The Michigan Wolverines are the 2021 Big Ten Champions and will play Georgia in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Dec. 31. A 17-year conference title drought is over and Michigan has a chance for a program-record 13th win on New Year’s Eve.
A team that was given a 0.0% chance of making the Playoff from ESPN’s FPI preseason predictor is now two wins away from a national championship. ESPN should have pumped those odds up, don’t they know pump it up?
Think back on the journey to even reach this point. Jumping around in Madison after blowing out the Badgers. Sweating out a seven-point victory at home against Rutgers. Brad Hawkins forcing a fumble at Nebraska that allowed Michigan to complete the comeback after trailing for the first time all season. Tight end Erick All taking a crossing route to the house on a cold day in Happy Valley to change the narrative of the program. And most importantly, beating Ohio State in resounding fashion.
Any team can win on their good day, but championship teams find a way to win on their bad days. While the Wolverines were far from bad against Iowa, they were also far from perfect.
Michigan was unable to establish a consistent running attack, quarterback Cade McNama struggled with accuracy and punter Brad Robbins tied his season-high with five punts. Outside of two explosive plays in the first half, the Wolverines were anemic with the ball.
Despite struggling to finish drives, the Hawkeyes were having success moving the ball against the Michigan defense early in the game. The emotional hangover from beating Ohio State was evident, but the Wolverines shook the rust off in the second half and quickly turned a slogging performance into a boat race.
Tied ends Luke Schoonmaker and Erick All took turns making one-handed catches. Running back Hassan Haskins set the single-season rushing touchdowns record with his 20th on the year. And defensive end Aidan Hutchinson notched another sack that could secure him a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist (it has been 41 years since a defensive linemen finished higher than fourth in Heisman voting).
Michigan arguably played the worst game it had in a month and beat a 10-win Iowa team 42-3. The Wolverines have now outscored their last three opponents 143 to 48 and have proved their resiliency week in and week out since losing to Michigan State in October.
Michigan is peaking at the right time and now has an opportunity to claim their first national championship since 1997 and the first outright national championship since 1948.
As a refresher, this is what was going on in 1948:
-The former Cleveland Indians won the World Series.
-The game Scrabble was introduced.
-Communists had seized control in Czechoslovakia.
-Rutgers was good at football.
With two games remaining, head coach Jim Harbaugh can do what very few have ever achieved at Michigan. Harbaugh doesn’t have an opportunity to restore Michigan football to glory; he has an opportunity to take it to a level that has only been recently spoken about in prayers. Harbaugh can do something that Bump Elliott, Gary Moeller and even Bo Schembechler couldn’t do in Ann Arbor.
Team 142 began the season unranked after a disappointing 2-4 campaign in 2020. All hope seemed lost within the program and this team’s ceiling seemed to hover around the Gator Bowl. Now, the Michigan Wolverines are on the precipice of immortality.
On Saturday, we learned that those who stay will once again be champions.