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Michigan Beats Alabama in CFP Semifinal and Advances to National Championship

Michigan beats Alabama in CFP semifinal, advance to national championship

Michigan ousted Alabama and are headed to the national championship, so we enlisted the help of college football great Matt Leinart to break down what makes the Wolverines so special.

There’s only one game before the offseason: Michigan will face Washington in next Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game.

This was a big postseason for the Wolverines, who finally got over the hump in the playoff by topping Alabama in the Rose Bowl and will have the chance to capture the program’s first unshared national title since 1948.

In the second semifinal, Washington got past Texas thanks to a memorable night from senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr., the game’s offensive MVP.

While the Crimson Tide came up short, this was a pretty positive bowl season for the SEC. Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri captured wins against the Power Five, with the Bulldogs bouncing back from their first loss in two years to post a 60-point win against Florida State.

With just the national title to be decided, these teams are the biggest winners and losers from bowl season:

WINNERS

Michigan

After two playoff losses in a row to Georgia and TCU, Michigan took a big step forward as a program with a 27-20 overtime win against Alabama in the Rose Bowl. The second overtime game in playoff semifinal history ended with a puzzling call: Alabama running quarterback Jalen Milroe right into the teeth of the Michigan defense on fourth-and-goal. That stop tells the story of the entire year for the Wolverines, who have simply been the more physical and aggressive opponent in marquee wins against Penn State, Ohio State and the Tide.

Washington

The Sugar Bowl win against the Longhorns answered any lingering questions about Washington’s ability to match the standard of physicality set by the other three teams in this year’s playoff. And the Huskies can add to that some elite quarterback play: Penix was outstanding against Texas, as was his deep and experienced receiver corps. While slight underdogs heading into the matchup with the Wolverines, the Huskies are clearly built to win one more game and bring a national championship back to the Pac-12 before the league closes up shop.

Tennessee

The Volunteers were given an early glimpse of the future under young quarterback Nico Iamaleava in a 35-0 romp of Iowa in the Citrus Bowl. Making his first career start, the former five-star recruit completed 12 of 19 attempts for 151 yards and a touchdown while adding three scores on the ground. Overall, Tennessee’s 383 yards of offense were the second-most Iowa had allowed all season, trailing the 397 yards put up Penn State in late September.

Mississippi

The Ole Miss hype train is ready to leave the station after a 38-25 win against Penn State in the Peach Bowl. Somewhat dismissed all year long for falling well short in key games against Alabama and Georgia, the win validates the Rebels’ progression under Lane Kiffin and, along with the arrival of the nation’s top transfer class, builds some major momentum for including Ole Miss among the top teams in the SEC entering the 2024 season. With quarterback Jaxson Dart set to return, you can see why the bandwagon could fill up.

Missouri

Held in check by Ohio State’s defense until the final drive of the third quarter, Missouri put together two scoring drives of at least 90 yards in the last 20 minutes to beat the Buckeyes 14-3 in the Cotton Bowl. With wide receiver Luther Burden held mostly in check until a late touchdown, the Tigers’ offense continued to lean heavily on All-America running back Cody Schrader, who finished with 29 carries for 128 yards and a score. Missouri went 11-2 in this breakout season under coach Eli Drinkwitz and should finish in the top seven of the final US LBM Coaches Poll.

Kansas

A nine-win season for Kansas? The program continues to skyrocket under coach Lance Leipold, who inherited the worst program in the Power Five by a huge margin but has turned the Jayhawks into one of the top teams in the new-look Big 12. As expected, Kansas took home an offensive shootout in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl against UNLV, drawing 449 passing yards and six touchdowns from Jason Bean and 591 yards of offense overall to win 49-36.

Northwestern

What a year it was for Northwestern, which hit on one of the program’s all-time low points during the summer’s hazing scandal but managed to win eight games under new coach David Braun. That included a 14-7 win in the Las Vegas Bowl against Utah, which was hurting for offensive playmakers and finished with only 211 yards and three turnovers.

