Michigan football: Wolverines, Jim Harbaugh face moment of reckoning vs. Georgia
It was the second-biggest blowout in Big Ten Championship Game history. Never in doubt, No. 2 Michigan rolled to a 42-3 win Saturday over No. 13 Iowa at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
Other than Ohio State’s 59-0 handling of Wisconsin in 2014, no team had ever bulldozed its way to such a lopsided victory during the Big Ten title bout.
Big Ten champions, winners over Ohio State in the regular-season finale, and now 12-game winners for the third time in program history — yeah, it was a nice season for the Wolverines, who retained their No. 2 ranking in the College Football Playoff race and will face Georgia in the semifinals.
This year’s pairing of the Wolverines and ‘Dawgs might end up being the best installment of the Capital One Orange Bowl. Both teams have shown national-champion-type traits. Georgia’s defense was unworldly during the regular season, and Michigan’s confidence keeps boosting every week.
In 7 years, UM coach Jim Harbaugh has had four 10-win seasons, highlighted by two CFP-worthy efforts: 2016 (just fell short) and 2021 (won B1G, locked up spot in CFP). Maybe it didn’t happen as soon as most Michigan fans would have liked, or as quickly as some media preferred — but it happened, and the Wolverines are once again in the national spotlight and No. 1 in the Big Ten for the first time since 2004 (shared).
Georgia just got pounded 41-24 by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. However, make no mistake: UGA is certainly a powerhouse and capable of demolishing Michigan. At 12-1, the Bulldogs have the No. 3-ranked total defense and No. 27 total offense in the country. Georgia held 8 opponents to 7 or fewer points this season, including three shutouts — highlighted by a 37-0 routing of then-No. 8 Arkansas.
Flip that around, and you’ll see Michigan with the No. 13 total defense and No. 18 total offense. Five points separated the Wolverines from a 12-0 regular season. During the first 5 games, no team scored more than 17 points against UM, which has allowed 18 or fewer points in 4 of its past 5 contests.
Similar metrics for two defensive-minded teams, and they’re teams that can score a lot of points — New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami won’t only be one of the best Orange Bowls in history, but it’ll also be one of the better CFP matchups since the 4-game postseason’s inception.
During ESPN’s CFP reveal special, Harbaugh was asked about the significance of Michigan making its first Playoff appearance. An 11-1 regular-season capped by a 42-27 win over OSU and a 42-3 B1G title knockout vs. Iowa certainly has UM humming along, and there is a lot to feel about in Ann Arbor.
“It’s a great feeling. A lot of hard work. I’ve got to salute our coaches,” said Harbaugh, who listed his assistants, crediting each of their position groups as contributors to team success. Stars such as DE Aidan Hutchinson, RB Hassan Haskins and a host of others propelled the Wolverines to an emotional conference title victory Saturday in Indianapolis — and they’ll be even more important when it comes time to face Georgia.
“Just a long list of guys and a team that just works – they don’t talk a lot. They’re just more ‘about it.’ Give them a few days off here, and we’ll get back to work for Georgia,” said Harbaugh, who mentioned UM’s focus across the board: Offseason, winter, spring, weight room and fall camp: “Just a bunch of guys that wanted to give it their very best and they feel good about what they’ve accomplished. … Guys just working, not worrying.”