Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 47 of 163

46 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW BY JOHN BORTON M ichigan has entered its bowl game ranked among the top four in the nation 10 times since 1968. Under the new four-team playoff system, that could have meant a spot for the Wolverines in each of those 10 sea- sons, providing a chance at a national cham- pionship. Here's a look back at those years when the Associated Press and/or United Press International (and eventually the coaches' poll associated with other media outlets) placed Michigan in the top four. For those who wonder what might have been, it's an exercise sure to get the competitive juices flowing. 1971 Michigan held on to beat Ohio State in the regular-season finale, 10-7, at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines finished third in the AP poll, featuring a fearsome defense that sur- rendered a mere 6.9 points per game. Bo Schembechler's third team in Ann Arbor made it through the regular season undefeated at 11-0. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Nebraska (12-0) would have played No. 4 Oklahoma (10-1), while No. 3 Michigan (11-0) would have taken on No. 2 Alabama (11-0). Extra Points: Michigan did not face a ranked team during the 1971 season, and labored past Purdue (20-17) and Ohio State at the end. Nebraska won at Oklahoma on Thanksgiv - ing in a classic shootout in Norman, 35-31. Alabama, mean- while, handed Auburn its first lost of the season, 31-7, in the season-ender at Birmingham. Result: Nebraska made its point forcefully in the Orange Bowl, smashing 'Bama, 38-6. Oklahoma furthered Big 8 pride by dumping No. 5 Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, 40-22. The Wolverines, meanwhile, were upset by Stanford, 13-12, in the Rose Bowl. Michigan finished No. 6 in the final AP poll, with a top three all coming from the same league: 1. Nebraska (13-0), 2. Oklahoma (11-1) and 3. Colorado (10-2), followed by Ala - bama (11-1) and Penn State (11-1). 1974 The Wolverines ran off wins in their first 10 games of the year, but there were a couple of scares along the way, at Wis- consin (24-20) and Illinois (14-6). The Wolverines were also poised to win in Columbus with a last-seconds field goal, but Mike Lantry's 40-yard attempt — a kick Schembechler swore was good the rest of his days — was ruled no good, giving the Buckeyes a 12-10 win. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Alabama (11-0) would have played No. 4 Michigan (10-1), while No. 2 Ohio State (11-1) would have taken on No. 3 USC (9-1-1). Extra Points: Plenty of intrigue here, since the AP's No. 1, Oklahoma, gets left out of the party while on probation. The Wolverines get in despite the season-ending loss, and USC secures the No. 3 spot after wiping out a 24-point deficit to beat Notre Dame in a classic comeback win in the Coliseum, 55-24. Alabama survived its regular-season finale at home with Auburn, 17-13. Result: This would have been a wild playoff. The Crimson Tide lost to the No. 9 Irish in the Orange Bowl, 13-11, allow - ing USC — which beat the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl, 18-17 — to leapfrog teams and finish No. 1 in the final UPI poll. Michigan did not get the opportunity to play in a bowl that season, but could have been right in the mix. WHAT IF … Looking At The Four-Team Playoff, In Modern Michigan History If the current system to determine the national champion had been in place while Bo Schem- bechler was head coach, Michigan might have participated in six of those four-team playoffs. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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