Michigan is playing for a national title.
Blake Corum’s 17-yard run in overtime gave the No. 1 Wolverines a 27-20 win over No. 4 Alabama in the Rose Bowl. It’s the first win in three straight College Football Playoff appearances for the Wolverines as the program looks for its first national title since 1997.
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2024
Corum scored on the second play of Michigan’s OT possession. The Wolverines got the ball first and Alabama had a chance to respond, but couldn’t get into the end zone. A run by QB Jalen Milroe got the Crimson Tide inside the Michigan 10, but the Wolverines’ defense held firm on fourth down and Milroe was stuffed on a quarterback keeper.
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) January 2, 2024
Michigan's offense had been dreadful for most of the second half. The Wolverines couldn't do much of anything after leading 13-10 at halftime, but put together a monster drive that included a fourth-down conversion on a pass from McCarthy to Corum.
Corum's long run after the catch got Michigan into Alabama territory, and Wilson made a phenomenal catch off a pass that was slightly tipped at the line of scrimmage to set up his tying touchdown.
Before that drive, Michigan had punted three times and missed a 49-yard field goal on its four second-half possessions.
Alabama couldn’t put the game away
The Crimson Tide (12-2) were outplayed for much of the first half by Michigan as the Wolverines sacked Milroe five times. But Alabama trailed just 13-10 thanks to a TD run by Jase McClellan.
That run came after Michigan’s Semaj Morgan fumbled a punt and gave Alabama a short field. Michigan took a 13-7 lead after that, but Alabama cut the lead to three before halftime with a field goal.
McClellan gave Alabama the lead at 17-13 with a TD run early in the fourth quarter. But Alabama was left to rue its three possessions after McClellan’s second TD.
Michigan went three-and-out after the TD and Alabama was in a position to pounce with a short field after a 13-yard completion to start its drive. But Milroe fumbled on the second play and Michigan got the ball back.
The Crimson Tide got a field goal after Michigan missed a 49-yard kick and took nearly six minutes off the clock in the process. But a drive that easily got to the Michigan 30-yard-line quickly stalled with an illegal substitution penalty.
After Michigan (14-0) tied the game, Alabama still had 94 seconds and a timeout to get in position for a winning field goal. But the Tide went just 18 yards in five plays and punted back to the Wolverines.
The loss means Alabama ends the four-team College Football Playoff era with six national title game appearances in 10 seasons. No other team has more than four title game appearances and just three others have played for more than one national title since the 2014 season.
Michigan’s disastrous special teams
That punt to the Wolverines at the end of regulation almost cost them a trip to the national title game. Jake Thaw called a fair catch but dropped the ball as he caught it. Thaw was able to recover his own fumble and get out of the end zone before he was tackled just in front of the goal line with 54 seconds to go.
Had Alabama recovered that fumble, it would have been an incredible capper to what would have been an all-time horrific special teams day for the Wolverines. In addition to Morgan’s first quarter punt return fumble and the missed field goal in the fourth quarter (that included a high snap), a bad snap in the first quarter after Michigan’s second TD of the game cost the Wolverines an extra point.
The Wolverines also avoided disaster on the first play of the game. McCarthy was intercepted by Alabama DB Caleb Downs as he rolled out to his right. But Downs had a heel out of bounds before he jumped to intercept the pass. Since he didn’t re-establish himself in the field of play, the interception was overturned after a replay review.
Michigan’s 26-year quest for a national title
Michigan is a win away from its first title of the College Football Playoff era in what has been the most tumultuous undefeated season by any team in modern college football history.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh served a self-imposed three-game suspension to start the season as part of an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations. After he returned to the sidelines, Michigan was quickly embroiled in the scandal of the season as allegations emerged of an in-person scouting scheme to steal opposing teams’ signs run by former staffer Connor Stalions.
As the scouting scandal unfolded, Harbaugh remained on the sidelines until early November when the Big Ten suspended Harbaugh for the school’s violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy. After Michigan contested the suspension, the school soon agreed to settle and Harbaugh sat out the final three games of the regular season — a stretch that included the school’s third-straight win over Ohio State.
Harbaugh returned for the Big Ten title game and an easy win over Iowa and was on the sidelines on Monday as Michigan erased its College Football Playoff demons. In 2021, Michigan was blown out 34-11 by Georgia in the Orange Bowl. A year ago, McCarthy threw two pick-6s as the Wolverines lost to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl.