Michigan’s return season comes to a screeching halt in CFP semifinals – The Oakland Press

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By TIM REYNOLDS

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) – Michigan won the toss.

And that’s the last thing that went well for the Wolverines in 2021.

A team that had barely trailed all season – never by more than four points – quickly found themselves in a hole and only saw it deepen the rest of the way. Michigan’s stint in the college football playoffs did not go as planned, with the Wolverines’ season ending Friday night with a 34-11 loss to Georgia in the Orange Bowl.

By all accounts it was bad. The Wolverines have allowed 316 yards per game; Georgia had 330 at halftime. The Wolverines’ biggest deficit all season was four points; Georgia were leading 7-0 after seven games. The Wolverines had hung around for a total of 44 minutes in 2021; Georgia led for 56 minutes in this one alone.

They lost the turnover battle 3-0, gave up four sacks without registering any, and the much-publicized strength-on-strength match – Michigan’s running game against Georgia’s defensive front – was about a mismatch., with the Wolverines held to a low season 88 yards on the ground.

It all ended in a fifth straight Bowls loss for Michigan, the school’s worst drought since a seven-game losing streak in the 1970s.

The Wolverines had a big advantage on the field on Friday – Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and Orange Bowl, is owned by Stephen Ross, a Michigan alumnus and massive donor to his school. Of the 66,000 fans in attendance, two-thirds appeared to be wearing corn and blue. They were even able to use the Dolphins’ sideline, which Ross probably liked.

Most of those Michigan fans were long gone before this one was over. It was 34-3 before the Wolverines first found the end zone in the dying minutes, far too late for anything to matter.

But once the sting of that loss wears off, it will be easy to see Michigan has made giant strides in 2021.

The Wolverines went from 2 to 4 last season, a completely forgettable year played out throughout the first year of the pandemic. They weren’t ranked to start this season, only entered the Top 10 in October and then reached second place in the polls. The Ohio state hex was finally resolved when Michigan defeated its rival. A team chosen to finish fourth at the start of the season – that is, fourth in the Big Ten East – have found themselves among the last four teams in contention for the national title.

Being invaded by Georgia doesn’t change that. It does show, however, how much work remains to be done if the Wolverines return to the top of the college football mountain.

Michigan got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter, a short field goal reducing the deficit to 17-3. The Wolverines faced Georgia with a third and -3 on possession that followed, perhaps poised to reclaim the ball straight away.

No.

James Cook of Georgia came down to the sideline and caught a 53-yard pass from Stetson Bennett, the only reason it wasn’t a touchdown was because Cook had to slow down slightly because the ball appeared to be a little upset. The Bulldogs settled for one more field goal to restore the 17-point advantage, and it was another small chance Michigan let slip.

An interception followed, and on Georgia’s next possession, Bennett didn’t knock anyone down. He found Jermaine Burton with a 57-yard touchdown pass, making it 27-3 as the first half – and, frankly, Michigan’s season – drew to a close.

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