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Michigan wins the national championship

The Michigan Wolverines were on a mission all season long, and they found a way to accomplish their goal on Monday night. In a year where the head coach was suspended for three games on two separate occasions, Michigan claimed its first national championship since 1997 with a 34-14 victory over Washington on Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game. Michigan completed a perfect 15-0 season and handed the Huskies their first loss of the season.

As a Penn State fan sitting and watching from afar, it is a bit difficult to stomach seeing Michigan celebrate a national championship, this year in particular, but it commands respect for Jim Harbaugh and the entire program to a certain degree. After getting bounced from the College Football Playoff in each of the last two seasons in the semifinal round, Michigan made no secret it was setting its sights on getting past that semifinal hurdle and preparing to win it all this season. Georgia may have been Michigan’s primary target overall, but the Wolverines built an identity that nobody was going to stand in their way of winning the school’s first national championship of the BCS and College Football Playoff era.

In a way, Michigan’s national championship run brings the new era of college football’s postseason full circle. It was the split national championship in 1997 between Michigan and Nebraska that fueled the creation of the Bowl Championship series to avoid any future split national championships. Penn State fans from the time will make note that the Big Ten media voters slanted way more in favor of Nebraska in 1994 than they did in 1997, of course, but that’s another story for another day. Ever since the creation of the BCS, which led to the evaluation of the College Football Playoff, Michigan has stumbled trying to get back to the top.

Until now.

The Ohio State curse was broken a few years ago, and Michigan has run through the Big Ten on its way to three consecutive appearances in the College Football Playoff. And now, they can finally hail to the victors as they envisioned.

Say what you will about Harbaugh and everything that has happened this season, but Harbaugh has delivered on his mission to restore Michigan as the best program in college football. Who knows if the NCAA will have anything to say about this in the long run, and this won’t stop the NFL rumors form swirling, but Harbaugh was hired by Michigan to take Michigan football to the top. It took some time, but he got there. We all made jokes along the way, deservingly so, but nobody can argue that Harbaugh has earned his spot among the college football coaching greats now that he has a national championship to his name.

Man, this stinks.

Penn State will not face the reigning national champions in 2024, at least in the regular season. They will face the runners-up with a home game against Washington. It won’t be the same Washington team when they visit Happy Valley next fall, but the Huskies will be coming to the Big Ten looking to get back into the playoff and finish their own story.

The 2024 season will be an interesting one with the next wave of conference realignment changes taking effect. The Big Ten is adding four new teams with Washington, UCLA, USC, and Oregon. Penn State making a 12-team playoff field is going to be more challenging than you may have thought next fall. James Franklin has a lot of work to do in order to give the Nittany Lions a chance to be on the same level that Michigan has ascended to.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire