It remains impressive how far Michigan as a program has come during the first two years under Jim Harbaugh and company, but there is still ground to cover. A team loaded with veteran talent came up short of its championship goals. Harbaugh’s well-known enthusiasm got the better off him on the sidelines in the season finale against Ohio State. An unsportsmanlike penalty in Columbus hurt his team and contributed to his 0-2 record in the all-important game against the Buckeyes.
Michigan looked like one of the best teams in college football during stretches of the fall. They were steady in September and dominant in October. Finishing 10-2, their two losses in November came in heartbreak fashion. One via a field goal with no time left on the clock, and the other in a controversial double overtime. The Wolverines came up a few plays shy of making this season a special one.
At times, the Wolverines looked unstoppable. Wilton Speight progressed as a first-year starter under center while learning a pro-style offense. This offense was scoring 41 points per game at one point. However, not having a great running game hurt these Wolverines in key moments down the stretch of the season.
The nation’s best secondary was helped by a deep and talented defensive line, and vice versa- a group that ranked first or second in scoring defense, passing defense, total defense, red-zone defense and third-down defense. The defensive unit kept Michigan in a lot of games.
You can’t pay tribute to this Michigan team without mentioning Jabrill Peppers, the most versatile player in the country. Peppers didn’t produce an abundance of highlights down the stretch, but the exploits of the redshirt junior exploits in all three phases of the game were unmatched by anyone on the roster.
In a pivotal matchup against their arch-rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan looked to make a statement. Winning this game would have most likely put the Wolverines into the Big Ten title game with an opportunity to advance to the College Playoff. The game marked the 11th time that Michigan and Ohio State took the field with both in the nation’s top-five rankings (the second time that both programs were ranked in the nation’s top three). This game marked the first overtime ever in the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. Michigan would lose 30-27 in double overtime. J.T. Barrett’s whisker-close, fourth-down conversion gave OSU the last chance it needed to win the game. It was called on the field as a first down, and on the next play, Ohio State scored the walk-off winner. The play looked like it was too close to reverse as replay didn’t give any indisputable evidence that Barrett didn’t make the line to gain.
Overall, the Wolverines had a bittersweet ending to a season in which they’ll look back on one key play that prevented them from a top 4 ranking.