For the second time in a row, the Michigan Wolverines find themselves in the College Football Playoff.
After not having made the Playoff before the 2021 season, Jim Harbaugh and his Wolverines have been on a roll. Now 25-2 the last two seasons combined, the Wolverines are looking to avenge last year's 34-11 Orange Bowl loss to the Georgia Bulldogs.
To do so, they will have to beat the TCU Horned Frogs in the semifinals. Before that occurs, it is worth looking back at how the Wolverines got here.
Michigan's Convincing Win Over Ohio State
Just last year the narrative was much different in the Big Ten. In November of 2021, the Wolverines were ready to play in the Big House against the Buckeyes. The storyline was clear: Michigan was likely to lose the rivalry game again, just as the school had 15 of the last 16 matchups against Ohio State.
Instead of the seemingly predetermined outcome, the Wolverines earned a 42-27 victory in front of their home crowd. Vaulting themselves into the playoff picture, Michigan stomped Iowa 42-3 in the Big Ten Championship to get to its first playoff.
About a year removed from the historic day, it was déjà vu in Columbus, Ohio. In a landslide decision, the Wolverines downed the Buckeyes 45-23 to end their regular season. It wasn't a fast start for Michigan, though. Ohio State jumped out to 7-0 lead in the first quarter when star quarterback C.J. Stroud found sophomore wide receiver Emeka Eqbuka on a four-yard pass to take the early lead with 10 minutes to go in the first quarter.
With the game moving slower into the second quarter, the scoring avalanche began once Michigan's sophomore signal caller J.J. McCarthy went over the top to Connecticut native Cornelius Johnson for a 69-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-10.
With one simple pass, Michigan's offense opened a new part of the playbook that Ohio State simply never seemed to be able to adjust for. Perhaps it was the moment the torch of the Big Ten passed from Ohio State to Michigan as McCarthy turned from highly talented recruit to college star in front of America.
Down three at halftime, the Wolverines offense opened the flood gates, scoring on multiple explosive plays. McCarthy would throw for a third touchdown, giving the ball to tight end Colston Loveland on a 45-yard pass to open the second half.
After, the Wolverines put together another long scoring drive before two big Donovan Edwards runs helped put Michigan up 45-23 while the Buckeyes stifled on offense, scoring only three points in the second half.
For Harbaugh, it was only his second win over Ohio State since taking over in 2015. For the Michigan program as a whole, the win in Columbus was its only win on the road since 2000.
For McCarthy, it was a historic day. He has thrown for 20 touchdowns and only three interceptions during the 2022 season. Against Ohio State, he completed 12 passes for 263 yards and three touchdowns. Michigan has long since awaited a star quarterback who can make big throws over the top and force the opponent to adjust for the deep passing attack in which the Wolverines have lacked.
Heading into the Fiesta Bowl Against TCU
While Michigan still loves to run the football, McCarthy's young and big arm may be able to make the Wolverines an elite passing team as well. The 19-year-old out of Illinois was a five-star recruit and the third highest ranked Michigan quarterback commit in history.
It was a long run under the shadow of Ohio State, but it appears Michigan is finally taking over the big brother spot in the Big Ten. Having won two times via blowout in the past two years, the Wolverines noe have the bragging rights over their archrival. Still, Buckeyes fans will be able to count their rings. Michigan lacks a Playoff title, and it will need to get one this season to officially become one of college football's elite programs..
If Harbaugh and the Wolverines can play like they did against the Buckeyes, they'll have as good a shot as anyone to win the national championship.
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