For more than a month, the drama built towards the College Football Playoffs Championship Game. The Michigan Wolverines wiped all the hype away in less than five minutes on their opening drive to bring it all to a rather anticlimactic end.
Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines had the final laugh, all but thumbing their noses at the controversy that saw the Michigan coach begin and end the schedule with a pair of 3-game suspensions. It’s difficult to believe the turmoil didn’t affect the team at all, as Harbaugh claimed, but the Wolverines certainly played as if they had no care in the world.
1. Someone Please Clone the Michigan O-Line
Honoring them with something like a Mount Rushmore might not be the answer, especially since they’d have to go all the way up to the Upper Peninsula to find a suitable site for the carvings. And a bronze likeness of the group would seem so ordinary for such an extraordinary group.
But Michigan should do something to honor the offensive line that played a huge part in the school’s first unbeaten season and national title since 1997.
Credit undoubtedly goes to Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore for the blocking schemes and play-calling, but the heavy-lifting was done by the lads in the trench who opened holes big enough for Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards to each enjoy 100-yard games.
If it is to be a bronze likeness of the unit, the artist will need a lot of bronze to recreate a bunch that averaged about 320 pounds apiece. Names like Trente Jones, LaDarius Henderson, Myles Hinton and Drake Nugent must be remembered.
And we can expect Moore to become a hot commodity for a head coaching job. The Wolverines’ OC took over as interim head coach during Harbaugh’s absences, and began his coaching career as a grad assistant at Louisville after playing at Oklahoma.
2. Wolverines Defense Proves Itself, Again
Let’s also not forget the jobs Jesse Monter, Steve Clinkscale and the rest of the defensive coaching staff did for the Wolverines, not only in Monday’s 34-13 win over Washington, but the entire season.
Michigan harassed Michael Penix Jr. early, and the Huskies’ high-octane offense never did synch up. To be fair, tailback Dillon Johnson reaggravated a foot injury on his first carry and never was 100% for the contest, but the Wolverines deserve the lion’s share of the credit for holding one of the nation’s top offenses to just 301 total yards, and only 46 on the ground.
Junior Colson, Mason Graham, Josaiah Stewart and Michael Barrett were the stars among the front 7, and the defensive backfield once again proved to be hell-bent on smothering coverage.
Will Johnson picked Penix off to begin the first half, and Michigan’s ensuing field goal made it 20-10. Mike Sainristil delivered the coup de grâce late in the fourth, returning his interception 81 yards to set up Michigan’s final score.
The performance was a great way to cap a season in which the unit finished first in the country allowing 10.4 points and 247 yards per game, all while ranking second in pass defense (157 ypg) and sixth against the run (90 ypg).
3. Does Harbaugh Return to NFL?
Monday’s postgame press conference was the usual zoo among the scribes and talking heads, and they pressed Harbaugh very early about whether his future included a return to the NFL.
Harbaugh ran the show in San Francisco from 2011-14 when he took the 49ers to the playoffs three consecutive seasons, including a loss to brother John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
The Michigan coach deflected the questions, but it is interesting to wonder if perhaps Sherrone Moore’s head coaching career could begin in Ann Arbor as Harbaugh’s replacement.
4. Did Penix’s Performance Damage NFL Draft Stock?
Time and time again this season, Penix proved himself to be a great college quarterback who never seemed to get rattled when his team needed him the most. That coolness is a very strong trait for success when Penix moves to the next level.
But how much did Monday’s loss potentially hurt Penix’s status in the upcoming NFL Draft? The Washington signal caller is coming off two huge seasons statistically, throwing for more than 9,500 yards and 67 scores combined.
The NFL combine will go a long way to determining whether Penix will ultimately be a top 10 pick this April when the pros converge on Detroit to make their selections.
5. CFP Matchup Could be Building Block for Great Rivalry
One of the more interesting takeaways from the CFP Championship is the fact the next time Michigan and Washington meet, it will be as conference foes.
The Pac-12’s demise was the Big Ten’s gain as Washington is joined by Oregon, UCLA and USC in the B1G move. Could the Huskies exact a little revenge when they host the Wolverines in Seattle this October, and might we all look back on Monday’s CFP title tilt as the beginning of a huge rivalry?