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Michigan Football: National Championship or Bust?

Michigan Football
Photo Credit: larrysphatpage via Flickr

With the 2023 college football season quickly approaching, Michigan’s star running back Blake Corum, has set out the goal for this season - it’s Natty or Nothin'. With success comes increased expectations, and the venture for more. The one thing Michigan football has not accomplished this century; winning the National Championship.

Since the days of Bo Schembechler, Michigan has gone into each season with the same goal, to beat Ohio State and win a Big Ten championship. However, this mentality should no longer be acceptable or tolerated. The Bo outlook must come to an end if they want their national championship aspirations to be accomplished.

In the previous two seasons, Michigan football had the same three goals, beat Michigan State, beat Ohio State, and win the Big Ten. In 2021, they were able to accomplish two out of the three with the only loss coming at the hands of Michigan State. Michigan ended the season by taking down Ohio State for the first time in nine seasons, then went on to win their first Big Ten championship in more than a decade. The year ended with a loss to Georgia who would go on to win the national championship. The 2022 season for Michigan went off without a hitch taking down both Michigan State and Ohio State and winning their 2nd straight Big Ten championship. Michigan saved their worst game of the year for the College Football Playoff; losing to TCU in embarrassing fashion.


Michigan Football, Lack of Post-Season Success

Michigan has had terrible bowl records from the previous head coaches, Schembechler 5-12, Carr 6-7, Rodriguez 0-1, Hoke 1-2; to current head coach Jim Harbaugh’s 1-6. Moeller is the only head coach with a winning record of 4-1 in the last 53 years.

Michigan’s new mentality needs to be on building each week to be ready for the CFP and no longer following the old Bo mantra from 53 years ago. There is a sign in the weight room “What are you doing to beat Ohio State today?” the time has come for coach Harbaugh to rewrite that to “What are you doing to win a national championship today?” Coach Harbaugh has started to address this problem by not only having practice time focused on beating Ohio State but adding the Georgia drills in as well.

Blake Corum told MLive Aaron McMann:

“If we don’t win the National Championship, it's not a successful season in my eyes.”

As a team leader, Blake has the right to set out such a lofty goal. Surrounding Corum is a Michigan team that sees over 60% of their production from the previous year return. A team that many believe could be Jim Harbaugh’s best at Michigan.


Michigan Returns Several Key Players on Offense

Michigan’s offense returns several key players for the 2023 season. QB, JJ McCarthy is going into year 3, he is coming off a year where we saw him go for 2719 passing yards, 22 TDs, and only 5 interceptions. Michigan will only go as far as JJ can lead them. Standing in front of JJ is the back-to-back, Joe Moore, award-winning offensive line, and this year’s line could be the best out of the 3. Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are both coming off injuries from 2022 and if they can stay healthy, they could be the best backfield in the country in 2023.


Michigan Football is Among the Nation's Elite on Defense

On Defense, Michigan brings back a true freshman superstar, DB, Will Johnson, who has shown the ability to be very good. If he can show growth from year 1 to 2, Johnson will be the lockdown corner we need. Middle LB, Junior Colson, has come into his own with the ability to help stop the run and get to the QB, he is going to be one of the leaders for Michigan. 300-pound DT, Kris Jenkins is back for one more shot at it. He is believed to be a first-round selection in the 2024 NFL draft. Jenkins will be key in whatever Michigan wants and hopes to do on this side of the ball.


Lofty Expectations must have Equivalent Results for Michigan Football in 2023

The regular season has three main obstacles that stand in the way of Michigan making it back to a 3rd straight CFP appearance and a chance to accomplish its goal. The first test of the year is when they travel to East Lansing for the backyard brawl, a game where records mean nothing. Test two comes on the road in happy valley, a meeting with Penn State. This game looks to be the Fox’s Big Noon kickoff game, meaning Michigan would avoid a whiteout atmosphere considered to be one of the most hostile in all of sports. Last comes the biggest test “The Game.” Ohio State will travel 182.2 miles to Ann Arbour for the showdown. Michigan will find a Buckeyes team more focused than at any point in the last 10 years after falling to their rivals the previous two years. For head coach, Ryan Day, a third straight loss to their archrivals could result in a trip back to Columbus to find fans calling for his job.

Is it possible for Michigan to lose at any point in the regular season? Yes, but with Michigan being the favorite in all but one of their games I don’t see that happening. The first three games of the season will start with a weaker non-conference schedule, and this will give Michigan the opportunity to get all sides of the football moving in the same direction. Injuries will come up throughout the season but Michigan is deep at most positions this year and should be able to sustain some injuries without a big drop in production.

Vegas Sportsbooks is high on this Michigan team going into the season. Georgia, Alabama, and Ohio State are the only teams with better odds to win the national championship. For Michigan, the odds vary depending on what book you look at anywhere between +800 to +1000.

The 2023 season for Michigan will be filled with many ups and downs. Fans will be glued to their seats from the Big House to their couch and everywhere in between all rooting for the same outcome. So, Michigan, welcome to the expectation that is usually reserved only for the likes of Ohio State, Alabama, and Georgia where it’s National Championship or bust. Those 3 teams enter every year with the goal of winning a National Championship or their season is a failure. For Michigan, I don’t know if they’re truly going to be one of those team year in and year out just yet but with the ability Coach Harbaugh and his staff have shown to develop players, they very much could be.

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