first-placed Michigan’s 27-20 overtime victory over No. 4 Alabama on Monday at the Rose Bowl secured the Wolverines’ first-ever trip to the College Football Playoff national title game.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe was forcefully stopped as he tried to sneak up the middle on fourth down from the Michigan 3 and Michigan’s defense ended only the second overtime game in the 110 Rose Bowl editions when Blake Corum ran for a 17-yard touchdown on the second snap of overtime.

Over the course of the last fifteen years, Nick Saban’s Alabama teams have been both the model for college football and the most physically powerful team in the league. But Michigan (14-0) proved to be the Tide’s ultimate destination in a season where they were obliged to continuously survive rather than exert their will.

With 1:34 remaining in regulation, Roman Wilson scored for the Wolverines, who hadn’t scored in the second half until that tenacious 75-yard drive captained by J.J. McCarthy.
McCarthy won the Offensive Player of the Game honor for Michigan after passing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. The Tide’s 11-game winning streak came to an end when Milroe passed for 116 yards and ran for 63.

Alabama (12-2) was heartbrokenly denied the opportunity to play for head coach Nick Saban’s seventh national championship at the university despite Jase McClellan’s 87 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. With 4:41 remaining, Will Reichard’s 52-yard field goal gave the Tide a 20–13 lead, but their defense was unable to hold onto the lead.

Corum made short work of things in overtime, rushing for 8 yards on the opening play before scoring a touchdown (matching the school record) on a 17-yard run.

The Wolverines’ front ended up sealing the victory by swarming the Tide’s backfield and halting Milroe short of the goal line on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line. All Michigan had to do at that point was stop, and it had done it for the most of the game.

After the walk-off stop, the Rose Bowl audience, which was mostly made up of Michigan fans, went wild and the squad below rushed onto the field.

The stop served as a metaphor for Michigan’s physical superiority, which was evident during the first half of the game. Alabama’s backfield was transformed into the Wolverines’ playground by their defensive line, which smothered the Tide’s offensive line, sacking quarterback Tyler Milroe five times, and limited the Tide’s running game to 43 yards in the first half (116 passing yards overall).

However, the Wolverines’ performance declined in the second half. On the second play of the fourth quarter, McClellan scored a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Tide ahead 17–13. On Alabama’s next drive, after Milroe fumbled close to midfield, Michigan’s James Turner missed a 49-yard from goal attempt, and Reichard’s second field goal put the Tide ahead by seven.
With 3:10 remaining, Corum caught a 27-yard pass to get to midfield, marking the beginning of Michigan’s movement with the season on the line. Wilson’s key 29-yard reception put the Wolverines on the Alabama 5, and with 1:34 remaining, he found himself wide open for his 4-yard touchdown catch.

Every play, every snap, every error was amplified in a vintage game that included 13 punts, 8 fumbles (only two of which were lost), a failed extra point, and other special teams errors. Ultimately, after losing in the CFP semifinals the previous two seasons, Jim Harbaugh’s squad managed to maintain its perfect record and the opportunity to capture the program’s first championship since 1997.

The Wolverines’ historic playoff victory comes amidst a remarkably chaotic season that was marked by two three-game suspensions for head coach Jim Harbaugh: the first was imposed preemptively by the school as part of an inquiry into potential recruiting infractions, and the second was required by the Big Ten due to accusations of in-person scouting and sign stealing.

The players under Harbaugh claimed that the discord had improved and strengthened their team dynamic. Against the Tide, who were just a few defensive lapses away from making it to their seventh straight postseason appearance, they desperately needed that unity.

The winner of Monday night’s Sugar Bowl semifinal between No. 2 Washington and No. 3 Texas will now play Michigan. Houston will host the College Football Playoff title game on January 8.

Topics #CFP championship game #Michigan #Rose Bowl