After coming off a College Football Playoff appearance, expectations are justifiably high for the Michigan Wolverines in 2022. They return a slew of starters on the offensive end with fill-ins for some of those who moved on that should put up similar production. The other side of the ball has some more question marks, but Jim Harbaugh has already said this “no star” defense could be even better than the one that was filled with them last season.
On the national stage, everyone’s eyes have reverted back to Ohio State to retake control of the Big Ten. A plethora of five-star talent in the 2022 class and the return of C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TreVeyon Henderson lead the way for a team that some have projected to be a favorite for the National Championship.
Where does that leave Michigan?
There have never been two bids the same season from the Big Ten in the College Football Playoff, so it would be unprecedented for both Michigan and Ohio State to make it in. If the Wolverines finished 11-1 with a loss to the Buckeyes, it would have to mean Michigan wiped the floor with most of its competition and lost a tight contest in Columbus. Even that may not be enough to get in, as the Wolverines may need some help from either Alabama or Georgia to finish with two losses.
Trends in the national media tend to follow that thinking as well. CBS Sports, College Football News, 247sports, ESPN ($), The Action Network, Sporting News (with a typo) and Yahoo Sports all have the Wolverines playing in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl by season’s end. Several outlets have them playing the Utah Utes while a few others have them playing the Oregon Ducks.
Here’s what they had to say:
Brad Crawford, 247Sports:
Projection: Michigan (11-1) vs. Utah (11-2)
“There will be no trip to the College Football Playoff this season for Michigan, but the Wolverines should find a soft landing spot in Pasadena against projected Pac-12 champion Utah. This matchup means Michigan finishes as the Big Ten’s second-highest rated team behind Ohio State with one loss. Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards should maintain Michigan’s rushing prowess despite losing Hassan Haskins. After making their first Rose Bowl appearance in program history last season, the Utes would try and post their first win in the setting this time around.”
Bill Bender, The Sporting News
*Rose Bowl: Michigan vs. Utah
“Jim Harbaugh’s first game at Michigan was a 24-17 loss at Utah. Now, Harbaugh will lead Michigan to its first Rose Bowl appearance since 2007. The Wolverines are 0-3 in New Year’s Day Six bowls and CFP semifinals, but there is enough on the roster to get to Pasadena and pull out a victory. The Utes return as the defending Pac-12 champions, and they will have to hold off USC and Oregon to get back here. It’s a chance for Utah quarterback Cam Rising to shine again.”
*designates a typo in the original story
It is somewhat strange to me so many people are writing off the Wolverines and calling the 2021 season a fluke. Yes, Ohio State has recent history of beating Michigan, especially in Columbus where the Wolverines haven’t won in two decades, but the notion this is some impossible task for this Michigan squad is unwarranted and disrespectful. It’s surprising not even one analyst observed was willing to give that take. The amount of pundits writing off that game as a win for the Buckeyes is guaranteed to be bulletin board material in Schembechler Hall.
A Rose Bowl appearance would very likely mean another loss to Ohio State and another year of absence from Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship. However, it would mean beating Michigan State and being without blemish otherwise. That record would be nothing to sniff at, but would it be good enough without the accolades that came from last season?
What say you — would you consider 11-1 with a Rose Bowl appearance good enough for the 2022 campaign? Sound off in the comments below.