Not again. Michigan's Playoff loss to TCU shows how far Jim Harbaugh, Wolverines have to go
Michigan was prepared. Michigan was determined. Michigan was ready to claim its destiny.
However, things didn’t turn out that way for the No. 2-ranked Wolverines, who quickly fell behind 21-9 in the first half of their 51-45 Fiesta Bowl Playoff semifinal loss to No. 4 TCU on New Year’s Eve in Glendale, Arizona.
A botched handoff from QB JJ McCarthy to RB Kalel Mullings on the goal line after a questionable review erased a TD, a disastrous 4th-down attempt at trickery on the doorstep of the end zone; a pick-6 that allowed the Horned Frogs to strike first — all of that, and more, contributed to the demise of the Wolverines, who are now 1-6 in bowl games under coach Jim Harbaugh.
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Most damaging, of course, that record now includes two straight flops in the College Football Playoff.
The wins over Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State in the regular season, along with a win over Purdue in the Big Ten Championship Game, have quickly lost their luster. The mighty Wolverines simply failed to show up during another “biggest game of the year” scenario. A legacy type of victory, yet again, has dodged Harbaugh.
Despite throwing for a career-high 343 yards and accounting for 3 TDs (2 passing, 1 rushing), McCarthy couldn’t lead the Wolverines past the Horned Frogs, who were surprisingly aggressive on defense.
The hopes for a national title will have to wait. Big Ten championships, at this points, will no longer be sufficient.
Saturday’s loss to a team that didn’t even win its own conference championship game will go down as one of the worst of the Harbaugh era. Despite a 13-0 season, Harbaugh’s Wolverines will be remembered for giving a way a win; they’ll be remembered for disappearing on the biggest of stages.
Michigan had 527 total yards of offense, yet only managed to chip away at the deficit with field goals from Jake Moody. The Horned Frogs kept scoring, and the Wolverines could only counter with Moody; a 59-yarder was the longest FG in Michigan history … and it was also a last gasp for an ailing offense that saw a couple of bad calls alter the trajectory.
In his first appearance, Sonny Dykes now has more @CFBPlayoff wins than Jimbo Fisher, Lincoln Riley, Jim Harbaugh, Brian Kelly, Ryan Day, Bob Stoops, Mark Dantonio, Chris Peterson & Luke Fickell combined
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 1, 2023
What about Ronnie Bell in the first quarter? That should have been a 51-yard touchdown but it was overturned on less-than-convincing evidence to the contrary.
Make no mistake, the Wolverines helped TCU along the way. The botched handoff from McCarthy to Mullings on the goal line didn’t help.
Was it arrogance?
Or did Michigan just want to get tricky early?
The 4th-down stunt with TE Colston Loveland — as the QB — was unnecessary and ill-timed.
Get the 6 points.
Get an early lead.
This is win or go home.
Instead, Harbaugh chose a riskier approach — an approach that had the Wolverines playing catch-up for the entire game, never holding a lead or gaining full control.
Saturday was all about the Horned Frogs showing college football that they were, indeed, worthy of attention.
Since taking over in 2015, Harbaugh has won 2 Big Ten championships; he’s beaten Ohio State twice a row, the first time for UM in more than 20 years.
He’s re-establishing the Wolverines’ hold on Michigan State.
He’s expected to make the next step, but he’s yet to do so.
Harbaugh has consecutive — and forgettable — CFP losses.
Michigan is coming off a historic season; it was said that UM was at a peak under Harbaugh.
A 13-0 season was great for the Wolverines, but a 51-45 loss to TCU was the worst possible exit for Harbaugh and a reminder that Michigan still isn’t where it needs to be.