Michigan Football Preview 2015

2015 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 48 of 163

THE WOLVERINE 2015 FOOTBALL PREVIEW ■ 47 1976 Rick Leach led the Wolverines as a sophomore, taking them through a season in which they outscored opponents 432-95. They faced just one close contest during the regular season, and it proved an absolute stunner. U-M led the polls for eight straight weeks before losing at Purdue, 16-14. They stormed back to win at Ohio State, 22-0, entering the Rose Bowl ranked No. 3 in the AP. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Pittsburgh (11-0) would have taken on No. 4 Maryland (11-0), while No. 3 Michigan (10-1) would have drawn No. 2 USC (10-1). Extra Points: This was certainly one of Schembechler's strongest teams, and would have been a clear No. 1 going into the bowl season, had it not been for the slip-up in West Lafayette. Heisman winner Tony Dorsett led the upstart Panthers, rushing for 224 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 regular-season finale win against Penn State at Three Rivers Stadium. Result: Pittsburgh stayed perfect in a 27-3 humbling of No. 5 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Maryland fell to No. 6 Houston, 30-21, in the Cotton Bowl, while the projected 2-3 matchup between the Trojans and Wolverines actually took place in the Rose Bowl. USC won, 14-6, but did so in its own backyard, while a playoff game might have provided a more neutral site. 1977 Michigan steamrolled through opponents again in '77, with one huge tumble ripping away its No. 1 ranking. The Wolverines lost at Minnesota, 16-0, but reeled off three straight wins to end the regular season at 10-1, including a home victory over the Buckeyes, 14-6. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Texas (11-0) would have played No. 4 Michigan (10-1), while No. 2 Oklahoma (10-1) would have been pitted against No. 3 Alabama (10-1). Extra Points: Depending upon how much the selection committee relied on the polls, the eventual AP No. 1, Notre Dame, might have been shut out of this playoff altogether, at No. 5 to finish the regular season. The Irish stumbled out of the gate with an early 20-13 loss to Mississippi, and barely survived Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium, 31-24. Texas finished strongly, pummeling No. 12 Texas A&M, 57-28. Result: The Wolverines would have taken their chances against a Texas team that got exposed by the Irish in the Cotton Bowl, 38-10. No. 2 Oklahoma also got blasted by No. 6 Arkansas in the Orange Bowl, 31-6, while Alabama easily handled No. 8 Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, 35-6. This playoff could be argued any number of ways. 1986 Senior quarterback Jim Harbaugh paced the Wolverines through an 11-1 regular season. Michigan lost its No. 2 rank- ing with a home setback against Minnesota, 20-17, but then made good on Harbaugh's guarantee to beat the Buckeyes in Columbus, 26-24. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Miami (11-0) would have taken on No. 4 Michigan (11-1), while No. 2 Penn State (11-0) would have drawn No. 3 Oklahoma (10-1). Extra Points: The Sooners and Wolverines began the year No. 1 and No. 2, respectively. Michigan fell back with the loss to Minnesota, while Miami took out Oklahoma in late September, 28-16. That eventually led to the Hurricanes' showdown against Penn State, which won a close one at Maryland, 17-15. Result: The Nittany Lions claimed a national champion - ship by surviving a 14-10 defensive struggle with Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma held serve by hammering No. 9 Arkansas in the Orange Bowl, 42-8, and Michigan fell to John Cooper's No. 7 Arizona State squad in the Fiesta Bowl, 22-15. 1989 Schembechler's final Michigan team suffered an early home loss to Notre Dame, 24-19, then reeled off 10 straight wins to finish the regular season No. 3 in the polls. The Wol- verines handled Ohio State at home, 28-18, and survived earlier scares at Michigan State (10-7) and UCLA (24-23). Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Colorado (11-0) vs. No. 4 Notre Dame (11-1), and No. 2 Miami (10-1) vs. No. 3 Michigan (10-1). Extra Points: This time, Notre Dame stood atop the polls until a 27-10 loss to Miami in the regular-season finale. Meanwhile, Florida State began the season 0-2, but reeled off 10 straight wins, including beating Miami, to wind up No. 5 in the polls before the bowl games. Result: The Colorado-Notre Dame game actually took place, the Irish knocking off the Buffaloes in the Orange Bowl, 21-6. They'd have needed to change the result against Miami, which outlasted No. 7 Alabama, 33-25, in the Sugar Bowl. Michigan, meanwhile, lost another heartbreaker to No. 12 USC in the Rose Bowl, 17-10. 1991 The Wolverines stormed through Desmond Howard's Heisman Trophy season at 10-1, losing only to Florida State at home, 51-31. U-M pounded Ohio State, 31-3, and entered the bowl season No. 4 in the nation. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Miami (11-0) vs. No. 4 Michigan (10-1), and No. 2 Washington (11-0) vs. No. 3 Florida State (11-1). Extra Points: Big debate here, and one not satisfactorily settled. The AP poll had Miami on top, while the coaches' poll had Washington No. 1 by a bigger margin. The Huskies also handled opponents by an average of 31.7 points per game, compared to 19.3 by Miami, even playing roughly comparable schedules. Result: This is where a playoff would have helped im - mensely. Miami held onto the AP No. 1 with a 22-0 Orange Bowl victory over No. 11 Nebraska, while Washington re- mained No. 1 in the coaches' poll by manhandling Michigan, 34-14, in the Rose Bowl. Florida State shut down No. 9 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl, 10-2. 1997 Michigan put together the perfect season, rolling through at 11-0 while surviving home scares against Notre Dame (21-14) and Iowa (28-24). The Wolverines shot to No. 1 in the polls with the 34-8 "Judgment Day" rampage at Penn State and took down Ohio State in the home finale, 20-14. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Michigan (11-0) vs. No. 4 Florida State (10-1), and No. 2 Nebraska (12-0) vs. No. 3 Tennessee (11-1). Extra Points: The Cornhuskers were No. 1 midway through the season in Tom Osborne's final year as head coach. But voters were not impressed with Nebraska win - ning at Missouri in overtime, with the help of an illegally kicked pass that was caught for the game-tying touchdown at the end of regulation. Meanwhile, Florida State would have been ranked ahead of Nebraska had the Seminoles not lost their regular-season finale to Florida, 32-29. Result: Another split decision ensued, Michigan claiming the AP national title with its 21-16 win over No. 8 Wash - ington State in the Rose Bowl. Nebraska actually won the projected match-up against No. 3 Tennessee in the Orange Bowl, 42-17, then lobbied hard for a share of the title. The Seminoles handled Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, 31-14. 2003 Michigan went 10-2 in quarterback John Navarre's final season in a winged helmet. After crushing Notre Dame, 38-0, the Wolverines lost a heartbreaker at Oregon, 31-27, and dropped another one two weeks later at Iowa, 30-27. They then rolled up six straight victories to end the regular season, beating Ohio State in game No. 100 of that series, 35-21, to finish No. 4. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 USC (11-1) vs. No. 4 Michigan (10-2), and No 2 LSU (12-1) vs. No. 3 Oklahoma (12-1). Extra Points: This season represented another wild jum - ble at the top. Oklahoma led the polls all season, then lost to Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship Game, 35-7. USC's only defeat came in triple overtime at California, and LSU suffered only a home loss to Florida. The Sooners' loss didn't move them from the top spot in the BCS poll heading into the bowls. Result: USC did play Michigan in the Rose Bowl, winning 28-14 and capturing the AP national championship. Mean - while, LSU took down the Sooners in the Sugar Bowl, which was the BCS National Championship Game. Under a playoff system, the Trojans and Tigers could have settled everything. 2006 Michigan's saddest November in memory wiped out an 11-0 start to the season. Schembechler died just prior to the Ohio State game, and the Wolverines lost that No.1 versus No. 2 showdown in Columbus, 42-39. Many clamored for a rematch in the title game, but didn't get one. Four-Team Playoff: No. 1 Ohio State (12-0) vs. No. 4 LSU (10-2), and No. 2 Florida (12-1) vs. No. 3 Michigan (11-1). Extra Points: The debate raged after the Michigan-Ohio State game, Florida head coach Urban Meyer contending his team deserved a shot at the Buckeyes. USC lost a stunner at the end of the regular season, 13-9, to UCLA. The Gators, meanwhile had to hold off Florida State, 21-14, to get their opportunity. Result: Florida left no doubt, dismantling OSU in the BCS National Championship Game, 41-14. LSU throttled No. 11 Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, 41-14, while the No. 8 Trojans took down the Wolverines in the Rose Bowl, 32-18. ❏ The 2006 Wolverines lost in the regular-sea- son finale to Ohio State, but players and fans alike would have relished the chance for U-M to compete in a four-team playoff that year. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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