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College Football Playoff Team Profile: No. 2 Michigan
It took six tries for Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh to finally subdue rival Ohio State and capture his first Big Ten title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff, where his team will take on Georgia in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Eve.
After beginning the season unranked, the Wolverines methodically worked their way up the polls with just a single 37-33 loss to Michigan State on their way to a 12-1 record.
An early 31-10 win against Washington attracted attention, but eventually, that victory waned in significance as the Huskies failed to live up to expectations and finished the season with a record of 4-8.
However, the win enabled the Wolverines to get their foot in the rankings door at number 25 and were able to move up to number six after beginning the season with seven consecutive victories.
Michigan took a 30-14 lead over Michigan State with less than seven minutes left in the third quarter but ended up yielding three touchdown runs to Kenneth Walker III down the stretch and suffered their first and only defeat of the season.
The Wolverines were able to navigate the rest of the regular season to win the Big Ten East, one of the toughest divisions in college football, with a tough 21-17 win at Penn State and then went toe to toe against Ohio State, finally vanquishing the Buckeyes 42-27.
As expected, the Big Ten East winner prevailed in the conference title game, with the West division showing balance at the top of the standings without a dominant team taking control.
Iowa entered the game ranked 15th with a 10-2 record, but they proved to be no match for a Michigan team that was intent on retaining their number two ranking in the CFP poll, with the Wolverines dominating the Hawkeyes 42-3, rolling up 211 yards rushing and averaging 6.2 yards a carry.
Balanced Offense the Key for Michigan
Michigan ranks ninth in the nation in rushing with 224 yards per game, but unlike many teams that rack up yardage on the ground, they also have an effective passing game, completing 64% of their passes with Cade McNamara throwing 15 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.
The Wolverines gain the same amount of yardage on the ground as they do through the air, posing a lot of difficulty for opposing defenses and averaging just under 38 points a game.
Defensively, the Wolverines are allowing 16 points a game and are ranked 12th in total yards allowed against one of the most difficult schedules in the nation. Teams are completing just 55% of their passes against Michigan's defense and have thrown for just 13 touchdowns against a stingy Wolverine secondary that has picked off eight opponents' throws.
Although Michigan flew under the radar for much of the season, the team has gained confidence and is playing at its best at the end of a schedule that was really back-end loaded, with their toughest contests coming in the second half of their 2021 campaign.
Georgia poses a significant challenge with the toughest defense in the country, but Alabama was able to expose the Bulldogs' vulnerability when presented with the same type of offensive balance that the Wolverines operate on a consistent basis.
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