LOSERS

Alabama

Up 17-13 and driving with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter, Alabama squandered a chance to put the Wolverines away and had to settle for a 52-yard field goal. That opened the door for Michigan to tie the game with 1:34 remaining in regulation and then win it in one extra frame thanks to Blake Corum’s 17-yard score and the defensive stop. While both teams made mistakes, the Tide were the ones who came up short in a rare semifinal loss for Nick Saban. In the end, Alabama should be applauded for reaching this point after such a sluggish start in September but wasn’t quite constructed to capture the national title.

Texas

Washington held possession for over 36 minutes and prevented the Texas offense from getting into a rhythm. Still, you have to wonder why the Longhorns didn’t make an even firmer commitment to the running game given their consistent success on the ground. In the end, the difference between going home and advancing to the title game was turnovers; Texas did not do a good job protecting the football and paid the price. This is a program on the rise under Steve Sarkisian, but you never know when these sort of opportunities will come around.

Ohio State

Playing without former starting quarterback Kyle McCord and star wide receiver Marvin Harrison − and then without McCord’s replacement, Devin Brown, who suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter − Ohio State managed just 203 yards of offense in the 14-3 loss to Missouri. With McCord now at Syracuse and Harrison off to the NFL, there are some big questions about the state of this offense heading into next season. The loss is coach Ryan Day’s fourth in six postseason games.

Florida State

This wasn’t fair from the start: FSU was playing without anywhere close to a full deck of players after losing dozens to the optouts and the transfer portal, quickly turning this into the ugliest result of the bowl season. Georgia’s 63-3 destruction of the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl reinforces the Bulldogs’ place as perhaps the team to beat heading into 2024. How you view the loss from FSU’s perspective might depend on how you viewed the makeup of the four-team playoff: If you thought the ‘Noles never deserved to be there, here’s a tidy, 60-point loss as evidence. But if you believed that FSU should’ve been in the top four as the third unbeaten team in the FBS, it’s easy to look at the depleted roster and call the bowl matchup an incomplete representation of the Seminoles’ season.

Auburn

After losing 31-13 to Maryland in the Music City Bowl, Auburn coach Hugh Freeze admitted he “didn’t get too involved” in the Tigers’ offensive game plan “because of recruiting.” This may be true − I mean, it has to be, since it would be stupid to say otherwise − but the public admission makes you wonder: At a salary of $6.5 million a year, can’t Freeze coach and recruit at the same time? Seems like other coaches do that, but who knows.

Miami (Fla.)

It’s been a year for Miami. On one hand, the Hurricanes beat Texas A&M and Clemson on the way to bowl eligibility after finishing with a losing record in Mario Cristobal’s debut season. On the other hand, they lost 31-24 to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. This completed a late-season swoon of four losses in five games for Miami, which seemed ready in early November to built some serious momentum for 2024 but instead limps into the offseason at a new low.

SMU

Future ACC member SMU got a preview of life in the current Power Five league with a very humbling 23-14 Fenway Bowl loss to Boston College, which finished 10th in the conference standings. There are better teams in the ACC than the Eagles, will all due respect. The Mustangs are also foregoing nine years of payouts from the ACC television deal to join, which I’m sure the league appreciates.

North Carolina

Once 6-0, North Carolina capped a second-half collapse with a 30-10 loss to West Virginia in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. About the only benefit of the loss: Mack Brown didn’t have to get doused in mayonnaise. Otherwise, this was a major letdown for the Tar Heels, who gave up a touchdown on the game’s first play and couldn’t get things moving on offense behind young quarterback Connor Harrell, the heir apparent to NFL-bound Drake Maye.

Eastern Michigan

As if losing 69-10 to South Alabama in the 68 Ventures Bowl wasn’t bad enough, Eastern Michigan punctuated the loss by sparking an on-field brawl while the Jaguars were gathered to sing the school’s fight song. That’s a black eye that dwarfs even a 59-point destruction, if that’s even possible.

2024-01-03 11:35:57
#College #football #bowl #games #winners #losers #Washington #Texas #SEC

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