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  • Writer's pictureStone Lexington

Michigan Wolverines navigate through season-long controversy to claim CFP National Championship

Updated: Jan 10

Michigan Wolverines

After a season filled with controversy, confusion and detractors, the Michigan Wolverines have navigated their way through it all to claim the College Football Playoff National Championship. The Wolverines bullied the Washington Huskies en route to a 34-13 victory in the National Championship game on Monday night, but questions surrounding Michigan’s 2023 season still remain.

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who served two separate three-game suspensions this season for different NCAA violations, has finally brought Michigan (15-0) back to a place where its fans have desired the program to be for decades. Harbaugh and the Wolverines claimed their first national title since 1997 with the win over Washington (14-1) at NRG Stadium in Houston, and the team became just the sixth squad in major college football history to finish 15-0 or better. But still, the questions.

How legitimate is this national title? Did Michigan gain a significant competitive advantage at any point during the 2023 season en route to the title? Will the title ultimately be vacated? These questions will be answered in time, but one undeniable fact remains — The Wolverines looked like the best team in college football as they defeated four straight ranked teams to end the season.

The difference in physicality between Michigan and Washington was on display early in the title game. When Wolverines junior running back Donovan Edwards scampered for 41 yards to the end zone on the opening drive of the game, followed by a 46-yard touchdown run on Michigan’s next drive, the bullying had begun. Washington sandwiched a field goal between the pair of Wolverines scores, but when Michigan added a field goal of its own on its third drive of the evening to take a 17-3 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter, there was little doubt what the outcome would be.

The Huskies responded with a touchdown late in the second quarter to take a 17-10 deficit into halftime, and both teams traded field goals early in the second half that led to a 20-13 Wolverines advantage. Although it was a one-score game heading into the fourth quarter and seemed like Washington still had a chance to pull off a miraculous upset, the Wolverines thwarted those thoughts and re-asserted their dominant run game in the final quarter.

Wolverines running back Blake Corum, who has accounted for the most touchdowns in Michigan history, scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with 7:09 remaining in regulation that gave the Maize and Blue a 27-13 lead. Corum added another touchdown run on Michigan’s next possession, and the route was on.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan’s defense smothered Washington in the second half. Washington had seven possessions in the final two quarters with only one of them resulting in points. The Huskies' second half drives ended in the following sequences: Interception, field goal, punt, punt, punt, interception, turnover on downs. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was under duress from the Wolverines defensive front the entire evening, and he never seemed to get into a rhythm. Penix finished the game with 255 passing yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The quarterback on the other sideline, J.J. McCarthy, moved to 27-1 as a starter at Michigan and will be remembered as one of the best quarterbacks to ever put on a Wolverines uniform. His numbers weren’t spectacular in the title game (140 passing yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions), but Michigan’s rushing attack more than made up for the lack of production in the passing game.

Edwards finished with six carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns, while Corum carried the ball 21 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns. The duo, along with Michigan’s stout defense, were the catalysts that helped the Wolverines snap Washington’s 21-game winning streak.

Yet, questions remain after Michigan’s victory over Washington. What will the ramifications be from the cheating scandal the program found itself in this season? Will Harbaugh return as Michigan’s head coach next season?

Whether the title is ultimately vacated, Harbaugh moves on to the NFL, or Michigan’s season is remembered as tainted, Monday night’s result will not be forgotten.


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