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THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

A Look Back Into Michigan’s National Championship Season

Cornerback Mike Sainristil intercepts Washington’s Michael Penix.

For the first time in 26 years, the Michigan Wolverines are football national champions.

In what has been a miraculous undefeated season, head coach Jim Harbaugh has led Michigan back to the college football playoffs after losing in the first round in each of the previous years. This year, however, things were different.

The Wolverines started off the season with a relatively similar amount of hype as they had last year. After a devastating loss to the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2022 Fiesta Bowl, star quarterback J.J. McCarthy vowed to return to the playoffs and win. McCarthy was expected to progress in his junior year, and returning senior running back Blake Corum was also expected to lead the team to new heights.

After a controversial offseason wherein Jim Harbaugh violated the NCAA’s recruiting rules, he was suspended for the first three games. Despite this, Michigan mopped the floor with its first few opponents. McCarthy and Corum looked to be playing at the high level they were expected to be at, but the real star of the show was the defense. Michigan’s defense had taken a step beyond elite and immediately established itself as the best in the country.

Defensive backs Mike Sainristil, Will Johnson, and Rod Moore led the most lockdown secondary in the nation. Linebackers Junior Coulson and Michael Barrett proved themselves as elite tacklers and took away the middle of the field from opposing teams. And the line, helmed by Michigan’s best defender in edge Mason Graham, was incredibly disruptive. Michigan allowed an average of 9.5 points per game throughout the season, which was first in the nation ahead of Ohio State, who allowed an average of 11.2 points per game. They were second in the country in yards allowed per game with an average of just about 240. They were elite.

As the season progressed, Michigan continued total domination of its opponents. Though the Big Ten was historically awful with only four teams in the conference being ranked, the Wolverines were on a roll. They steamrolled rivals like Minnesota and Michigan State. They looked unstoppable.

However, right after stomping MSU 49-0, a news report came out that accused the team of an elaborate sign-stealing scandal over the previous two years. What was turning out to be a great season was suddenly overshadowed by the possibility of the Wolverines having cheated. What soon became the biggest story in sports resulted in a second suspension for Jim Harbaugh as Michigan was approaching its biggest game of the season against #10 ranked Penn State. Harbaugh was not allowed to be on the sideline of actual games for the final three games of the regular season, which meant he would not coach against Ohio State.

Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Sherrone Moore was promoted to in-game head coach in Harbaugh’s absence. Moore’s first game against Penn State was an ugly win. Although controversy still surrounded them, Michigan was beginning to be taken seriously after beating a ranked team.

A close call against the Maryland Terrapins led to the regular season finale, #2 ranked Ohio State. The Buckeyes and the Wolverines were both undefeated. Ohio State had also had a spectacular season, highlighted by star wide receiver and Heisman trophy candidate Marvin Harrison Jr. On Thanksgiving weekend, Ohio State traveled to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines in what was the biggest game between the two teams in recent memory. Michigan handled most of the game relatively well, but a few too many missed opportunities gave OSU a chance to take a late lead. Michigan was up 30-24, but Ohio State was driving with less than a minute left in the game. A touchdown would win the game for the Buckeyes, but Michigan safety Rod Moore intercepted OSU QB Kyle McCord to seal the game and send the Wolverines to the Big Ten Championship as the #2 ranked team in the country.

Michigan won the Big Ten for the third straight year, shutting out #17 ranked Iowa by a score of 26-0 to seal their playoff spot. #1 ranked Georgia lost to #8 Alabama, knocking them off of the top spot in the country. Michigan took Georgia’s spot and was matched up with Alabama (who moved to #4) in the Rose Bowl. The most iconic game in the history of college football with the two most iconic teams in the history of college football was going to be madness.

Michigan kicked off the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day with a slow start. Special teams errors plagued the Wolverines, and the Crimson Tide took advantage. Suddenly, Michigan was down 20-13 with five minutes left in the game. J.J. McCarthy grabbed the ball, and, with the season on the line, marched Michigan down to the end zone and scored a game-tying touchdown to send the Rose Bowl into overtime. Two plays into OT, Blake Corum scored a monster 17-yard touchdown to put Michigan ahead. All they needed was to stop Alabama to secure their first ever National Championship game appearance. Alabama drove, but quarterback Jalen Milroe was tackled three yards short of the end zone on fourth down to seal a Michigan victory and send them to the championship.

On Monday, January 8, Michigan took on the #2 ranked Washington Huskies and their Heisman-worthy quarterback, Michael Penix Jr.. Two big touchdown runs from West Bloomfield grad Donovan Edwards put the Wolverines on top early. However, after those touchdowns, the offense slowed to a halt. Washington climbed back in it by halftime. In the third quarter, Michigan’s defense dominated, shutting Penix down with a crucial interception and no touchdowns allowed. The offense continued to be stagnant, allowing Washington multiple opportunities to tie or take the lead, but the defense responded by not allowing anything. Eventually, a big play from tight end Colston Loveland broke open a touchdown drive to put the Wolverines up 27-13, with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. On the next Washington drive, Penix was intercepted by Mike Sainristil, who returned the ball 81 yards and set up Blake Corum’s final touchdown as a Michigan Wolverine, sealing the 34-13 victory over Washington.

Michigan’s first national championship season in over 25 years was a roller coaster. Controversies and media threatened to break the team, but strong leadership from the players and a natural talent on the field led the Wolverines to their best season since Tom Brady was their quarterback. A fantastic season was capped off in a magical way and sent off players like McCarthy, Corum, and Sainristil in incredible fashion. From fans and students alike, we thank the Wolverines for all their hard work and congratulate them on their championship season. Go Blue!

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About the Contributor
Aiden Aronoff, Copy Editor
Hey everyone! My name is Aiden. I’m so excited to be your copy editor this upcoming year! I am a senior and this is my third year on the staff of the Spectator. I’m a huge movie nerd and Detroit sports fan! I have my own movie blog, Sweet n' Sour Movie Blog, where I do movie reviews. I love hanging out with friends, watching movies (obviously!), being active, and reading/writing. Can’t wait for this year!

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