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Voices from the Crowd: Michigan has a shot at the National Championship

This year, Michigan has a shot at the College Football National Championship and its first Big Ten Conference title since 2004. They surprised the college football world after entering the season ranked 14th where now they’re ranked fifth. The Wolverines are currently on a hot streak having dominated two top-25 opponents in a row:  No. 15 Wisconsin and No. 24 Michigan State University (MSU) on the road. They beat both teams by a combined score of 59-20 with tremendous defensive performances holding MSU to 94 total yards of total offense, MSU’s worst performance in any game since 1947. Until 4:48 in the fourth quarter, Wisconsin had only 25 passing yards. The quarterbacks for MSU and Wisconsin combined for 12 completions on 45 attempts. Michigan currently has the top overall defense in the country thanks to Defensive Coordinator Don Brown and top-tier talent. If defense really does win championships, Michigan’s offense will also have to perform well to get them there.

Last year was a rough year for Michigan, to say the least. They went 8-4 in the regular season and lost in the Outback Bowl to South Carolina. Michigan was plagued by two quarterback injuries and a weak third string replacement, John O’Korn, who threw only two touchdown passes all year. O’Korn was the main reason Michigan lost key games against Michigan State and Ohio State. Under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, Michigan was 1-5 against their biggest rivals over three years, but that chip on their shoulder along with a new quarterback might be the key to Michigan’s current success. Now Michigan has five star Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, who’s already thrown for over 1500 yards, 12 touchdown passes, and only two interceptions. This time, however, if Patterson goes down, five-star back up Dylan McCaffrey will take the helm with experience making big plays with his arms and legs. 

In order to get to the playoffs, Michigan must win the Big Ten and beat Ohio State which they’ve only done once since 2004. That’s a big hump to get over, even bigger considering the game is in Columbus this year, but the Wolverines have an edge in the matchup. For four years Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett has been the bane of Michigan’s existence with his ability to throw and run the ball extremely well. Michigan’s defense, while good, never had a complete answer for the dual-threat quarterback when he went on the move. This year J.T. is gone and though Ohio State’s new quarterback Dwayne Haskins impresses, he doesn’t have the same run game. That weakness was on display when Ohio State was upset by Purdue 49-20, even though Haskins set school throwing record for 470 yards in the game. Michigan’s top-tier defense should have no trouble covering receivers and getting to Haskins.

One last thing that supports Michigan’s road to the National Championship is to compare the circumstances between this season and Michigan’s last national championship season in 1997. In 1996, the Wolverines went 8-4 in the regular season, lost in the Outback Bowl, and entered the 1997 season ranked 14th in the AP poll. If Michigan wins its match-up with Penn State this weekend, they’ll have beaten three ranked opponents in a row. The last time Michigan did that was in 1997. If Michigan wins out, they’ll have beaten at least four ranked opponents with their only loss being to No. 3 Notre Dame at the beginning of the season. The resume, offense, defense and history all point to Michigan winning out this year. 

Ian Ricoy, a Contributing Writer for the Voice, can be reached for comment at IRicoy20@wooster.edu.

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