A-Train” Anthony Thomas on a play that will live on forever in Michigan lore.
Wide receivers: A-
During the game, I wondered, “Where is Roman Wilson?” He was noticeably absent for the majority of the game, but when Michigan needed him the most, Wilson rose (literally) to the occasion.
On a first-and-10 on Michigan’s final drive of regulation, McCarthy’s pass was tipped and fluttered through the air toward Wilson 20 yards down the field. As Michigan fans clinched and held their breath, Wilson soared into the air, snagged the ball, and took it inside Alabama’s 10-yard line with less than two minutes to go. If Wilson mistimes this jump, the ball is picked. If Wilson tips the ball, it’s likely picked. Instead, Wilson scored two plays later and tied the game.
On the day, Wilson out-gained Alabama’s dynamic duo of Jermaine Burton and Isaiah Bond alone with 73 yards and a score. Fellow receiver Tyler Morris added 45 yards and a touchdown of his own in the second quarter when he took a bingo crosser to the house.
Tight ends: B
It was a quiet day for the tight ends, but it was far from a bad day. Colston Loveland and A.J. Barner were excellent in the run game and as chippers in pass protection. Without their physicality on the edges, Michigan does not have the same success in either aspect of the offense, and Alabama’s ferocious defensive ends could have made more of an impact.
Offensive line: A+
Michigan’s offensive line turned in its finest performance of the season given the circumstances and the competition. The Wolverines constantly moved the Tide off the ball and only allowed one sack — which had nothing to do with them — and one tackle for loss.
After a month of speculating if this unit could hold up against a Saban-coached front with two NFL edge rushers, the Michigan offensive line responded with a resounding and emphatic ‘HELL YEAH WE CAN” and proceeded to pound the ball to victory in overtime.
Defensive line: A+
As impressive as Michigan’s offensive line was, the defensive front was even better. The Wolverines twisted, stunted and stuffed Alabama with a combination of creativity and physicality. Every single player across the front played one of the best games of their lives, but none more so than fifth-year senior Braiden McGregor who led all Wolverines with a pair of sacks and tackles for loss.
Michigan’s linebackers are the single-most improved unit on the team this year, and the Wolverines needed every ounce of that improvement to win this one. Junior Colson led the team with 10 tackles, and Michael Barrett was an integral chess piece utilized in a variety of ways, finishing with nine tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss.
Rotational piece Ernest Hausmann was also excellent in relief of Barrett and Colson and provided much-needed depth to keep the starters fresh deep into the Rose Bowl.
Defensive backs: A+
The Michigan secondary was smothering in this game, as they completely eliminated the prolific deep-passing game of the Crimson Tide. Granted, Jalen Milroe barely had time to operate, but on his two one-on-one shots, Will Johnson and Rod Moore shut the door.
Furthermore, Michigan forced one turnover in this game, and it was a complete effort by the secondary. Safety Quentin Johnson forced the fumble and corner Josh Wallace recovered. Although the play did not result in points, it erased any opportunity for Alabama to extend its lead.
Special Teams: F
Michigan’s special teams unit was awful and almost lost the game for the Wolverines. Let’s count up the miscues:
- Semaj Morgan muffed a punt that was recovered by Alabama and led to the first score of the game.
- Long snapper William Wagner bounced a ball off the turf on a point-after attempt.
- Wagner struck again with a high snap that disrupted the timing on a field goal attempt and led to a miss by James Turner.
- Jake Thaw muffed a punt that almost led to a walk-off safety for the Tide.
- Punter Tommy Doman averaged less than 40 yards across six punts compared to Alabama’s punter who averaged north of 50.
Thankfully, no one will remember this abysmal performance from the third side of the ball, but Michigan will have to drastically improve in this area to win it all.