Michigan football: When will the Wolverines win another national championship?
For the past 4 seasons, the SEC has reigned supreme in college football, watching one of its flagship programs claim a national championship. Georgia has won back-to-back national titles via the College Football Playoff. The SEC has produced the outright national champ a staggering 13 times in the past 17 seasons.
The Big Ten has won twice this century: Ohio State in 2014 and 2002. Since the turn of the century, the top dog in college football has either come from the SEC, ACC, Pac-12 or the Big 12, with the majority hailing from the SEC.
Michigan hasn’t won a national championship since 1997, when it shared a piece of the pie with Nebraska.
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Following Georgia’s body slamming of TCU, the team that beat Michigan in the 2022 CFP Fiesta Bowl semifinal, the Michigan faithful have been hit with one burning question: When will it be our turn?
In 2021, Michigan made the Playoff, only to be drowned-out by Georgia. Making matters worse, the Wolverines lost 51-45 to the Horned Frogs, who were demolished Monday night, 65-7, by Georgia; it was the largest margin of victory in a national championship contest and the largest in any bowl game in the history of college football.
Under coach Jim Harbaugh, who may or may not be in Ann Arbor next year, the Wolverines have won back-to-back Big Ten titles. During the past 2 years, the Wolverines have upended mighty Ohio State and taken control of their in-state rivalry with Michigan State. Michigan has pretty much owned the rest of the Big Ten, including the talent-rich East division, during the past few years.
Have we seen the peak of UM football? Big Ten championships and wins over Ohio State? That’s the top of the mountain?
The Wolverines will enter 2023, most likely, as a top 3 or 4 team in the opening polls, creating a path to the postseason. Of course, they’ll have to take care of business during the regular season, but with QB JJ McCarthy and the RB tandem of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards, they appear to have a decent shot at a 3-peat in the Big Ten.
Assuming Harbaugh sticks around for Year 9, it’d be safe to say that 2023 would serve as a “now or never” situation for the Wolverines. Ohio State could look a lot different next year, with rumors of top players transferring. Michigan, though, should remain relatively intact, making them an obvious favorite to win the Big Ten and make another push toward the Playoff.
Michigan, at least during the Harbaugh era, has never had a better QB than McCarthy, who went 12-1 as a starter (he didn’t start Week 1) while completing 65 percent of his passes. McCarthy, a former 5-star recruit, will certainly be a on several preseason award watch lists this fall — including, likely, the Heisman, the most coveted trophy in all of college football.
Corum and Edwards are arguably the best 1-2 punch the Wolverines have ever had in the backfield, giving another reason to project success for the upcoming season. While there have been moving parts, the Michigan defense has been a top-5 unit for the better part of Harbaugh’s 8-year tenure.
So there is something else to think about.
If this is Michigan’s peak, will it be enough to dethrone another SEC program from winning it all? Right now, Georgia and Alabama have to be favorites to run through the postseason. Michigan may be a hot pick for the Playoff, but it’s doubtful that it’ll emerge as the team to beat.
It’ll be a team to beat, but not the team to beat.
With the way college football is headed, big-time programs with big-time NIL will take control of the landscape. Michigan has NIL measures in place, but they don’t compare to the efforts put forth by some of the other major programs. Conference success isn’t out of reach, nor is regional success against Michigan State or Ohio State.
However, winning a national title seems just a bit out of the grasp of the Wolverines, who are coming off a back-to-back stretch unseen in program history. Even if they somehow get it all together in 2023, the likelihood of the Wolverines climbing out of the heap of the best teams in America seems distant.
Michigan has put itself on the doorstep under Harbaugh, but it’s yet to find a way to walk through the door and sit atop of college football. Playoff appearances are great, and so are Big Ten titles — but the Wolverines are hungry for more.
Judging by recent history, namely the past 15 years, it looks like they’ll have to settle for table scraps while the Georgias and Alabamas of the world feast on CFP glory. Michigan might just have to settle for the leftovers, because even its historically great teams don’t seem capable of completing the job and winning a national title.