The Wolverine

January 2022

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 7 of 67

8 THE WOLVERINE JANUARY 2022 J i m H a r b a u g h s p o ke t h e words, ones that should re- sound into 2022 and beyond. "It feels like the beginning." It can be. The way Michigan worked and willed its way to a Big Ten championship should set the template for every team Har- baugh sends onto the field going forward. The Wolverines manhandled Ohio State in a punishing push- back against not only the Buck- eyes, but against the notion that it couldn't be done. That the crew from Columbus loomed just too big, too talented, too impos- ing to beat. That Ryan Day might hang 100 on the Wolverines. By the end, Day hoped his quar- terback could hang onto his Buck- eyes under Michigan's fearsome pass rush. When the clock hit 00:00, maize and blue flooded the field in a surreal, snowbound celebration. One week later, confetti replaced the snow, fluttering down in Lucas Oil Sta- dium. The Big Ten champions didn't need to worry about a letdown. They let down an anvil on Hawkeye heads in their 42-3 annihilation of the best the West had to offer. They accomplished so much, when outsiders expected nothing. They de- cided they'd had enough — enough of coming up short, of lowered standards, of getting mocked in the offseason. To- gether, they smashed the notion that Michigan couldn't get it done anymore into a million pieces. "We've been having a legendary season," junior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson declared. "We're the first [preseason] unranked team in the play- offs, and we won the Big Ten champion- ship really against all the odds." It doesn't have to end, for the Heis- man Trophy runner-up and his team- mates. They're two wins away from a national championship. Few of the experts expect them to do it. Sound familiar? Don't count Doug Skene among the skeptics. analyst, football contemporary of Hutchinson's dad, Chris (1988-92), and owner of five Big Ten championship rings, believes. He didn't before the season, like al- most everyone else. But this team brought a tear to his eye with its maul- ing effort against the Buckeyes. To ac- complish that feat, you've either done something mighty special, or you're re- ally good with a sledgehammer. Skene insists with Michigan's ability to run the football and its developing wide- out/tight end crew, its ball-protecting quarterback and a masterfully revived defense, it belongs in football's final four. "If we play clean football, if we play the version we did against Ohio State and Iowa, no doubt in my mind we can beat any of the three teams," Skene said. "I feel good about going into this playoff. "This team is playing with a chip on its shoulder. A lot of these guys prob- ably feel, going into this, that no one's giving them a chance. And Georgia will be the next team that's going to say, 'We're from the SEC and you're not. You should probably just step out of our way and give us a national champion- ship opportunity.' "I've got a feeling this Michi- gan team is going to respond ac- cordingly, just as they have all year. That makes me feel pretty good going into this game." Georgia felt pretty good going into the SEC title game against Alabama, having handcuffed of- fenses all year long. The Crimson Tide rolled through Georgia's de- fense like Gen. Sherman through the South. Bulldogs quarterback Stet- son Bennett threw for 340 yards against the Tide, but came up all hat, no cattle with a pair of second-half interceptions. It's a safe bet Hutchinson and red- shirt freshman edge rusher David Ojabo are planning a welcoming party for him. "We've got the best defensive end pass rush duo in the nation," Skene insisted. "That quarterback is going to feel it. Even when he does get rid of the football, it might be a little bit fast, and it might be a little bit inaccurate. "We've seen that, because of the im- pact of our defensive line. You've got to have that, right? You've got to have that in order to win. You've got to pressure the quarterback and be able to run the football. "That's what we do." It's what they do now, no doubt. No more untouched quarterbacks in the biggest game of the year. No more dig- ging a canyon-sized hole, and throwing 50 times to try and dig out. Michigan fashioned an absolutely shocking new beginning this season, by going back to the future with a tough run game, ball security, and a defense layered with complexity and grit. Whatever happens from here on out, it's a strong start. But nobody in a winged helmet wants this to end. ❏ WOLVERINE WATCH   JOHN BORTON U-M Must Build Off Big Ten Title Effort It's already been a title-winning season, but star junior defen- sive end Aidan Hutchinson and his teammates are capable of bringing another trophy back to Ann Arbor. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL Editor John Borton has been with The Wolverine since 1991. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @JB_Wolverine.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Wolverine - January 2022