ANN ARBOR, Mich. — This has been a prosperous year for the Michigan football team.
By some standards, it wasn’t prosperous enough; the Wolverines finished the season out of the running for the College Football Playoff and lost two of their final three games, including a controversial 30-27, double-overtime loss Nov. 26 at Ohio State.
Still, Michigan earned its second consecutive season with at least 10 wins — the first time that’s happened since 2002-2003 — and earned a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game. No. 6 Michigan (10-2) faces No. 11 Florida State (9-3) at 8 p.m. Friday in the Orange Bowl in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Some of Michigan’s players asked for video game consoles or noise-cancelling headphones for Christmas. Those are pricey gifts by any means. But while Michigan’s staff and players open their gifts from friends and loved ones, we at Landof10 bestow five gifts upon Michigan — already one of the more successful and, as some perceive, spoiled programs in college football — as it prepares for its final game of the calendar year and looks ahead to 2017.
If Jabrill Peppers chooses to forgo the 2017 season and enter the NFL draft, two to three players who will fill his shoes on defense, special teams and on offense. Because a player like Peppers only comes around once in a generation. Peppers, a redshirt sophomore linebacker and one of the most versatile players in the nation, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and a unanimous All-American selection.
Good health for Baby Harbaugh. Sarah Harbaugh, the wife of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, is due to give birth to the couple’s fourth child, and Harbaugh’s seventh, in February. Because of Sarah Harbaugh’s pregnancy, Jim Harbaugh said she will not travel to South Florida for the Orange Bowl.
May Baby Harbaugh attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.
That elusive win against Ohio State in 2017. The sting of the 30-27, double-overtime loss Nov. 26 in Columbus is residual; the loss knocked Michigan out of the running for the Big Ten East Division title and the College Football Playoff, and Michigan has defeated Ohio State just twice in the last 15 seasons. Michigan hosts Ohio State on Nov. 25, 2017 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
The last time Michigan defeated Ohio State was in 2011, and that win all but came with an asterisk. The NCAA placed Ohio State on probation for two years that summer, and Ohio State — coached by former OSU co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell, who is now the head coach at Cincinnati — went 6-7 in 2011, including that 40-34 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor.
A trouble-free trip to Florida for the Orange Bowl. Miami has plenty of hot spots, and while the Wolverines will be on what they call “a business trip” — the order of business is to win a game — holiday bowl trips sometimes don’t come without distractions, arrests or even a player being sent home. The Wolverines may have already reached that quota; this week, Michigan wide receiver Grant Perry was suspended indefinitely after he was arraigned on four charges in East Lansing (Mich.) District Court.
A word of advice for anyone this holiday: Be smart.
And, of course, a win in the Orange Bowl. When Michigan learned of its New Year’s Six destination, it set a new goal for itself: to earn its 11th win this season. Only four teams at Michigan have won 11 games in a season in the last 30 years.
The last team to do it? Michigan’s 2011 team, which finished 11-2 and won the BCS Sugar Bowl.
Next stop: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.