Not a dream…Michigan WON the National Championship!

If you’re old enough to have the privilege to watch Michigan play in a Rose Bowl before the 2024 game, your memories may look something like this:

  1. Wake up early on New Year’s Day
  2. Tune in to ABC at 11am Eastern to watch the Rose Bowl parade
  3. Get something to eat, do some homework or chores
  4. Watch Michigan play a Pac-10 team at 5pm
  5. Watch Michigan lose, yet again.

I remember only 1 or 2 Rose Bowl wins since the late 1980s when I started watching Michigan football. When I attended Michigan we were lucky enough to go to the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1990, and I played in the Michigan Marching Band. I got a chance to line the parade route and attend 2 Rose Bowls as part of the band and then as a regular attendee. I remember we won once and lost the next. The experience always left a little bitter taste in my mouth – huge expectations and an unfortunate final score.

On January 1, 2024 all was set for a classic Rose Bowl game, the likes Michigan had not seen since the magic 1997 season when Michigan won the Rose Bowl and claimed stake to a shared national title with Nebraska. This time Michigan was the #1 ranked team in the college football playoffs. They would face Alabama, the perennial SEC powerhouse that had won several titles over the past decade playing in the college football playoff. This was no cakewalk! This was the third time Michigan had made it to CFP in 3 years, only to lose twice in the semi-final game never reaching the chance to play for the national title.

For the Rose Bowl, I was on vacation in Florida, and I decided to go to a watch party with my daughter at the Sarasota UM alumni club watch party. The party spilled out onto the sidewalk with maybe 250 people in attendance. I went outside and witnessed maybe 100 Wolverine fans with that dejected look on their faces, once again late into the fourth quarter.

Here we are again: 6 losses in bowl games in a row. We are undefeated at 13-0. Alabama is playing well and we are down 20-13 after a game filled with some terrific plays and several bad miscues on special teams. At about 5 minutes left in the Rose Bowl I was ready to quit. I remembered what JJ McCarthy, the Michigan quarterback, told the fanbase back in 2020 after we finished the COVID-hampered season 2-4.

I simply couldn’t watch us lose yet again after all the drama of the 2023 season and the past 2 “almost” seasons. But my daughter had other plans. I asked her what should we do: she said “Dad, let’s stay. The game isn’t over yet.” Prophetic words from my 12 year old, and I am sure glad we stayed.

I was texting with my son, Aaron, earlier in the game. And at 6:38pm during the game, I sent him my prediction: Michigan wins 27-20. I am not joking. I have the message to prove it. How could I leave now?!? Alabama had 20 points now it was up to us to get the next 14.

So we sat down and witnessed the best comeback of Michigan history! I won’t describe the incredible set of events here — you can read about the how Michigan managed to get themselves back into the game in the final 5 minutes and force overtime. Here is just one of the incredible plays that happened in the final few minutes, an iconic catch made by Roman Wilson thrown by JJ McCarthy, tipped by Alabama’s defensive lineman. This took Michigan to the 6 yard line, setting up the tying score forcing overtime. This one play saved the season, in my mind. It had the right mix of skill and luck we needed, and it seemed as if it was ordained by G-d himself.

Near the end of the game, at 4th and goal, Alabama had to score to tie the game up at 27, but NO. Our incredibly adept defence stopped them at the goal line and finally we were going to the National Championship.

Here’s the pandemonium at the Sarasota when Michigan stopped the Alabama QB from scoring to force a second overtime. The Rose Bowl win and a trip to the national championship was ours!

On January 8th, at least to me, winning the national championship was academic. The more I looked at the match up against Washington, the more I realized Michigan was the team of destiny in 2023. Washington had an air attack but not much else. Our defence was powerful and strong at the line and in the secondary. Michigan had gone through all the NCAA/B1G allegations earlier in the season. Coach Harbaugh had given up coaching for 6 regular season games and several close games including a 3rd consecutive win against Ohio State. They would not be denied the national crown.

We returned back from Florida at 6pm on January 8th and I quickly turned around to go to our watch party at the Thirsty Fox. I got there with about 20 minutes to spare before the start of the game, luckily. On January 7th, I tweeted on our UMACT X page, the following prediction:

A 25-point win in the championship game was a stretch, but I felt the team was peaking at just the right moment. They would not be denied either physically or emotionally. This time we would win it all. And win it all we did in a dominant fashion, winning by 21 points with 2 touchdowns in the 4th quarter. I caught the Toronto club cheering the interception that sealed the game by #0 defensive back Mikey Sainristill.

This 15-0 season was by far the best Michigan football season of all time. My son Aaron and I had a chance to watch the team in person during the Homecoming game in September. We will always remember this amazing team. We will remember the journey, the team’s hard work and resilience and the inspiration it gives us all to never quit and work hard towards success!