It’s gameday, folks!
The Michigan Wolverines and TCU Horned Frogs will do battle in the College Football Playoff semifinals this afternoon in the Fiesta Bowl (4 p.m. on ESPN).
Members of the Maize n Brew staff got together to answer some burning questions leading up to the game and giving some predictions for the game as well.
A spot in the National Championship is on the line this afternoon. Before we really get into it, let’s reflect on how we got here. Detail some of your favorite moments throughout Michigan’s 13-0 regular season.
Von Lozon: So many good moments this year, but my No. 1 is going to the Big Ten Championship with my dad and two brothers. The entire experience was great (other than all the GD TV timeouts) and these are the moments with my fam that I truly cherish. A non-sentimental moment, of course, would be the team beating the daylights out of Ohio State in Columbus.
Kellen Voss: Everyone is going to say the Ohio State victory, which is objectively the best moment. I’ll focus on something different: the absolute beat down against Penn State. Up until then, the noise from national pundits on Michigan not playing anybody was pretty loud. There were still some doubters but after that game, it felt like more and more people said, “Okay, this team is legit.”
Andrew Bailey: Looking back, it’s so much easier to appreciate the beauty when you aren’t battling enough stress and anxiety to rival a bride on her wedding day. Let’s start at the beginning, because I would be remiss if we didn’t appreciate the non-conference schedule as well. The seven-sack performance against CSU, J.J. McCarthy winning the job against Hawaii, and Blake Corum’s five touchdowns against UConn are all now largely overlooked, but equally enjoyable in terms of nostalgia. Other noteworthy moments from the rest of the year that jump out to me are: Corum’s jump cut against Maryland as part of his 243-yard performance; J.J. waving to the children’s hospital against Iowa; the team overcoming the collapse of Mike Hart at Indiana; Corum and Donovan Edwards running over Penn State; bringing Paul home in a game that is overlooked due to the chicanery that followed; Michael Barrett’s two picks against Rutgers; Money Moody exceeding his value against Illinois; the Mikey Sainristil PBU against Ohio State and, once again, raising the Big Ten Trophy. This season was a compilation of moments, and you don’t reach 13-0 without every single one of them mattering.
Scotty White: What a season it has been. There were tons of great moments this year but none better than blowing out Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State. Those were the games I was nervous about heading into the season and Michigan left no doubt.
Zach Breininger: This was the year of running back for Michigan. One would be remiss if they didn’t mention the two massive runs that Donovan Edwards vanquished the Buckeyes with. His long run against Penn State wasn’t too bad also.
Now let’s look ahead to tonight’s game against the Horned Frogs. They’ve got explosive playmakers on offense, led by QB Max Duggan and WR Quentin Johnston. What is it about this offense that makes it so successful, in your opinion?
Von Lozon: Sonny Dykes has done a tremendous coaching job this year with the offense. He’s an offensive-minded head coach who has coached every offensive position at some point or another throughout his career. The job he’s done with Duggan can’t be overstated; no one in America saw that coming before the season started. They are a Big 12 offense, something Michigan hasn’t seen this year, so the defense needs to be ready for some fast-paced action.
Kellen Voss: Had it not been for Caleb Williams, Duggan might have won the Heisman. As good as this defense has been, playing against a quarterback that good has scared me.
Andrew Bailey: Quarterback Max Duggan is a Ferrari engine inside of a Kia Sorento. The Sorento is a fine car but with that kind of engine behind it, they become lethal. Duggan may not have won the Heisman, but he is indisputably the MVP of the season because of what he brings to the team.
Scotty White: They have a very balanced offense. They obviously have the special QB and WR duo, but the rushing attack led by Kendre Miller is strong too. He has 1,342 rush yards on the year, 17 TDs and is averaging around six YPC. TCU has tons of weapons.
Zach Breininger: As impressive as their stats are, TCU’s offense doesn’t strike me as anything too much different from other offenses Michigan has faced. However, Max Duggan is the straw that stirs the purple drink. His leadership abilities and the relationship he has with his teammates allow their offense to hum along. Doubtlessly, containing Duggan will be the centerpiece of Michigan’s defensive strategy.
The Horned Frogs aren’t slouches on defense, either, and are led by Jim Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (3 INTs, 11 PBUs). What is the key for Michigan to find success on offense in this game?
Von Lozon: Run, run, run, and run some more. TCU gives up 149.5 rushing yards on average per game, 1,943 total rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns this season. Not great by any means. Another huge game from Donovan Edwards could be coming up, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see J.J. McCarthy get more involved in the run game, as well. Oh, and if you’re passing the ball, I strongly advise not passing to Hodges-Tomlinson. That guy is a future NFL player and has been as elite as anyone at the cornerback position this year.
Kellen Voss: They need to keep TCU guessing. We know they are going to try and stop the run, which has been Michigan’s biggest strength. Michigan needs to use that to their advantage, use play action, and throw the deep ball. Connecting on a few deep shots only makes the chances of victory greater.
Andrew Bailey: “POUND THEIR ASS!” - Al Borges. Michigan needs to run and run and run some more. Take advantage of vulnerable coverage, but be who you are and punish the Horned Frogs in the trenches.
Scotty White: Find a healthy pass/run balance on offense. Ohio State and Purdue did well in the first half to make Michigan throw it before getting worn down in the second half, and J.J. has done well doing so. McCarthy is one playing his best football right now so let him make some plays through the air if the run game is slow.
Zach Breininger: It sounds self-evident, but Michigan must exploit what TCU gives them. If TCU deploys a Jim Knowles-style strategy, pop the top. If they play more balanced, stick with the ground game. Moore and Weiss are wise enough to know the Wolverines have the advantage in terms of physicality and multiplicity to beat TCU’s defense soundly, but it will come down to how they adjust in real-time.
Gimme one bold prediction for today’s game.
Von Lozon: Defensive end Mike Morris comes back with a vengeance today after missing the two most important games of the season against Ohio State and Purdue — three tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass break-up and a fumble recovery. Huge game incoming for the senior edge rusher.
Kellen Voss: This game will come down to the final drive, and a pick from Mike Sainristil — his first of the year — will seal the victory for Michigan.
Andrew Bailey: This game is over by the third quarter.
Scotty White: J.J. gets his third straight game throwing three touchdowns.
Zach Breininger: Donovan Edwards will have two receiving touchdowns.
The final score will be...
Von Lozon: The Wolverines will stamp their ticket to the championship in Los Angeles and give fans something more to celebrate tonight other than the year ending. Michigan 35, TCU 31.
Kellen Voss: Michigan wins but TCU covers. U-M 31, TCU 27.
Andrew Bailey: Michigan, 45-24.
Scotty White: Michigan wins, 38-24.
Zach Breininger: 38-22, Michigan. I think the Wolverines will outmuscle TCU on offense, and Michigan’s secondary keeps big plays to a minimum.